Trout Carving in High Relief

Inspired by a painting done of me and for me by my good friend and artist, Len Schmidt, a while back I carved a trout out of pine, in high relief. The idea was to test out several artistic concepts. I wanted it to be a minimalist type of carving – no scales, just a hint at the eyes and gills – but I also wanted it to give the impression of a fish that is half-in and half-out of the water, and one that clearly has some movement going on. It hang on my wall straight up and down for about a year, and I wasn’t happy with it.

Then, recently I thought about grouping some of the art I have on my office walls, and I decided to put this carving next the painting that inspired it. I also decided to hang it at an angle to create more visual interest. The twist of the tail and the curve of the tail fin show so much more like this. I like it a lot better!

I’m still not particularly happy with the carving overall, but I’ll chalk it up to experimentation and learning. As a result, it’s not for sale. Someday I’ll redo it and resolve the issues I have with it and then I’ll consider selling it. Until then, I hope you can enjoy it for what it is.



I have been woefully neglectful of this blog, and for no good reason except that I recently moved and found sharing the garage/shop with a car to be a challenge. In our old house, we didn’t even attempt to park our car in the garage. However, in our new place parking is limited and the car must go in the shop/garage. This meant getting rid of my wonderful cabinet saw and replacing it with a portable bench-top table saw which might be more aptly named a tablet saw. A minor setback in the grand scheme of things.

I got the bench-top table saw tablet saw on a sweet deal at our local big-box store, which was selling it “as is”. They said it had been used as a demo. After digging around inside the guts of the saw I could find no sawdust (“Psst! Honey, I don’t think this saw’s ever cut a piece of wood!”), so I decided it was suitable and the price was too good to be true. Which it was.

It had no fence. They couldn’t find it. I bought it “as is”. The lack of a fence turned into an issue. I couldn’t find one anywhere. The store wouldn’t order me one – the deal was “as is”. They gave me a couple of websites I could try, which I did. Nada. Service phone numbers for tools are horrible. I sat for an entire afternoon trying to get through a phone tree, but there were too many branches and the muzak made me grumpy. I slammed the phone down resigned to never having a fence again and never making anything out of wood again – EVER!

This was a serious setback.

Unbeknownst to me, my loving wife was listening. When I came home from stomping around the new neighborhood like a grumpy old bear just out of hibernation, she told me she’d ordered me a new fence! Just like that. LOVE! A short drive to the store and

With all these setbacks overcome, I decided it was time to get back in the gara… er… shop and get carving. I decided I was going to reward myself with a rare chance to carve just for the sake of carving. No commissions, no clients, just me and inspiration.

Trout Carving

I decided a rainbow trout carving in high relief would be in order, and I had a nice straight grained piece of yellow cedar that I was itching to carve. I pulled out my favourite carving tool: the bandsaw. After turning it on, I pushed the cedar into the blade but it didn’t seem to be cutting very quickly. I shut the saw down and checked the blade which seemed a little dull. I got out a new one and proceeded to change it. After installing it, setting the tension, spinning the wheels to make sure the blade ran true and making sure the guides were all set properly, I turned the saw on again. I pushed the wood into the blade and got LESS cutting action this time! How could this be? I turned the saw off and heard something spinning long after the engine stopped running. It turns out that the key that joins the pulley to the axel of the engine had disintegrated. Yet one more setback!

I spent several hours shaping a new key to fit, only to discover the true problem. The set-screw holding the key in place was stripped. There was no way to keep the key in place anymore. I was screwed. Another setback.

It was at this point that I became determined that there would be no more setbacks. Fortunately, I’d had a good apprenticeship in using hand tools under my father’s watchful eye. Out came the cross-cut saw. Out came the rip saw. Out came the coping saw. In a half-hour, out came the general shape of a rainbow trout.

Band saw mess; Rip saw fix
Band saw mess; Coping saw fix

No more setbacks. I mean it!

(If anyone has any ideas on how to fix my band saw, I’m listening.)