Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 1/15/00

A book review: By Lee Grindinger

Title: Woodcarving: Two Books in One

Antony Denning

Published by: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.
387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810
ISBN 0-8069-2057-2
Price Softcover: $19.95 (Canada $29.95 )
128 color pages

Teaching anyone to carve through a book is an enormous undertaking. Carving is a craft of touch and this skill is learned from practice. The best instructional books supply the reader with the technical information needed to begin practicing and developing touch. Woodcarving, by Antony Denning has a terrific format. The book actually comes as two books in one. It is bound with a die cut spiral and the lower "techniques" section can by flipped independently of the upper "projects" section.

"Techniques", the lower section, describes methods of work. Chisel sharpening, clay modeling, lay-out tips and roughing-out are among the topics discussed. As you work through the upper "Projects" section you can refer to the techniques without flipping back and forth.

"Projects", the upper section, begins with a simple carving and progresses through a series of projects, each different and a bit more difficult. The scope here is much more tuned for U.K. readers. A jousting shield is one of the projects, a full round carving of a hobby horse is another. All are stand alone carvings.

The format of this book is terrific. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the content. The discussion of chisel sizes is good as far as it goes but it is woefully incomplete. The two major sizing systems are discussed (Sheffield and Swiss) but nowhere is there to be found a complete full scale size chart of both systems. A pity that the novice is not given more guidance here.

The discussion about sharpening is, again, good as far as it goes, but fails to discuss the "whys" of secondary bevels and the use of dry, oil and wet stones. Learning to put a truly sharp and durable edge on a chisel is the first and most important lesson any novice can learn and this topic is not given the gravity it deserves. The techniques section should describe chisel strokes, chisel selection and practice steps to learn how chisels cut and how grain configurations affect how wood cuts. Sadly, this discussion is absent.

The choice of projects is equally poor. The scope of projects include a duck decoy as well as a hand held mirror. The mirror contains the most traditional of ornaments, the acanthus foliage and the duck decoy is done almost entirely with files and rasps. Both topics are compromised by the author trying to cover too much ground. The book would be much more useful if one style or the other were focused on and thoroughly explored. Radio stations don't intermingle classical with heavy metal music for fear of losing both audiences. There is a lesson here. A full round statue of the "Birth of Venus" is another of the projects and should not be included in a book for novices. Let's face it, if a carver is truly capable of such work would they be reading a book about how to carve?

This book does have a lot of information, albeit incomplete. There is information useful to a novice and it"s a shame the novice did not remain the target audience for the entire book. No book can be all thing to all carvers and this is the reason this publication falls so short of it's goal.

Lee Grindinger

Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge in exchange for thoughtful, honest reviews. Thank You!

Back to the Gazette

Contact Us | Homepage
We encourage all our visitors to send us
their thoughts, suggestions and complaints.