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Weekend Festival of Woodworking Fun

March 31, 2014 MaryMay American College of the Building Arts

Deneb Puchalski demonstrating with Thomas Lie-Nielsen in the background.

We had a great weekend demonstrating at the American College of the Building Arts and Lie-Nielsen’s Tool Event. I got to set up my little workbench and carve to my heart’s delight for 2 days! What more could I ask for?

It was a great turn-out and after all the weathermen said that Saturday was going to be constant thunderstorms, it turned out to be a great day with no rain. It was fun to work with all the Lie-Nielsen “gang” again and it’s always good to see Christopher Schwarz. There was a new woodworker in the mix, Caleb James, who is a chairmaker out of Greenville, SC.

I am working with Lie-Nielsen and Auriou tools (the French company that makes the hand-made rasps) to make a set of my favorite shaped fishtail carving gouges. I can’t wait! I have 4 of the prototypes that I have been testing for a few weeks, and I LOVE them! Hoping to have some available for sale within 3 to 6 months. I’ll keep you updated.

Caleb James demonstrating the beauty of his hand-made planes.

Caleb James demonstrating the beauty of his hand-made planes.

Christopher Schwartz overseeing Roger Benton's work.

Christopher Schwartz overseeing Roger Benton’s work.

Deneb Puchalski demonstrating with Thomas Lie-Nielsen in the background.

Deneb Puchalski demonstrating with Thomas Lie-Nielsen in the background.

I also got to see some stone carving friends from the upstate, SC. Clint Button, who carves amazing marble and granite sculptures, and David Gillespie, who carves beautiful traditional slate grave stones. It was wonderful to see them and their families while in town.

Clint Button working on a beautiful granite sculpture.

Clint Button working on a beautiful granite sculpture.

One of David Gillespie's slate grave markers.

One of David Gillespie’s slate grave markers.

I wanted to show the true southern hospitality thing and attempted to host a bon-fire while everyone was in town – with a combination of steamed oysters, marshmallows and beer (sounds like a wicked chemical combination). But alas, the rain on Friday night washed that idea out. Maybe try again next year??


Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event – Charleston, SC

March 26, 2014 MaryMay Wood Carving Tips


This Friday and Saturday (March 28 & 29) there will be a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC. I will be demonstrating carving, Christopher Schwarz will be demonstrating his dynamic hand woodworking skills (and will also be giving a tour of historic Charleston on Thursday), Caleb James will be demonstrating plane making and chair making while the wonderful staff of Lie-Nielsen demonstrates the use of their fabulous tools. They even let you try them out! You will also have an opportunity to meet Thomas Lie-Nielsen, the owner and founder of Lie-Nielsen tools.

The event is located at a fabulous old jail house that is as creepy as it gets. The college has done a lot of renovations on the building, but they have kept the wonderful rustic atmosphere of the old jail. I definitely would NOT have wanted to be a “guest” – some rooms still have that damp dungeon smell and feel. Can’t imagine…


Anyway… The Master of the Building Arts Festival will be held on Saturday from 10 to 5 at the school. It is free to attend and there will be a lot of demonstrations of traditional building techniques such as wrought iron, stone carving, traditional plastering techniques, timber framing, and much more!

Hope you can make it out for the show! The weather is going to be sunny and upper 70s. Ya gotta love Charleston!


Rochester, NY class

March 13, 2014 MaryMay Period Furniture Carving


Last month I had a wonderful time teaching in Rochester, NY. Unfortunately, I travelled there the day after a major snowstorm and ended up spending about 10 hours in lovely Washington, DC airport. I ended up missing a talk/demo I was supposed to do for the Rochester Woodworking Society that evening and did not actually get into Rochester until about 1:00 am. The next day an all-day talk and demo on the basics of woodcarving was also scheduled. I guess I was riding on adrenaline or sheer will-power, because I made it through that day with only losing my voice, not my mind!

For the next 4 days I taught a class for the Society of American Period Furnituremakers (SAPFM). Their request was to carve drapery linenfold (like on the cover of the Samuel McIntire book), scrolls and volutes, a basic acanthus leaf for a cabriole leg and an advanced acanthus leaf design. We really covered an amazing amount of carving- and several of the projects were new topics that I had not taught in classes often – at least not these specific projects. So it was new for all of us! (They were very cooperative guinea pigs) There was some great carving accomplished!

My hosts, Mike and Irene Brawley, were wonderful to me and completely spoiled me the entire time I was there. It has been about 15 years since I really saw that kind of deep snow (growing up in Wisconsin and Minnesota, I knew snow!) I felt like a kid again trudging through nearly 20 inches of snow and coming inside when your eyes feel like they will freeze open.

Glad to be back to the warm :) I am SOOO spoiled.

Milley, the shop dog.
Samuel McIntire-style linenfold swag.
Students working hard (hardly working?)
Lots of scrolls and volutes.
We fit a lot of people into this workshop!
Acanthus leaf for a cabriole leg.
More advanced acanthus leaf
Another student's acanthus leaf.
My host, Dave Brawley, carving acanthus leaf.
Lots of snow!


Classes, Classes and More Classes

February 12, 2014 MaryMay Wood Carving Tips


Over the past few months, I have taught several classes and have been very tardy in getting photos up. So sorry!

