Planning a Carving by John Adamson

When John worked at B.T. they used the catchphrase: Planning is cheap, Correction time is expensive. A recent client of his reminded him of The 5 Ps: Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance.   Planning is important and this particularly applies to us, as we carve wood, we cannot put back what we have cut off.

Books and magazines do the design planning for us  but they don’t tell us how to plan our own designs. If we want to carve a life like animal from a photograph   John demonstrated this with a photograph of a table with a animal face stuck to it,



A table/animal has 4 equal sized legs, but in the photograph all the legs are different sizes.     These differences are due to perspective, and he had not found a way to unpick the problem  perspective.   We must be aware of this and find other more accurate sources.  Plastic models can help, and he had found that those produced by  Schleich are anatomically accurate but expensive.

John suggests:

1) Choose the carving you want to do.

2) Get photos of top side and front views if possible, If necessary go to shops, natural history museums, etc. to take photos.

3) Think size and choose the wood with extra wood for clamping.

John recommends using plasticine.  A complete but not necessarily an accurate model may be helpful to start with, but he suggests that if you are having a problem with the head or the feet then just make a plasticine model of that part the carving, carve the plasticine to see how the problem can be fixed.

John reminded us to think about where the carving will be exhibited. e.g., a relief carving needs to consider whether it will be high or low and where the light hits it to make shadows. He demonstrated this with Melanie’s latest carving. Another example would be a statue very high up in a cathedral – it would have a big head and chest and smaller legs to make it look normal to the viewer.

The meeting closed with members sharing their problems and views. Some members shared the pleasure of carving freely and being happy with their results. John, whose  talk was about planning, reminded us that as a species we are not natural planners, we are more “the get up and do it” type of people. We can carve from  the heart and complete a carving. But if we are not happy when the carving is completed we may need help for the next time.. We can  look at other models, real animals and drawings in books with zoological pictures of animals’ skeletons which would help with the structure and movement of the animal.

Report by Gillian Smith.

How to build a Viking Ship

19th October – A talk of two halves ….


In a recent challenge John was contacted by a TV production company                          

and with a couple of weeks notice asked to carve the head of Peter Crouch.



It is due to make an appearance on the “Back of the net”, a Premier League

entertainment show featuring big match action, interviews, fun studio

games and much more… (so the blurb says).

John described the process of carving under pressure at short notice.

The carving is due to be picked up the following day and had about

5 hours of work left before completion.












September Workshop – Bone Carving by Nick Pantelides

Today we had a presentation and a variety of topics from one of our long-standing members – Nick Pantelides

Nick’s morning session wasa discussion on carving in other media such as Bone, Alabaster, Soapstone, Ivory, animal horn and Antler.

Bones need a lot of preparation to ensure all the marrow is removed. this includes first boiling the bones in water, then boiling the bones in bleach and finally boiling the bones with salt and vinegar.

To cut bone Nick uses a hand fret saw, holding the pieces in mole grips or a piece of wood with a V-shaped rest.

It goes without saying that you don’t want to be breathing in bone dust – Always wear a mask.

Nick uses ground down chisels or a dremel for bone carving. When using chisels he uses a scoring action.

To finish off his work he sands to get a smooth finish and there are buffing waxes available.

For staining bone he has used concoctions such as onion leaves and coffee.

When asked about identifying bone versus ivory Nick sent around examples of both to illustrate that? bone has fine black spots and that ivory has a grain.

There was then a discussion Scrimshaw which is a form of carving developed?on whaling vessels and involves carving on bone or ivory and then using the soot from lamps to define the carving patterns.

Again ground chisels or a ground nail is used in a scraping fashion.

To replace the soot Nick has used black boot polish which is put on and then buffed off or black ink, the surface is then sanded to remove the ink from the raised surfaces.

Saturday 18th August- Michael Painter- Master Carver

Saturday 18th August- Michael Painter- Master Carver

Saturday 16th June. Ray Ashton, a retired woodwork teacher talking about Wood and Machines

I worked out that Ray is about 90, and he had a wealth of knowledge of how wood has been used.   He started as master craftsman, but saw an advert for woodwork teachers in the Manchester Guardian, applied and got the job.  He retired early as teaching was no longer but occupation it had been.   His talk was of woods he had used, where they came from and jobs they had been for.  It is difficult to write a detailed report of his talk as it ranged over such a wide

19th May 2018 – Richard Colbran talked about Relief Carving

Richard is a long standing member of the club with a wealth of experience.

He brought in a number of his relief carvings and gave us a talk relief carving.

He discussed a number of tricks and tips around adding dramatic shadow, the difficulty of perspective in high relief carving and thinking about the grain in three planes.



Richard discussed his use of colouring, the types of wood he uses and how he treats pieces differently for outdoor display on projects such as the nature walks in Townley Park.

He is a keen woodworker and likes to use these skills to make his own frames for the carvings, these enhance the carvings and are ofter tailor-made to match the images.



17th Feb 2018 Carving Hydrangeas and Found Wood By John Adamson (member)

John had been working on the carving of hydrangeas since the day of our show at Hollingworth Lakes in October 2017. ? ?It was an unusual choice of subject and he took us through the thought processes and tools used. ? ? The wood had been chainsawed down to the heartwood at sometime and still showed sings of beetle in the softwood. He used a Sabur donut tool to get the shape of the flower heads and a?forester drill for the layout of the florets. ? ? ?There was a?disasters along the way when the flower heads and the vase came apart. ? The broken stems were held?together with insulating tape and copious quantities of superglue fed into the damaged area. ? ? The florets were coloured with blue shoe polish as the amount of colour could be adjusted late on in the process more easily than with paint. ?The stalks were painted with acrylic paint and the vase finished in Vaseline. ? ??







The hydrangeas were an unusual form of John’s normal way of carving using Found wood. ? Found wood, he defines as ‘not machined”, as Bought is an opposite of Found, and all Bought would is machined. ? ? With various examples, he showed the advantages of found wood. ? ? ?It is far less boring than square bought wood, and has the strength that the growing tree builds into the wood, so there is less problems with short grain etc. ? He takes penknife were ever he is and carries a 6 tooled Flexicut knife set on holidays.