Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Outdoor Adventures: Wood Carving by Erin Uda

Wood carving, or whittling, is a long-standing tradition for campers and outdoorsmen.  It’s also a good exercise in fine motor skills and patience.  There are many mediums that can be carved – wood or branches, soap, soft clay or plaster of paris, and vegetables (typically gourds such as pumpkins).  And it’s a great project for a long weekend out of school, since it can take plenty of time to finish your project.

There is no specific tool you must use when carving. Some of the best tools for young beginners are play-doh shaping tools, especially if you’re carving soft clay or soap.  If your child is old enough, try letting him use a butter knife, cuticle pusher, or the blunt tools from this year’s pumpkin carving kit.  And if you get really into carving, you can purchase a set of pottery sculpting tools (found in most art or craft stores).  If your child is eight or older, or you feel comfortable with the idea, try letting him use a Swiss Army knife on a scrap of wood.  A finger guard can prevent accidental injuries.
I would suggest starting with the following items:

  1. Paper and pencil, to create a blueprint and outline
  2. A bar of soap, any color
  3. Plastic silverware or play-doh utensils
  4. A cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or wax paper, to catch the shavings

If you carved pumpkins for Halloween, then you know the basic techniques you’ll need.  For any beginners, here are a few tips:

Start with a drawing or pattern of what you hope to create.

Use a pencil to trace a faint outline on your medium.

Shave away chunks of material until you have the general shape.

Slowly and carefully carve the fine details of your design

If you need some designs or inspiration, try carving your child’s name in block lettering.  Or carve a simple, stylized animal. 

Once your children get the hang of it, try making Christmas ornaments using small pieces of wood or branches.  You can create simple shapes like circles and triangles, or get fancy and make snowflakes, icicles, and other objects.

If it’s not too cold, the porch or a picnic table can be perfect work spaces.  Be sure to wear good gloves, to keep your fingers warm.  And have fun!! 

If you like, share your creations with the rest of us by posting your pics. 

Happy carving!

Recommended Reading:

  • Soap Carving: For Children of All Ages, Howard K. Suzuki
  • Carving for Kids: An Introduction to Woodcarving, Robin Edward Trudel
  • A Beginners Guide to Whittling, Bruce Totman
You can find more books on wood carving at your local library.  Check out call number 745.592.

P.S. You can check the calendar tab at the top of the page to see other activities we will be doing throughout the week!

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