Picking up my knife five years ago, I never imagined I would be selling my wood Carvings to very happy customers.
What and where did this creative skill come from, or is it in us all to make something from nothing?
I look back at my military career and my time as a confectioner, and wonder what if the path of my life had been different. But then I would not have the things in life I have now.
Anyway, with my love for bird and animal photography, I wanted to copy an owl onto wood, and that is how it all started.
MDF and some cheap wood chisels.
I soon learned about dust spoor that gets on your lungs, and looked for a better material. I cut up old tables and anything else that would be good for relief carving.
Then we moved to a Caravan in the country, and I soon found some nice wood – green wood that was easy to work with.
I had to learn about the different species of tree, what carved well, density of wood, splitting and the grain. All very interesting, but ultimately it was getting your hands on the right tree, and the right size of tree.
Getting to know a man called Colin who worked on the site gave me a new opportunity to get my hands on some wood. Colin, who works as maintenance, would inform me when he was cutting a tree down or when a tree had come down in the woods. With this source I would have the materials to start working with.
I needed good ,sharp tools that would make carving easier. Researching all aspects of wood carving put me in good stead, and it began from there.
Tha chisels were the most important tool in my box. Pfiel are a Swiss made chisel that cost the earth, but I still use them now as the steel is premium and always stays super sharp.
With me photographing birds led me to trying to make a 3D bird. YouTube videos and books gave me vital information, but it was down to me, my skills and patience.
The Wren, Kingfisher and Woodpecker were the first I did with good results, but it was the Owl I wanted to make. I concentrated on the Barn Owl because the face is so recognized by people.
First attempts were nice but the face wasn’t right, so I printed off images of the Barn Owl I had filmed and examined the face and eyes.
With having a source of wood to pick from I quickly learned that Silver Birch and Mountain Ash were the best to work with. Green is a term when you work with non seasoned wood, soft and full of moisture but very easy to carve.
The winter of 2018, I got my hands on a big chunk of Mountain Ash.
How I wanted to try a big owl carving.
I do work with a four inch Bosch grinder with a special disc made by Arbortech; without this I would not be able to get the shape I want.
I also invested in a Stihl 180 chainsaw with a Carving Blade fitted.
Having the shape of the owl in my head, I made a start with the chainsaw, getting a rough shape I was happy with.
Once I was happy with the shape, I tackled the hardest part of the carving – getting the feet right. I took my time and soon had a shape I could work with.
It was time for the chisels to come out to start work on the detail work.
Slowly I worked on the feet – like the eye, it has to resemble the real thing. Easy saying that.
Working for an hour a night, I was very happy with the feet and talons. Then the work started on the body and feather detail.
Overall, I was over the moon with my first big wood carving. The problem in the UK is what to treat it with after.
I hate putting varnish on my wood, but this was to take pride and place in our garden.
I found a suitable place on top of a large piece of Oak. It looked fantastic but I forgot to check it weekly for any signs of cracking or weather damage.
The rain had got into parts of the wood and we had the hottest summer in the UK for ages.
It split badly, so I decided to take it in for the winter. I worked on it by removing all the detail and started again. I even re-carved the face again.
It will take pride and place again in the garden but this time with varnish on.
Where did this gift come from? To take wood from the forest and have the skill to make it into an owl?