sign: Mary Mays School of Traditional Woodworking is Open

School is OPEN

July 11, 2012 MaryMay On-Line Woodcarving articles and TV interviews

My Online Woodcarving School is now officially OPEN! Click on the link above, or to the right to go to the site. I am offering 12 beginning videos for FREE! Once you start, you won’t be able to stop!

Come Join US.


Marc Adams Fundamentals of Woodworking Class

April 19, 2014 MaryMay Wood Carving Tips

I just finished teaching a challenging but very fun class on the Fundamentals of Woodcarving at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indianapolis, Indiana. These classes at Marc’s can be pretty intense because of the size (18 students) and the length of class (5 days).

It was a great group of students and they tackled some difficult projects, challenging wood, and long hours. We had a lot of fun along with a lot of carving.

I will be teaching a class again at Marc Adams on Classical Relief Carving August 4 – 8. There might be spaces still available and this is open to beginning carvers.

Rick and Robert diligently working.
David showing off his happy worms - first lesson on learning to work with the grain and get to know the tools.
Carving the camellia (can't carve too many of these!)
Is that a smile or grimace? Tim showing how to hand-carve (or is that carve-hand?)
Close-up of the "hand-carving class". Don't try this at home!
Andy's collection of beautiful mallets (recognize the brass one on the right?).
Bjorn's letter carving in mahogany.
Fan carving in mahogany.
A collage of relief carvings.
More completed carvings - and LOTS of shavings.
Andy's flamingo tool roll.
Linenfold carving in basswood.
Shell carving in mahogany.
Jim ventured into new designs in basswood on the last day.


Highland Woodworker Interview

April 18, 2014 MaryMay On-Line Woodcarving articles and TV interviews


Highland Woodworker has just published an interview with me on their “Web TV for Woodworkers” site – Episode 12. There are several other things happening on that particular show – You can also see Luthier Kipp Krosa and his beautiful musical instruments, Glen Huey talking about how to buy shellac that is not too old (who would have known?) and the Tennessee Barn Project where some of those amazing old barns are salvaged.

My interview starts at about the 29 minute mark.



Clean Workshop!

April 16, 2014 MaryMay Wood Carving Tips

These photos of my squeaky clean workshop were actually taken several months ago and it doesn’t look quite as tidy as it did back then.

I spent an entire week going through everything in my workshop, reorganizing it, cleaning it, and discovering things I haven’t seen in years. It was truly about time…

…and now I can’t find anything…

My workshop is approximately 12 ft wide x 36 ft long. It started out with a single shop about 12 ft x 12 ft. This is where I do my main carving and filming of videos.

Then when things were slow at my husband’s business, he kept his guys employed by adding a “porch” onto my workshop that was another 12 ft x 12 ft. Then about a year or so later, things slowed down again with my husband’s work and that porch was closed in to become my “center” shop. This part is usually used as an “overflow” from my original carving shop and where I have any machines that might produce dust (hate the stuff).

Then several years later, another downfall in the economy (which I benefitted from) – the guys put the third addition on – another 12 ft x 12 ft fully windowed room – sort of like a sunroom. This is where I do a lot of my castings and mold-making – a messy process that I want to keep completely away from any of my woodworking tools.

I love my workshop. It is my “happy place”.

My "original" shop with my wonderful Ulmia workbench. This is where I do most of my carving and filming of videos.
My "original" shop with some of my books - window looks out into my "center" shop.
My "original" shop where I now keep all my books and tools hanging on magnetic tool holders.
The entrance door and my Harbor Freight workbench (I'm so ashamed).
My "center" shop - the door and window goes into my "original" shop.
My "center" shop and "casting" room. The fact that you can see the floor is a miracle!
My "casting" room looking out onto my very neglected garden. Great windows!



Class space still available!

April 13, 2014 MaryMay Wood Carving Tips

One of the beginning carving projects - carving a camellia flower!

One of the beginning carving projects – carving a camellia flower!

I have several beginning carving classes coming up that still have spaces available. Come join us!

May 2 – 4, Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking I will be teaching a class on the Fundamentals of Furniture Carving. This is a beginning class where I will go over the basics of relief carving – acanthus leaf, shell & linenfold in shallow relief. Check out the full description by clicking the link to the school above.

I am also going to be teaching a beginning carving class in Germany! Yeah! I really want to make sure that it fills, so PLEASE, PLEASE if you are in the Berlin, Germany area June 19 – 21, please join us! It will be at the Dictum School.

Another class that still has spaces available is the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine. This is a full week class on basic carving techniques.

