Carving Outside


My craving to be outdoors only seems to be intensifying over the years, as does my love for carving.  It’s a good thing, then, that these two desires are sometimes compatible.  On Sunday afternoon, I found myself carving a walnut bowl under hemlock trees while cardinals called to each other overhead.

Before digging into the walnut, I finished the oak low bench that I wrote about starting during snowy March in this post.


After cutting the legs to length and flattening the top a bit with a plane, I bored some holes for pegs and holdfasts.  I used a 13/16″ bit rather than 3/4″ because the oak is still green and the holes will shrink slightly over time.  Also, the holdfasts work just as well in a 13/16″ hole, especially in material this thick.  I bought an old set of extra long auger bits at a flea market years ago; I popped one into my oatmeal-powered cordless drill and bored the holes.

There’s no special pattern for the holes that works better than another.  I run a center line along the length with holes every six inches, then I mark holes off to the side midway between those holes.  No need to measure for those side holes, just strike some compass arcs from each central hole location and bore where the arcs cross.

I marked all of the side holes the same way, but didn’t actually bore the ones I’m marking in the photos since they were right over the legs.


Then I got to work with the axe on a walnut bowl I had worked on a bit at FWW Live.


Wide steeply-arched handles on this one, sculpted with the adze and the axe.



Then I used the new low bench as I did some further shaping with gouges.  Here’s a slideshow with a few photos:

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I’ll let it dry for awhile, then get back to it.

I’ve been outside in the May weather as much as I can.  Carved lettering and spoons don’t require anything other than a place to sit.  More on these later.  Can you hear the birds calling?




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12 Responses to Carving Outside

  1. Gary Renfroe says:


    A recent visit down the mountain to Curtis Buchanan,s green wood shop -I noticed he often worked on his porch. My shop is small so I move outside in the warmer months. However, these hills are often like a rain forest and you never know when a shower will arrive. I am busy adding a covered porch to my shop and plan to move my shaving horse and carving bench out there for the summer. There is something transcendent about working wood where your senses are in tune with living trees.



  2. Scott Thomas says:

    Nice new low bench Dave. Did the longer bits work any better than standard length or does oatmeal make tbe difference? Do you use a T-augar for the leg holes? It really is better working outside. I’m trying to split time between needed yard work and desired wood work (with hummingbirds and wood peckers close by). Is that a shrink pot you’re lettering? Yet another thing I hope to have a go at someday.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      The longer auger bits don’t necessarily bore a hole any better, Scott. Other than the ability to bore a deeper hole, their main advantage is allowing a more clear perspective on the angle of the bit to the surface. That long bit made it easier to sense perpendicular when I was boring the holes. Not necessary, though. I did use a T-auger for the leg holes. If you click on the “this post” link at the beginning of the post, you’ll see a couple photos of that process.

      Yes, that’s a cherry shrink pot. I’ll share some completed photos down the road. Here’s a post about making shrink pots when you decide to give it a try Lot’s of fun.


  3. Tom Stedner says:

    Like the bench Dave, I see a project in my future. One of my favorite activity’s in the during the long summer days is going on day hikes in up state New York or a short hike in the state park across the road from my house. Combine the hike with carving project and a few knives in my back pack and I’m in heaven. Nothing beats sitting on a rock near a stream, open woods or along a field edge and carving for hours taking in what nature has to offer. Last week I did just that and was sitting on a stone wall along a field and this little American Redstart kept me entertained for hours as he hopped from branch to branch or darting into the air feasting on those little annoying gnats.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Now that sounds like a great day! Assuming that your presence attracted the gnats, you and that Redstart developed quite a symbiotic relationship. Thanks for sharing that, Tom.


  4. Joe says:

    Love the term “oatmeal-powered cordless drill.” I think I am going to borrow that.

    I’ve seen your workshop in FWW. You have tough work environments for sure. Congrats.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jed Dillard says:

    Amen, brothers and sisters! Nothing better than woodworking in the woods, unless it’s stopping to soak it in.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Paul Anderson says:

    Looks great Dave. I love to hear the birds sining while I carve, one for my favorite spring time events I look forward to. I have tried some carving outside and in the garage with the door open. Yet, with the bowls I have been concerned with the wind, or even a breeze, with the wood drying too fast. Yes, cracks. Have yo had any problem with this?


    • Dave Fisher says:

      You’ve got a good point there, Paul. During the green stage of bowl carving it can be risky carving out in the direct sun and/or in a strong breeze for an extended period of time. Not an issue in the shade on a calm day.


  7. Andrew Yankech says:

    Nice post! Why do so many carving blocks have the one area that is left higher than the rest of the working surface? Thanks?


    • Dave Fisher says:

      In the case of this bench, that raised area isn’t critical, but I can use it as a wide solid stop to keep a blank from sliding forward. So far it at least hasn’t been in the way, but I can always remove it down the road.


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