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Practical Wood Carving by F. T. Hodgson, 1905



Harry Hems, the celebrated English carver, says: "No doubt, as a matter of position it is better to be a good wood carver than a good joiner, but a poor carver is a long way down the scale below the handy carpenter.

It is not every one that has the natural 'gift' to become a really clever carver of wood. Parents should ever be careful to give their sons several months' probation ere the fate of the youngster is decided upon.

If a boy has no real talent for wood carving he never ought to be apprenticed to the profession, for hard work and the most diligent application will rarely make up for lack of natural ability. Of all the many hundred businesses that go strictly hand in hand with the building trade, that of a figure carver in wood for architectural purposes has its fewest representatives.

It is probable that in all England at the present moment there are not forty men who can carve even decent figures in wood.

The position, therefore, of these skilled craftsmen is an envied one; there is a constant demand for their services; they command good money, and their occupation, always varied and never representing really hard manual labor, is one of the most delightful pursuits a man can possibly follow."


"Ordinary wood carvers do not pretend to be masters of the figure, and when at rare intervals they attempt it the results are seldom successful. A great gulf exists between figure and foliage work. For whilst the foliage carver is quite lost upon the human form divine when he attempts to produce it in wood, so the figure carver is almost equally at sea when he turns his hand to ornament. If he tries it, and he generally does so hesitatingly, he is rarely successful."

He also gives some excellent advice to beginners, which is deemed worthy of being quoted at this point. "Always stand to your work, and don't lean over it too much. Too much leaning over tends to laziness. I have seen small seats in the top of a spiked stick. The latter steadies itself on the floor, and the carver will sit thereon, work, and swing his body round with it as occasion requires. But it has not a good look about it, and does not stamp a diligent and smart man."

"Although it is a good rule always to do work in the solid, it often happens that pateras, etc., are put into hollows after the latter are run through. The best way to carve them, under these circumstances, is to have a hollow made the same size in pine, and glue each individual rosette therein with paper between the pine and the material carved. After the latter is finished it can be lifted out by a chisel as easily as shelling peas, as the paper splits at the slightest purchase of the tool.

It is, however, always a matter of intense regret to me to see rosettes stuck on. Everything should be cut out of the solid wood. It is this wholesome practice that makes our average work so much better than the best produced in Belgium and Germany."


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