by Chris Pye
These books are new editions, fully revised and expanded, of Chris Pye’s landmark work on woodcarving. The original edition was a single volume first printed in 1994; and this updated set splits that volume in two, reprints all the pictures in color, and updates the context to take into account the many new things that have happened in this increasingly popular field.
What I appreciate most about Woodcarving is that that it elevates the discussion about the tools and equipment of woodcarving. There is an old saying, "A poor workman often finds fault with his tools." Nowadays, great tools are available for purchase, but there’s no guarantee that woodworkers will know how to use them. Pye’s masterly instruction will help woodcarvers understand their equipment - what the tool is supposed to do, how it should be sharpened, how to make the best purchase, how subtle difference in tool design can really affect the way the tool can be used, how to maintain the equipment, etc. As Pye himself notes, "By concentrating on tools first, I am acknowledging a fundamental truth about woodcarving: the tools and the carving are inseparable - as inseparable as the hands and mind." Woodcarving presents a very balanced view: he may prefer oilstones for sharpening, but he will give you a very thorough presentation about water stones as well so that you can understand the differences and nuances.
Volume One deals primarily with the selection and sharpening of the traditional tools of woodcarving - chisels and gouges. New styles of carving tools are also covered. The book is chock full of details on carving tool design that illuminate the tools’ uses and explains why there are so many different types of tools. The section on sharpening is remarkably thorough, with an explanation of how each of the diverse shapes of carving tools should be sharpened and why; that is to say, the mechanics of how the profile cuts. What is especially interesting to me as a woodworker is the difference in sharpening a woodworking tool vs. a carving tool. Because Pye is so good at explaining the why, the how becomes a lot easier to learn.
Volume Two of the set focuses on the other tools of woodcarving, including mallets, vices, abrading tools, knives and clamping accessories, and the "equipment" - the grain and species of the wood itself and wood finishes. Power tools, including power carving tools, are also discussed. Pye also delves into related issues such as modifying tools for specific purposes; the workplace and its accessories; and holding the work safely. The very extensive Preparing to Carve section of the book is a very thorough treatment of all aspects of design and finishes, from understanding the characteristics of different kinds of wood, to the necessary prep work, which can include models, photographs or sketches.
Throughout both books, Pye is a fount of knowledge and encouragement. His lessons on improving technique and opening oneself up creatively make these books something to treasure.
Vol I: 239 pages.
Vol II: 175 pages.