Woodworker's Central
Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 12/17/99
A Book Review: by Jim Lunden

Essential Woodcarving Techniques
: Dick Onians
Publisher: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, Ltd.
166 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1XU
Price: $17.95 (Can. $24.95)
Available through: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810

Dick Onians is a fantastic woodcarver who has been teaching woodcarving in London, England for 28 years. This book appears to be intended for the beginner since it covers the basics of wood and tool selection.

I am a recent woodworking hobbyist with about one year of experience. I have set up a decent shop with the help of several books and magazines. I am very partial to the style used by the Woodsmith and Shopnotes magazines with their step-by-step instructions coupled with thoughtful drawings.

I hated this book. OK. How do I really feel?

There are 15 chapters in this book. The first few are potentially useful to a novice. They cover tools and equipment, selecting suitable wood and then some exercises in simple chip carving.

The next 11 chapters show incredibly beautiful and complicated work that no novice could do more than admire. There are no specific techniques demonstrated. There are many paragraphs of this type:

"When the ends have been completely shaped it is possible to slightly undercut all round, but this was rarely done. Another finishing touch is to pare the edge with a straight-edged chisel, most efficiently a skew chisel, held at 45 degrees. This gives a ribbon edge which emphasizes the pattern and, incidentally, shows up imperfections in your finish."

I can not imagine why a section of carving the human figure would be included in a introductory book. The examples are excellent but would challenge a very experienced wood carver.

I felt that if I were to attempt to use this book that I would be unable to finish any project. I have valued so many books written for the novice that have been truly educational. I don't like ego driven books that seem to say "I'm great and you are not".

I went to a well-stocked Borders bookstore and examined all the books on woodcarving. The Time-Life book, "The Art of Woodworking - Wood Carving" was terrific. It has the clear illustrations and step-by-step instructions that I believe would help me or any other beginner to get started in the right direction.

Jim Lunden


Editor's note: Sterling has graciously provided many new books for review to our members. If you would like to see what new books they're offering to woodworker's, please visit their website.

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