Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 11/11/02

A Book Review by Louis Kudon

Title: Woodcarving Basics

Alan and Gill Bridgewater

Published by: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.

387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810
ISBN 0-8069-9090-2
Price Softcover: $12.95
128 pages

Of all the woodworking skills I lack and yearn for, a talent for carving ranks the highest. I have always admired the seeming ease with which some individuals can coax a realistic depiction of an animal or other object from a block of wood.

Living in rural Georgia, I can not easily avail myself of personal tutelage so I usually turn to books to open new avenues of achievement. Then I buy tools, wood and set to practicing. Woodcarving Basics by Alan and Gill Bridgewater is ideal for this approach.

The book is aimed at someone with no knowledge of woodcarving and should build confidence in beginners through its friendly and clear approach. The book has many line drawings that aptly illustrate techniques and procedures covered in the text. Also sprinkled throughout the book are boxed segments of text that answer the type of questions that novices typically ask but books seldom answer.

The book starts with chapters on tool selection and sharpening and ends with chapters covering well-explained introductory level projects. Each subject is approached with the idea that the reader has no previous knowledge of carving. Woodcarving Basics covers many types of carving from chip to relief to sculpture. This is the book's primary strength and weakness. Since it is trying to give a very basic introduction to so many diverse topics, some are covered in less depth than would seem necessary.

The book also has a chapter on wood selection which excels when covering the principles of this topic but is short on substance on specific species of wood. Although it bills this section as an A to Z list of woods, it skips several significant carving woods such as walnut. The chapter on the knife, axe and adze is as well written as it is unexpected. These important carving tools are often given short shrift in other books.

Following this chapter, the authors tackle chip carving, relief carving and sculpture. After each of these chapters they have carving exercises they call Beginner's Workout. These sections are some of the best in the book. The ending chapters in the book are projects that utilize techniques and tools covered in the book. In my opinion, this is where the book fell short. The project sections needed to be enlarged to cover more of the skills contained in the book. For example, there really was no project that detailed relief carving. Other projects, such as the sculpture project, could have been made more challenging, yet still appeal to a beginner.

Overall, I would recommend this book to a novice who wants to learn carving. This book is a great place to start and would serve as an excellent introduction to other more advanced texts on this subject.

Louis Kudon

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! And you can usually find their titles at a discount from Barnes And Noble

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