There are still some spaces available in classes later in the year also and you can see them on my class schedule.

Maybe my online video school isn’t helping my class enrollment? I wonder… maybe I’m creating my own competition! I guess that’s not a bad thing…


Carving a Cardinal video added to online video school

April 10, 2014 MaryMay Wood Carving Tips


A new project has been added to my online video school. It is a fully 3-dimensional carving of a cardinal in basswood. This is not the typical type of carving I have on the school. Most of the styles I do are classical decorative carving that go on either furniture or architecture.

I go through the process of how to get the general shape cut out with a band-saw. I also show how to keep strategic pieces of wood attached so that I can clamp it in my bench vice without having to hold it in my hands. These carvings are often held in your hands and carved with a whittling knife or palm gouges. I am MUCH more comfortable using my long-handled European gouges and clamp the work to my bench. Much less blood… all body parts away from the gouge…


Every Thursday (actually Wednesday evening) I add another video episode. Sometimes the lessons only have one episode – usually when they are less than 1/2 hour long. This project of carving the cardinal will be 3 episodes (approx. 1-1/2 hours total) and so far 2 episodes have been added to the school. The final episode will be added next week (can you handle the suspense?) The plot is pretty predictable.

I added a blog post previously describing this carving process in photographs.

If you haven’t seen my online school, I currently have 122 video episodes and more every week. 12 beginning video lessons are available for FREE!


Attaching fragile carving to backer board

April 9, 2014 MaryMay Period Furniture Carving

This is a great example of how to care for a very fragile carving. This delicate leaf design is for the detail on the top of a Philadelphia Highboy (this project is actually going on a Philadelphia Chest-on-Chest, but since the highboys are so much more common, I’m just going to refer to it as a highboy from now on).


Example of the top of a highboy I carved several years ago – similar to what I will be carving.

I am NOT going to carve this after it is glued to the final furniture surface for several reasons -

1. The rest of the piece of furniture is in NC
2. If my gouges decide to gouge into the background (which they like to do on occasion) I won’t damage this beautiful flat surface.

So, I am going to attach this to a temporary backer board where I can gouge away as I please. This also allows me to clamp the backer board and as a result any clamps or bench dogs will be far away from my carving or gouges.

There are several ways I could do this.

1. Glue it to the backer board with newspaper or paper bag between the carving and backer board (great for more solid and less delicate carvings)
2. Use double sided tape (excellent for fragile carvings)
3. Use hot-melt glue (this is becoming more and more NOT the best choice in my book)

I decided to use the double sided tape method for this delicate carving. When Charles Neil and his gang hung out in my shop for a week last year, they introduced me to an amazing double-sided tape that you can get from Lowes – it is a type of double-sided duct tape called “Suretape”. It  is truly impressive in how it holds. Then when you are finished with the carving, brush along the edge of your carving with lacquer thinner (use in ventilated space) and the tape will soak up the lacquer thinner and will gently release from the backer board.

So here we go…

Cut out your design on a scroll saw – use as small of a blade as you can to get a clean cut, but don’t let it get so small that the blade bends and distorts. For this particular design I used a scroll saw blade with 15 teeth per inch. For the inside sections, I drilled a 1/4″ hole to insert the blade into.

Lay your carving on a backer board that is at least 1 inches larger than your carving on all sides. Draw a rough outline around your design as a guideline for where to lay your tape.

Draw a rough outline around the carving design to know where to lay the double sided tape.

Draw a rough outline around the carving design to know where to lay the double sided tape.

Lay the double sided tape on your backer board in the general shape of the outline you drew. Pull off the covering of the double-sided tape.

Removing double sided tape covering.

Removing double sided tape covering.

Lay your carving on the tape.

Carving set on double sided tape.

Carving set on double sided tape.

Clamp another board over your carving to ensure that the entire carving is tight against the backer board. Clamp it tightly and then release. There is no need to clamp it for any period of time.

Clamp tightly so that the entire carving is pressed into the double sided tape.

Clamp tightly so that the entire carving is pressed into the double sided tape.

With a small knife that can fit into tiny areas, cut the tape around the outside edge of your design. One of the most irritating things is to carve and have your wood shavings stick to any exposed double sided tape. It’s a tedious job to remove this, but very important.

Cut along edge of carving to remove excess double sided tape.

Cut along edge of carving to remove excess double sided tape.


After cutting around edge, remove excess double sided tape.

After cutting around edge, remove excess double sided tape.

And now we’re ready to carve!

Ready to carve and it's not going anywhere!







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