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How to Carve Wood: A Book of Projects and Techniques

Years ago, I used to work as a sign-maker. I bought this book back then for its section on carving letters. I found it be very instructive on the topic, but never really read the rest of the book.

Despite the passage of time and a few major career changes, this book remained in my collection. Rediscovering this book on my bookshelf and reading the rest of it was a real treat.

I've done a lot of browsing for books on woodcarving at the large chain bookstores. There are many books on the topic. I think that How to Carve Wood is one of the best because of its clarity, depth, and breadth.

If you've read any of my other reviews, you probably know that I tend to judge books based on their graphics, photos, and illustrations. I'm a visual guy and I learn best from books that show things as well as explain them. This book scores very high in this regard. The graphics are of three kinds: black and white photos, pencil illustrations, and plan drawings. All three are clear and high-quality.

The author is smart to start off the book with a discussion of tools. He has a whole chapter dedicated to sharpening. Too often woodcarving books overlook tool sharpening and care as a topic worthy of serious treatment. That's unfortunate, because without well sharpened tools, beginners will become frustrated, and more experience carvers will never perfect their craft.

The book covers all of the main styles of woodcarving: whittling, chip carving, relief carving, wildlife carving, lettering, and architectural carving.

One thing that strikes me about this book, is that the projects are tasteful. Most woodcarving books have an assortment of projects. I find that I like one or two. I would be proud to make and display any of the projects in this book. My favorite example from the book: the scale drawing for a relief carving of St. George and the dragon based on a fifteenth century carving. Beautiful.

If carving in the round is your thing, you'll like the section an whittling and wildlife carving. The author takes some time to show you how to carve detailed feathers with burned-in textures.

The only thing you won't find in this book is much talk of power tools. In my opinion, that's a different subject anyway.

I only own one book on woodcarving; I'm really thankful that it is How to Carve Wood: A Book of Projects and Techniques (Fine Woodworking Book) by Rick Butz.

P.S. Don't forget your Murphy Knife for carving.

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