Frequently Asked Questions

QBest type of wood?

ASince the Grinling Gibbons time, the answer is lime, which is a light coloured wood with almost no discernible grain and easy to cut. Before that, it was mainly oak as this was what builders and furniture makers used. I use found wood and often do not know what it is. Found wood has more character than bought / machined wood and leads to more lively and exciting carvings.

Q How did you get interested in carving?

AI started when I was about eight and have no real idea why. Perhaps it was a reaction to my father who had been a pattern maker and latterly a woodwork teacher. He was into precision, joints, and the proper use of tools, etc. Today I still cannot easily plane a piece of wood flat or saw it square, but will tackle almost anything with a chisel.

Q What tools do you need?

AI recommend starting carving with a single bladed penknife with a steel, not stainless steel blade. I tend to use Opinel knives which are cheap, well made, and keep a good sharp edge. When you have mastered that, the choice of carving tools will become obvious. You will know what you want to do but cannot manage with a knife, and therefore what you need. I would always advise against buying a set as they always contain some tools you will hardly ever or never use. I tend to look round second hand markets, ebay, and only buy new when all else fails.

Q How do you design a carving?

AMost carvers start with an engineers front and side elevations. They remove the waste with a band saw and then start to carve. As I use found wood, defined as ’not machined’, I do not have flat surfaces on which to draw the elevations. When carving a human figure or face, I am so familiar with these through drawing them at every opportunity, that only a few measurements and marks are needed before starting to carve. For other subjects, I do a drawing or make a maquette in plasticine, and scale it up.