Grand Canyon carving by Richard Colbran

Richard says – The photo was taken in Spring, with the sunshine and moving cloud shadows making kaleidoscopic patterns across the multi-coloured layers of rock.  Snow showers came rattling in providing further variations.  My son was perched near the edge of the Southern Rim with his camera.  Certainly a day to remember on a wonderful family holiday!

Would it be possible to make a relief carving of the scene that would do it justice?  Perhaps not, but I decided to give it a try!

A piece of lime was required, about 300 x 350 X 35 mm thick.  A board was found which could be jointed, with grain running horizontally, but one end was slightly spalted and streaky. It was decided to leave that in the sky area, and how well that turned out in the finished product!















The picture was scaled and transferred to the wood.  Outlines were defined and depth layers were cut. Notice the streakiness and shade variation in the sky area on top right.

Trees and foreground figure were rounded















Some staining was done to test the general effect.  Spirit-based wood dyes were used, and knife cuts were made at the layer boundaries to prevent bleeding of the stain.

















It was found that the picture did not reveal the depth of the canyon, but looked more like a winding stream, so layers were re-adjusted, and some further detail carving was done, which, after further staining, gave a much better impression of the depth of the gorge.















The carving was sealed, then set in a mahogany frame and presented to the sitter.

History of Wood Carving – Pre-History by John Adamson

Wood carving is one of the oldest arts of humankind.    Unfortunately, wood does not survive well in the archeology context, so all examples are later than cave painting, and bone and stone carving.   I argue that wood carving was a easier and earlier technology than painting.    The earliest painters needed to learn new skills, find sources for their pigments from stones and muds, dry and grind them to a powder, and then find a way of making them stick to rock.   Woodcarvers had it easy.    The earliest woodcarvers already had the tools and the skill to make bows and arrows ect, so were shaping wood.  They only had to find a piece of wood that looked almost like something and alter the shape a small amount.    Probably working in 3D came easier to them than 2D.    Our education system concentrates on 2D workTo the exclusion of 3D work .










The oldest cave painting known until now is a 40,800-year-old red disk from El Castillo, in northern Spain.  The world’s oldest stone tools  were unearthed from the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, and date to 3.3 million years ago.     If my argument is valid then  oldest woodcarving would be some time between 3.3 million and 40,800 years ago.














The oldest stone carving, the Wilendorf Venus stands 4.5 inches high  carved from an oolitic limestone that is not local to the area, and tinted with red ochre.    The figure is believed to have been carved during the European Upper Paleolithic or “Old Stone Age”, a period of prehistory starting around 30,000 BCE.













The world’s oldest wood carving, the Shigir Idol, a totemic sculpture that stands 2.8 meters (~9.2 feet) tall, was made 11,000 years ago, making it twice as old as the ancient Egyptian pyramids at Giza.    The idol was discovered in a peat bog in the Ural Mountains in 1890

The  idol dates to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch, or the geologic period that marks the development of human civilization. Researchers also determined that the sculpture was made from a larch tree that was, at the time, at least 157 years old.

Originally published in the now defunct British Woodcarvers Association’s magazine

The Carving of Coral Reef By Mark Doolittle

Mark Doolittle’s carvings are unusual and intriguing, reflecting strongly of his academic training and career. In this article, Mark provides an overview of the carving process used in creating Coral Reef.   This article has been copied from the  www,  of April 14th, 2012        This an American free woodcarvers website and well worth a visit.     Do look at Mark’s web site: or on his Facebook page:  – his work is truly inspiring

The first step is to obtain a single piece of wood of the appropriate color, workability, grain and size. For Coral Reef, the American hardwood “Basswood” was chosen, a light-colored, straight-grained wood that is very workable, making it a favorite among carvers. As shown in this photo, the size of the “Coral Reef” sculpture (24”h x 24”w x 4”d) was obtained by gluing together five pieces of 4” thick Basswood.


