View Full Version : One way to deal with a carving disaster

Wolf Kiessling
08-08-2008, 5:10 PM
About five or six years ago I started carving this bust of a civil war soldier. To make a long story short, there happened to be a branch in the wood that was not visible when I started but showed up when I finished band sawing. Even then, it was just a small black spot and I didn't give it any thought. Anyhow, as I progressed the spot grew larger and larger and I eventually realized that I had a branch and it took up the entire left eye area, most of the left cheek and part of the hat. My first impulse was to toss the piece but for some reason I just put it on the shelf and forgot about it.

A couple, three months ago I decided that I was going to finish this piece and would deal with the problem area by putting an eye patch on the soldier. This turned out to be not such a good idea as the branch area was too big and I would still have to deal with a big hole in the hat brim plus a large, deep gauge in the left cheek. Then I thought, when this sort of thing happens when I am turning a bowl, I simple fill in the fault with decorative material. I decided to do the same thing here and filled in the faulty spots with ground turquoise and epoxy. I ignored these areas completely and just carved around them as if they weren't there. This is the result.

This is still going to be my last civil war soldier as I have done about a half dozen or so and they are scattered all over the country. I will, in fact, probably quit carving altogether pretty soon. Turning also. Maybe another couple of years. Anyhow, here is how I handled the problem. I actually kind of like it.............

randall rosenthal
08-08-2008, 7:47 PM
nice!!....just curious...why stop?

Wolf Kiessling
08-09-2008, 9:24 AM
Just burnout...... lack of motivation..... Since my wife died 3 1/2 years ago, I have cut back on my carving by about 80 % and turning by about 50.......

James Stokes
08-10-2008, 11:06 PM
Wolf, I really like that. Would you be interested in selling it? I do not know if I could afford it, but I really do like it.

John Schreiber
08-11-2008, 1:26 AM
That's really something. Throwing it away would be the standard response, but instead, it has something very special about it. Takes guts to do that.

John Keeton
08-11-2008, 6:47 AM
Wolf, why not take a "break" and give it all some time - hate to see you use the word "quit." You have too much talent to waste.

What kind of wood did you use?

Wolf Kiessling
08-11-2008, 9:17 AM
Wolf, I really like that. Would you be interested in selling it? I do not know if I could afford it, but I really do like it.

Oh yeah, I'm always interested in selling my stuff. You really should wait until it is finished before expressing such a thought, though, you might not like it at that stage. However, to give you an idea, it will probably be priced at between 400 and 500 dollars...........

Wolf Kiessling
08-11-2008, 9:22 AM
Wolf, why not take a "break" and give it all some time - hate to see you use the word "quit." You have too much talent to waste.

What kind of wood did you use?

I agree with you, John, "quit" is sort of final. What I have been doing over the past three and a half years in winding down. If I stay in my house, I will more than likely never quit totally. However, if I go into the Armed Forces Retirement Home, I'm afraid I'll have no other option............

The bust is made from basswood..........

Terry Beadle
08-17-2008, 10:17 AM
I really like the carving. It shows the mastery and care you take to the piece. You shouldn't quit. Find a youngster or start giving classes to pass on what you have such great talent at. The eyes of a newbie are a wonder and you get the greatest satisfaction from their fire and beginning works. Life is change. Hell, I'm 60 and I'd love to spend some time just listening to how you approach a piece. Think what a youngster would do if he/she were given a lesson or two.

Again, it's a very interesting piece and some how says more than the limb's remains.

Martin Shupe
08-17-2008, 2:45 PM
Wolf, I have long admired your work over the years. I believe I even met you once, at one of Steve's BBQ's. I would urge you to take Terry's suggestion, and find a way to pass on your skills to the next generation. Perhaps you could teach at one of the many fine woodworking schools around the country. You could do a week long class, which would not interrupt your life much, but would be a joy to your students. That would give you a change of pace, and perhaps spark some motivation in your work.

I believe you are an outstanding carver, and I think you have many fine sculptures, such as this one, left in you.

Please don't quit. You are too good for the world to lose too early.

Von Bickley
08-17-2008, 3:52 PM
I agree with everyone else. You have too many skills to even think about quitting. Think of a way to pass-a-long some of those skills to others. I wish I had a small portion of those skills.

