A New Carving Blog

Hi and welcome to my new blog about wood carving. I know that you’re busy and have many things competing for your attention. I also know that you like eye candy (hey, don’t we all?), so this blog will have lots of pictures. Some of my art is for sale, some is for a commission, and some is just for me and my family, but all of it has a story behind it. Sometimes the story is about the wood, sometimes it’s about a person, and sometimes it’s about an experience.

Today’s post is about a beautiful piece of wood.

Leaf Plate

This carving of a leaf is one of my very first attempts at carving. My father was quite the wood worker. He wasn’t really into wood carving, but he provided me with many pieces of wood and most of my tools. When he was cutting up some birch for his fireplace, he found a large piece that had “spalted”. Spalting is something that happens when birch and maple and a few other types of hardwoods begin to rot. It’s a fungus that gets into the wood and changes the nature and colour of the wood in really cool ways. It can be tricky to carve because it’s hard to tell whether the rotting has gone too far and the wood has turned soft and punky or whether it’s still hard enough to hold together and take detail. Oh yeah, and once you expose the fungus to the air, it kills it and it stops spreading and rotting. The best, but also the most challenging part of spalted wood is that you don’t know what you’re getting when you carve it. You have to go with the flow and try to highlight what you find under the knife and gouge.

This piece above was carved in 1995, and is approximately 8″ in diameter. It’s carved like a leaf, and I hoped to capture the essence of late fall in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Here, unlike the north or central and eastern Canada, our leaves hardly change colour – they mostly fade from green to yellow to brown, often rotting in the copious amounts of rain that we get. This leaf hasn’t really changed colour much – but it is clearly rotting and curling up at the edges.

About the carving:

It’s spalted birch, 8 inches in diameter, 3/8ths of an inch thick. It’s finished in wax. If you look closely, you can see some veins carved in it. It’s finished in tung oil and wax. It got dropped and broke in half a few years ago. I glued it back together, but that means that this one’s just for our family’s enjoyment and is not for sale. I can make you one like it because I have quite a bit of spalted birch. Just promise me you’ll keep it in a safe place where it won’t get dropped.

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Published by

Grant McMillan

I am the University Registrar at Trinity Western University, and I've been in the profession since 1997. I have an MA in Organizational Leadership, and have made a career of going into organizations that are in very difficult situations and leading them to a much better place. I teach Leadership to budding managers in the Adult Degree Completion program at Trinity Western University. I speak and consult, with organizations. Contact me at grant.mcmillan@twu.ca

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