Naming Calls – Chapter 3
Wood will guide the carver’s hand. It will tell you what it wants to be.
That’s why I avoid power tools, use them only for the crudest of bulk removal. A power saw will tear through grain; an angle-grinder will gnaw out ugly chunks. They allow you to force the wood, violate its integrity. With few exceptions, a wood carving created with power tools alone, though it may be intricately detailed, is somehow lifeless.
Flow and élan come when the sculptor’s mind, connected through the muscles and nerves of the torso, shoulder, arm and hand, enters into dialogue with the living wood, feels its movement, its resistance and yielding beneath the steel. It’s like …
For the love of God, Dad. Do not write that ‘sculpting wood is like making love to a woman,’ or I shall vomit.
Perish the thought, Freya. Can ghosts throw up?
You really don’t want to find out.
I’ll use the chainsaw only to cut the base at the required slant: the piece has to lean forward at forty-five degrees. Then I’ll get to work with the adze and the drawknife. Later will come the chisels and the gouges: the fine work I love most.
I’ll only do the roughest of roughing-out while the piece is horizontal on the workshop floor. Then I’ll need to use the ten-tonne chain hoist to lift it into position before I do any detailed carving.
It is a relief to put honed steel to wood, after so much plotting, planning, visualising and dreaming, musing and rejecting, sketching and modelling.
I take breaks every hour or so to loosen cramped muscles and knotted joints: this work is strenuous and I’m feeling my age. Most meals are taken in the workshop, where I mull over the next moves, modifying my tactics as new challenges emerge.
Twice a day, Skipper and I take a half-hour walk, either along the damp valley bottom or up the steep slopes, past rounded granite boulders patched with lichen.
The rest of the day, I’m utterly absorbed in the work: in the glorious smell of hardwood shavings, the song of the blade and the percussion of lignum vitae mallet on boxwood handle.
Skipper either watches from his bed in the corner of the workshop, or goes hunting rabbits by himself. If Kelpies could shrug and shake their head in mild despair, he surely would.
Weeks pass. Summer blooms, wilts in the heat, ripens into autumn.
Next week in ‘Naming Calls’:
We learn more about Tom’s past, old wounds that never heal …