Coniscliffe Carving Club


The Gentle Craft

A poet said he'd never see a poem lovely as a tree.
Much lovelier a tree becomes when to the woodsman's axe succumbs!
So to his craft we must give thanks for all those lovely carving blanks
in oak, and lime, and sycamore, that we acquire, and carefully store
in cupboards deep with shelving wide, in workshops built with care and pride.

We find ourselves, with some unease, coveting our neighbours' trees,
with restless ear we listen for the raucous sound of the chainsaw.
So, when some seasonal pruning starts, we're round there with our little carts,
begging for each useful chunk (and possibly a slice of trunk),
which we bear home with joyful cry, and put in store, for years, to dry!

But what is all this hoarding for? So why keep all that wood in store?
The simple answer, I must state, is just the craving to create,
to take a virgin block of wood and turn it into something good,
a thing of function, charm or beauty, by using patience, skill and duty.
Whether for profit or for pleasure, this process gives us things to treasure.

Results are easy to achieve! So come on, roll up each shirtsleeve,
and work towards your just reward. Choose one piece from your timber hoard
and draw your plan on front and side that you can use to be a guide.
Your radio tune to something nice, and clamp your workpiece in a vice,
each chisel sharpen up and hone, pick up mallet, switch off phone!

With chisel gripped in sturdy hand, you can begin, the feeling's grand!
Your mallet swinging to and fro, you cleave the wood with every blow,
a feeling that is oh so good~ to vent your spleen on lumps of wood -
so therapeutic, satisfying, that you will never give up trying!
Then, when you've hacked, and hewed, and rended, you get the shape that you intended.

As you've achieved the basic form, now you are really getting warm!
The project time is almost halved, for now the detail can be carved.
The mallet blows become light taps, the wood removed in tiny scraps -
take off too much and oh! the pain! You cannot put it on again!
Here care and patience are required, so be encouraged, be inspired!

With all that careful carving done, that's not the end of all the fun -
effect a finish so worthwhile, with sandpaper, perhaps a file -
your carving you must never spoil with too much polish, too much oil.
The masterpiece is now complete, you have performed the perfect feat
by using mind, and hand, and heart, to make a unique work of art.

From workshop carry it with pride up to your house, then go inside,
place it on a prominent shelf, this heirloom that you carved yourself.
Enjoy the praise of all your friends - but there the adulation ends.
Just disregard it if you can, you have your next project to plan!
And loudly now its praises sing, the Gentle Craft of Woodcarving!

By Keith Hardisty
(Published in BWA "Gazette" Vol. 3 Issue 4 Spring 2014