The second step is to obtain the overall shape of the piece. This begins by cutting out the overall profile of Coral Reef using a bandsaw.


After the profile is obtained, the shaping step is continued using rasps, sanders, gouges and rotary burrs to achieve the final three-dimensional shape of Coral Reef.


The front of the shaped piece.


The final step is to add detail carving that provides a sense of growth like the colonization of millions of coral polyps that build natural coral reefs. This “sense of growth” was achieved by carving holes & fissures using a variety of rotary bits and hand-held rasps and files. Here is the start of the detailed carving to obtain the desired organic shapes, beginning on the smaller “wing”.


The bottom of the wings, showing the detail that was used to transition the carvings from the small wings to the stem and larger wings of the piece.


The larger wing during detailed carved. Both through holes (called “piercing”) and stopped holes were used to achieve the lace-like organic look. Notice the pencil marks on the non-carved surface that were used to guide the carving.


The piercing begins at the edge of the piece, as seen here on the right-hand wing.

The internal piercings are finally added.


All detail carving is completed.


A three-quarter view of the completed piece, before wood dyes were used to emphasize the edges of the wings.


Final piece with added edge color, finished with polyurethane and finally mounted on a base made from African Padauk with an inset piece of Arizona sandstone.


Mark Henry Doolittle earned a PhD in Biology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and enjoyed a career there in biomedical research.  While working at UCLA, he also developed a keen interest in art and woodworking, recently transitioning into a second career as a full-time wood artist.

Mark’s work is strongly influenced by his background in biology.  His work strongly reflects the growth and symmetry found in cells and tissue, as well as whole organisms.  He uses organic shapes and abstract forms to foster a perception of biological grow.

See more of Mark’s intriguing work on his web site: or on his Facebook page:

Carving a Boot by Richard Higgins

I decided to carve this football boot based on my eldest sons boots (6 year old). I was originally going to use it as a prototype and carve an adult size pair of boots, but as usual other carvings took priority.

As you can see, I found a piece of Lime suitably sized for the football boot in question

I’ve already drawn the profiles on the boot and cut it out using a band saw, you’ll also notice that I’ve left extra wood to ease the handling while working on it

I’ve started to, `round off` the boot in all directions and made a start on the tongue and where the lace holes are going to go. I still haven’t attempted to do anything with the studs just yet.

Having marked out the studs and carved them  it’s time to start adding the finer detail and start sand papering!

These pictures show that after hollowing out the boot and making sure that the walls of the boot weren’t too thin then it was time to put in hours of sanding and to add that final detail of stitching, lace holes and stripes.

Finally, it’s time to finish off with a couple of coats of Danish oil and add the actual laces to give it that completed look

I hope you enjoyed looking and reading about my carving as much as I did producing it!

Towneley Mice

Our club enjoys an on-going association with the Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum, in Burnley, as a result of exhibitions in the Hall, appearances at the Woodland Festivals, and the Towneley Owl project.

A request was received for a number of carved mice, which could be laid as a ?mouse trail? round the hall, as an attraction for younger visitors, and it was decided that we should tackle this as a club project, giving members free reign to produce a mouse to their own design.

A deadline was imposed, and a collection of over 50 mice was presented to David Anderson, from the Hall, at our Christmas meeting in 2002. It was obvious that members had enjoyed being inventive in this project, as there was a great diversity in the mice submitted.

They were put on display, as a collection, soon after the presentation, but could not be set out as originally intended, because of major building extension work and subsequent rearrangement of the displays within the Hall.

The mice were finally set out in September 2003, to coincide with our exhibition of carvings, and have immediately become a major attraction for the children, who enjoy looking out for them as they tour the Hall.

Their popularity has ensured their retention, at least for the present, and a demand has been created for mice to be sold in the Towneley shop

The shop now sells

Mice making kits

Story Book

Mouse Hunt check list for kids

It ha always been an annoyance that the club’s work in providing the mice is not recognised anywhere on the publications