More than thirty years ago, I decided to try carving in wood. Having grown up in the South, my carvings primarily reflect subjects from that region. At the end of this section, I illustrate how our two young sons and I built an 11-by-11-foot log cabin.
To wood carve one needs suitable wood and sharp tools. Ideally one will use wood that allows the carver to carve in any direction, much like a bar of soap. With basswood, for example, you can carve a nose or handle of a spoon in any direction. Whereas with pine, one generally must go in the direction of the grain. Sharpening tools is more a mystery than a science. For example, I will sharpen six gouges (carving tools) at the same time and three will be sharp and three dull.
With the carving of the man hoeing weeds in a garden pictured below, I began with a piece of basswood about 12 inches wide and 10 inches high. I drew a few lines on the sides and top to judge about where certain segments of the man, hoe, and ground would go. Notice I leave a thin base at the bottom of the carving so that the final work will be stable and rest firmly on a table or shelf.
It is vital to anticipate where you will need to leave wood to carve each area (hoe, hat, head, face, legs, arms). For example, in the rough beginning below, note that I've left material at the very top for the hat and head, and a piece sticking out back over his right shoulder for the upper end of the hoe. The view here is from the very back. Also, there is a thin base at the bottom for stability. Look closely at the upper, left side and note wood available for an arm. Just above the base on the right is wood for a foot/shoe for the right leg that will be to the rear as he hoes.
In the photograph below, Michael is preparing supports for the roof of the cabin, apparently using a level to determine if that one post is perpendicular.
In the second stage, below, much of the unwanted wood is removed, and the actual carving (fun part) begins. You can envision how rather large chunks of wood could be cut away with a band or small hand saw. But, remember, anticipate where you will need wood for each area (feet, hoe, blade of hoe, weeds, head, hat, nose, shoulders, arms). Notice how even at this stage I left a bulk of material from which later to concentrate on the hands that grasp the hoe. Once you've blocked the figure, removing unneeded wood, then the carver is ready to concentrate on one area, such as the shoulder and arm or legs and feet. But you can only do this if you've left wood for the remaining parts.
(Unless obvious or otherwise noted, the carvings shown in the following section are more or less the size of one or two soccer balls.)
In the photograph above and the one below, notice how I used a drill press to put holes throughout the upper part of the base; that simply makes it easier to remove that wood with the gouge. There are no holes in the lower part of the base.
Below are pictures of additional carvings.
Below Michael is pictured probably with some relief that the logs for the cabin are all in place, having "volunteered" many of his Saturdays to the project. He looks here as if he is poised to go play soccer. Now we must chink between the logs with concrete. To chink, first we nailed nails right above each crack and right under, about 3 inches apart the entire length of logs, with all those nails bent to be in between the crack. That way we could hand-push the moist concrete between the log cracks in and around the nails, resulting in reenforced concrete between all the logs. In the old days, they used mud that had to be continuously replaced.
One can see below how we supported the corners of the cabin with stones and concrete. Recently a carpenter-friend of mine and I added a red metal roof. While not as "authentic" as the traditional roll-roofing we used originally, as seen in the picture below, it is more durable. In the back of the cabin, the log nearest the ground eventually decayed, and my carpenter-friend and I recently raised that entire side of the cabin temporarily until we could replace that log. We also poured concrete forms under the new log. Now all is well. My carpenter friend also recently stained the cabin once again.
In the picture below, I'm probably wondering how we got this far in building the cabin, and if we would ever finish. Only the three of us built the cabin, from the foundation to the roof. To move the logs to the building site, we rolled them on rails made from small logs. To arrange the large logs in place, we lifted one end at a time.
After all these years, we recently had our first guest at the log cabin, pictured below. This screech owl lives between the under side of the porch roof where it juts into the red metal roof of the cabin. I took this picture when Mr. or Ms. Owl was perched on one of the supports underneath the cabin porch roof. I did remove the "red eye" from the photograph. The first time I saw him I had walked up on the porch of the cabin and noticed something out of the corner of my eye right above me, thinking it was a nest of some kind. My eyes were only about two feet from our visitor. He was perched upright just as he is below. Then the owl's eyes moved and I almost fell off of the porch. Lying just like a cat, he sleeps during the day wedged safely in the upper corner of his cabin compartment.