Also, there are several classes this year that still have spaces available:

The next one coming up is a class at Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s School” in Pittsboro, NC, March 1 & 2. This will be a 2 day beginning/intermediate class on carving a Celtic Cross in basswood. You can take this class even if you have never picked up a chisel before. You can go to Roy’s school’s website and you will need to go way down to the bottom of the page to register. The class is not actually listed on the “Two Day Workshops” section on the main page, but you should be able to sign up after registering. See photo below of the Celtic Cross design we will be carving.

celtic small

The next class is in beautiful Tryon, SC at the Tryon Arts and Crafts School on March 15 & 16. It will be a beginning class on the “fundamentals of woodcarving”. 

Then there is the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. This will be a full week long beginning carving class July 7 – 11. After 5 days of intense carving, you’ll have no choice but to become addicted!

And finally, I will be teaching a 5-day Intro to Relief Carving at Marc Adams School of Woodworking August 4 – 8. Another thorough carving introduction class.

There are other classes – some may be full and some may still have spaces available – check them out on my class schedule. It’s going to be a busy year!

And now for the photos for a December Highland Woodworking class in Atlanta, a SAPFM workshop also in Atlanta, and a beginning class at The Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, NC.

Students diligently working at Highland Hardware, Atlanta.
More concentration..

Carving the Convex Newport Shell
Carving the Concave Newport Shell
Carving an acanthus leaf on a cabriole leg.
Carving a shell and acanthus design.
Carving a shell for a drawer front.
The SAPFM gang!
The first carving - Learning how to work with the grain.
Fish with attitude.
A moderately happy fish.
The Woodwright's School classroom
Carving the Camellia
Roy working on his foot pedal metal lathe.
More camellias!
First time we had a dog in the class. He cleaned up well after his owner - eating many woodchips.
The happy, satisfied, and tired class holding their masterpieces.


A Bird in the Hand…

January 17, 2014 MaryMay Carving wildlife


DSCN2915 DSCN2917 DSCN2918

I don’t get an opportunity to carve “in-the-round” very often. And when I do, it’s always an interesting challenge. The thought process and the technique of discovering the shape is a completely different world than relief carving.

In relief carving, your main focus will be on overlapping elements, tricking the eye by creating an illusion of depth in a shallow amount of wood, and making shadow lines and exaggerated curves to create an appearance of more shape.

In 3-dimensional carving, the first focus is to get the general over-all shape carved, and then move into more of the detail of the carving. There is usually no need to create an illusion of depth – simply because the depth is already there.

If relief carving is your “normal” style of carving and you want to get into sculptural carving, the tendency can be to carve relief carvings on all sides and hope they somehow magically come together into a sculpture. The trick becomes joining it all together into a cohesive shape. It requires working on the entire sculpture and resisting focusing on one area, and then the next, and then the next… It is necessary to rotate the carving quite often to make sure the entire sculpture is developing into its final shape.

Resist working on the details until you are completely satisfied with the overall shape. This applies to both relief carving and sculptural carving. I learned the hard way by spending a lot of time on details, only to discover that I have to carve that area down another 1/8″ or so. All that time and effort was wasted because I just removed all my hard work.

This carved cardinal is going to eventually be a finial for one of the posts of a 4-post bed. The other 3 posts have machine carved pineapples (yech).

I started by getting a rough profile of the side and top views and transferred this to a 2-3/4″ x 2-3/4″ piece of basswood. Then I cut these profiles out with a band saw. I left a block of wood at it’s belly so I could have something to clamp to. This way I could still use my long handled carving gouges and didn’t need to hold onto the wood while I carve. Those whittling knives scare me!

This was a fun project and definitely different than what I normally get to carve. I’m not sure if I will venture into “wildlife” carving, but it is a fun challenge to do every once in a while. There are some amazing woodcarvers out there who make these carvings with simple whittling knives. I am often completely humbled by what incredible carvings they create – without clamping the wood to a bench!

What I love about my job is the variety of work that comes through the door. I think that’s why after nearly 22 years, I still find all aspects of woodcarving fascinating.

Happy (bird) carving!


In Memoriam

January 7, 2014 MaryMay People

I am finally caught up after a few months of scattered and unfocused energy. It has been difficult to concentrate on “normal” things between Thanksgiving (22 people that we fit into a small dining room), Christmas, New Years, the passing away of 2 amazing people in my life – my father-in-law, David May, and my 97 year old apprentice and friend, Bill Cox.

Please take a moment and look at my father-in-law’s web site – He was truly a man of genius in so many ways and he will be greatly missed. Here is a blog post about this amazing man. Not only did he touch people with his creative skills, but his greatest joy was sharing his love of the Lord.

I also put a blog post about my dear friend and woodcarving apprentice, Bill Cox. Another man of many talents and wonderful sense of adventure.

So, after witnessing how these 2 men had lived through wild adventures, learned multiple skills, and touched so many different lives in the process, it truly motivates me to try to reach and influence as many people as possible in my world of woodcarving.

OK – here is my New Year’s resolution. I am putting this in a blog, so I have no excuse NOT to get this done. I’m going to write a book this year. That’s all I’ll say… Keep you all in suspense! (And me too… I wonder what I will do???)




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