Woodcarvers share their craft with the communityIf you think carving wood is too difficult a craft for you to learn, the Red Wing Woodcarvers will have no problem telling you you’re wrong.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
If you think carving wood is too difficult a craft for you to learn, the Red Wing Woodcarvers will have no problem telling you you’re wrong.
They frequently get people coming to their shows saying they’d love to be able to create carvings but they’re so lacking in artistic ability they can hardly draw a straight line.
“I say, ‘There’s no straight lines in carving … so you’ve got an advantage already,’” said Mart Lind, a member of the Red Wing Woodcarvers.
The group meets for coffee every Thursday morning at Randy’s to discuss their hobby — and other topics that may come into their conversation. Each one of them has been carving wood for years, but it’s a skill they said they’ve learned little by little. Just like anybody can.
“We have no special talents in most cases,” member Dennis Koenig said.
They pick up on the tricks of the trade by listening to each other, reading wood carving magazines, browsing websites and simply practicing.
“The more repetition you do and the more eye-hand coordination you reinforce, the better you’re going to be,” Lind said.
What’s more important, however, is that the members of the Red Wing Woodcarvers love what they do. Their passion for it helps them develop skills easier.
It’s also part of what makes the hobby so enjoyable.
“It’s got to be fun for a person,” member Gordon Trelstad noted.
The woodcarvers teach a class as part of Red Wing Community Education and Recreation to give others an opportunity to discover whether they would also find entertainment in woodcarving. The class spans six weeks and is open to anyone — male or female, young or old. Previous experience is not at all required. Students will be taught different carving projects based on their varying skill levels.
Additionally, the woodcarvers host a weekly open shop that carvers can attend to reinforce their skills. Rather than provide formal instruction, members of the group are available to answer questions while they work on their own projects.
“If someone’s curious about it and wants to see what we do, we welcome people,” Lind said.
The Red Wing Woodcarvers collectively have dozens of years of experience, giving them plenty of knowledge to share. For starters, they’ve learned a lot about which types of wood work best for carving. Several members agreed on the butternut and basswood varieties.
“Minnesota has some of the best basswood available in the country,” Lind said. “It’s slow-growing and has a nice texture.”
While there are plenty of types of wood to choose from, there are also plenty of ways to go about carving them. From methods called chip and relief carving to another called carving in the round, every carver can tailor their projects to what they like most.
“There’s a lot of possibilities you can get involved in. It’s just personal preference,” Lind said.
What device someone uses to do the actual carving is also up to each individual’s preference.
“There’s one tool I use that’s called a Jack’s carving knife,” Trelstad said.
“He uses that a lot if it’s not lost,” Lind teased.
Other carving instruments include everything from a chainsaw for large projects to whittling knives for smaller ones.
“Basically you can carve with anything with a blade, or that’s sharp,” Lind said.
The manner in which you use the tool is much more important than the tool that’s actually being used. For example, learning the proper direction in which to make a cut will help prevent you from nicking yourself in the process.
If the simple fact of handling a knife is keeping you from learning how to carve, take comfort knowing the craft doesn’t result in bloodshed just because sharp blades are involved. Safe practices and techniques are all part of what the woodcarvers teach during their classes.
“You learn how to protect yourself,” Lind said, adding that he’s never taken a trip to the hospital as a result of his hobby. “I’ve never needed anything more than a little Band-Aid.”
With no significant injuries to complain of, members of the group agreed that woodcarving has only ever benefited them. Not only do they get anxious to see finished products, but their close family members and friends are excited about the craft as well — particularly when it results in beautiful, handmade gifts.
“When I go through my house I’ll find names underneath the carvings sometimes. That means they want it,” Koenig said of his family, smiling.
What’s more, “come birthdays or Christmastime, you never have to wander through Walmart wondering what to get people,” Lind said.
What: Woodcarving class for beginner and intermediate level woodcarvers
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays starting Oct. 23
Where: Red Wing High School, room F100
More info: Contact Community Education/Recreation at 651-385-4565 or www.redwing.k12.mn.us