Monday, February 7, 2011


This is a picture of my first carving; two numbers, '4' and '8'. They are both incised numbers, that is, the numbers were carved into the surface of the wood. For a long time I thought this first effort at woodcarving has been lost or thrown out. I stumbled across it a few weeks ago when I was looking for wood for a new project. That was much the same way that I was introduced to wood carving in the first place; I stumbled into it.

It was about ten years ago, give or take a few years, I went, with my wife, to the Burlington Art Center (BAC),, open house to look at various art exhibits at the center. we looked are weaving and painting and pottery and a lot of other things that I no longer remember. At one point, we took a few wrong turns and wound up in a part of the BAC that was not on our itinerary.

Since we were in a new part of the center we decided that we would look around. One of the doors was open so we went in. There were a number of people working a wood carving projects.  Fred Whiskin invited me to try my hand at wood carving. I said that I had no experience at it and I did not have any tools.
Fred made me an offer, he said that if I showed up at their next meeting on the following Tuesday he would provide the tools and materials for a first project. I agreed and left with my wife. I continued to think about it and told my wife that I thought I would give it a try.

The following Tuesday I showed up at the wood carvers meeting room. Fred was there and waiting. He presented me with the a square piece of wood that was covered with a self adhesive piece of plastic. On the plastic was traced the two letters that you see in the picture; '4' and '8'.

That first night, Fred gave me a small straight chisel that looks a lot like the chisels that I used for woodworking. After helping me secure the wood to the work bench and giving me a few tips on using the chisel Fred left me alone to work on the number 4. He came by during the evening a offered advice and encouragement. The evening went by quickly. I was hooked.

The following week I was back. I finished the number 4. Then Fred gave me a small round gouge to work on the number 8. that was a little more involved than the number 4 in that there were curves to negotiate. Over the nest few weeks Fred was very encouraging and helped me to successfully complete my first piece. I am glad that I still have it.

I do not know if Fred is still involved with the Burlington Sculpture and Wood carving guild. I did a search on the Internet and found that Fred had celebrated 50 years as a Boy Scout leader in December of 2010, He had spoken of scouting when he used to discuss wood carving with me. I give many thanks to Fred Whiskin for starting me on my path in wood carving. I owe it to him to keep going.

I have not been a member of the Burlington Sculpture and Wood Carvers Guild for several years. My schedule has not allowed the time. In fact, there have been too many years where I did not do much carving. Last year I injured my left hand and could not carve at all.  Not being able to carve at all made me realize how important it was to me to work with wood.

Before Christmas I decided that it was time to be more involved in wood carving again. Writing this blog has made me realize how important wood carving is in my life. It is how I express and interpret the world around me. By committing myself to write a post every week motivates me to work at wood carving every day.


  1. you gave many thanks to Fred Whiskin for starting you on your path in wood carving. Lao Gao, I thank you with all my heart for teaching me English. If I had never met you, I was still unable to construct an English sentence.

  2. Your first piece in wood carving looks way better than my first piece of knitting. Having someone there to offer help and encouragement can make all the difference. Will you go back and join the guild this year?

  3. That is a really good question. I have given it some thought. There is definitely something to be said about the camaraderie and sharing of information and insights that can go on in a setting like the guild. On the other hand, it is all about having the opportunity to dedicate a set number of hours every week to the guild. I am still weighing the pros and cons.