Stan Smith
08-21-2008, 2:07 PM
Hi Wolf. I can see how you might get that "burned out" feeling. We've all had it with one thing or another. I too have seen some of your work over the years and can see how carving is truly a part of who you are. No one can turn out projects like that without it being a part of them. If you do end up in a retirement home, you can still carve there and maybe even help some other folks there learn how much fun it is. You will get a good feeling by helping our retired military out, too. My wife and I are musicians and we play and lead singalongs at retirement homes. They really enjoy it and so do we.

Tom Frei
09-29-2008, 4:29 PM
If you can match the wood, you will need to take out, add- on some parts. I would carve a second eye/cheek out of the same wood, and then you will have to match it up to the carving. I don't mind that kind of look though, its not super clean, but they you know its really wood. make it over sized so you can take it back. Gives it character, how much depends on how accurate you fit the wood. Not impossible at all.

I have an Indian head that I have to do some add-on work to. As long as the joints are flat, you should have no problems.

George Beck
10-23-2008, 8:09 AM
I hope you do not stop as this kind of talent is rare. I know this is a late response but I wanted to say I do not see this piece as a disaster at all. As a matter of fact I like it very much and I assumed the "flaw" was intentional. The Blinded scarred soldier makes a statement about the very conflict. This is artistic statement. Just a thought.


George Beck
10-23-2008, 8:38 AM
I have never double posted before. However I am so moved by this piece. I think it is beautiful and knowing your story from your comments and website make it more powerful and moving. The pain of the artist reflected in the art. The branch of the tree representing the branch in our country. I would call this piece something like "veteran of many battles".You sir, in my opinion, are a national treasure.


David Keller NC
10-23-2008, 8:59 AM
Wolf - A question: ground turquoise?!? Wasn't that harshly expensive? I'm from a part of the country that doesn't have natural deposits (that I'm aware of - Raleigh NC), so turquoise is jewelry.

Vic Castello
10-23-2008, 9:34 AM
Wolf....I am relatively new to carving, doing it for only about 4-5 years. If I lived in your area, I'd be beating down your door! One of my mentors at a carving school I attend is 79 years old! His favorite expression is...."no problem, one way or another, we will figure it out", and he does! I see you in a similar setting. I see a newcomer coming to you in great distress over a piece that he THINKS he/she ruined because something between steps 14 and 15 went wrong, and I see you tearing up the instructions, and telling them the HELL with that! We'll fix it ourselves!

You have a LOT to offer, good sir!

Jeff Nicol
10-27-2008, 9:36 PM
Wolf, I am a new member of SMC and have been looking at a lot of posts this last week. I started whittling as a little boy with a small yellow handled pocket knife my Dad gave me, I think I was 6 yrs old. I would carve little boats for all my friends in grade school and in the spring when the snow was melting in the school yard we would race them and it was grand! I just turned 47 years old and I do a lot more turning now but for 20 years just about everything I made had some sort of carving on it. But I have to say this is the first piece that I have seen of yours and if I had half your skill I would be a happy man! Ths soldier just reaches out to me from the civil war era and I can almost see in your work what the soldier felt every day on the battlefield! As others say take a break rest your mind but don't quit untill your hands refuse to work! My dear father is 70 and he has terrible tremors in his hands so he gave up on wood working after a life time of doing it, but he replaced his wood working tools with metal working tools. His tremors don't transfer to them and he makes me all kinds of things for my turning and other goodies. I am sorry to hear about you losing your wife, I lost my Mom just a little over a year ago and we were close. We even shared the same birthday, so stick with it and I agree with the others if you could find away to pass on your skills and passion for carving that would ensure your legacy for generations to come!

Thank you for being you!


Phillip Bogle
10-27-2008, 10:54 PM
One visit to Wolf's homepage will tell you what talent is on this forum. Click on his name on this thread or visit his profile and follow the link to his home page. There is no other thoughts other than intimidating! The soldier is good, the rest of the gallery will knock your socks off!
If you could stand teaching some lucky soul would benefit from your skills, and experience.
Bless you, I understand some of how you have felt. I was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2004, and I was giving up. My wife figured I needed a hobby and I ended up in wood. I lost much of my voice so a life of singing and preaching (The Salvation Army- officer) was over. I don't do much but I share what I can and so far I have been winning the battle. Your skills are such a blessing I hope you will continue.