Saturday, April 20, 2013


Jason Rathbun, a Taos woodworker received a commission to create a maple desk for a client. Together they had come up with a design which required a carved linen lace skirt. so I was called in to do the carving.

As you can see from the above photo, the desk featured three drawers on the front skirt. The lase was carved to give the appearance as though the desk top was laying on top of a draped piece of linen.

This detail of the front of desk shows it with the drawers closed
Since the desk was finished with opaque paint another wood would have been more suitable for the carving. I actually broke a gouge and a v-tool during the carving of this piece.

Front view with drawers closed
Below are images of the desk and carving in various stages of progress. 

Early shot during construction with the side skirt clamped in place

Desk ready for carving, held to workbench with clamps

The lace has been drawn on the skirt and carving started
More carving

Different angle

Front of drawers carved and positioned for viewing

Desk with drawers positioned in place
 This was an interesting project to carve. I hope you enjoyed seeing this as much as I enjoyed carving it.

Terry R. Wolff

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Recently after posting on Facebook an image of myself carving a fairly good size panel in Mexico. A friend of mine responded by asked me if I had "flip flopped the panels".

What he was referring to was how the panels were glued together. Which was a good question since this was being used outside. In which case every other piece of wood in the panel needs to have its grain direction alternating. So if you look at the end view of a piece of wood you will see that the grain is circular and on some pieces it may look like a semi circle. Because if I were to have glued these panels with the grain all going in the same way, eventually it may very well look something like this...

By alternating the grain you can greatly reduce this sort of warping problem. So if you want you project to  remain looking like the illustration below, then you need to alternate the direction of the grain.
I want to take this opportunity to write about how to assemble your glued up panels. If you are doing large panels they will need to be glued together from smaller pieces of wood.

Aa a good rule of thumb, I prefer to construct all my exterior panels from pieces that are between 6 and 8 inches wide to prevent excessive warping. So if you have a nice wide piece of wood, save it for an interior carving. The reason I am suggesting using these narrow pieces is because if you go greater then 8 inches you surely risk having your wood warp. All wooden panels have the tendency to warp. Its our job to minimize this as much as possible. If you are planning of carving a large slab and you want to keep it from warping as much as possible then I recommend hat your slab be about four inches thick.

By alternating the grain pattern of every other board you are helping to prevent the panel from warping into a circle. If you have made tables or other interior items you most likely have tried to match the grain as best as possible to make your item more pleasing to the viewer. Meaning that all the boards would have the grain running in the same direction. However, when you are making panel which will be exposed to the outside elements such as a door, a wall panel, or a sign you want the grain of each piece of wood to be going in the opposite direction. I do this with every carving panel I glue up no matter if it is used inside or outside because I never want there to be any possibility of the panel warping sometime down the road when the customer decides that they want to hang it outside.

Another thing to take into consideration when you are doing a carving whether it is to be for interior or exterior, is to have the grain running along the length of the boards to be going in the same direction.

This means as you see the grain on the side of the board, you want all your boards to have there grain diving in the same direction and not opposing each other. Look at the below illustration you can see the grain on the left two boards are running in opposing directions, where as the grain on the right two boards are running in the same direction.
So why is this important? The reason it is important especially for those using hand tools is because of the way the wood cuts. If the grain direction is like the in the above left example your carving direction has to change. This is not as much of a problem when using power tools. Also when ever possible attempt to have your surface grain as similar as possible, especially if you are leaving the piece with a natural finish.

By carefully studying your pieces of wood before gluing it together you will make your time carving much more enjoyable.

Terry R. Wolff, Woodcarver
Sharing over 37 years of experience as a professional woodcarver.

 You can always email me with your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Well I just wanted to take this time to wish everyone who may come across this blog and very joyful holiday season, no mater what you may believe in or may not believe in. After all the way I see it, it is the end of the year for all of us and therefore it is a time for all of us to celebrate in what ever manner we choose.

My resolution for the up coming 2013 is that I am going to make this blog more active and cover more information about the joys of carving. I intend to do at least one post a month and am open for comments on what you would like me to share.

As some of you know I have been carving for over thirty years now and have been a carving instructor for most of those years. And as a professional woodcarver, I have had to deal with a great number of different types and styles of carvings depending on what I had been commissioned to do. If I were at my other computer I would post some photos here to illustrate what I am talking about. But since I am not, I am providing you with a link to my personal woodcarving and art site which is and also to a link to my sign carving site which is, both of which are interconnected. Please take some time to look them over and view my work so that you can ask me what you would like me to talk about in the up coming year.

Well, that is all for now, again have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy the end of the year. May 2013 be a new beginning for all of us who call the planet home. Peace be with you and thowe you love. Remember, we are all in this game called life together.

Terry R. Wolff, Woodcarver

You can always email me with your comments and suggestions.

Friday, January 14, 2011


This is a commission I recently completed for a design firm in LA. Its final destination is a restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada called the Wicket Spoon. The restaurant opened this past month.

It was carved from several pieces of Sugar Pine which grows in northern California and southern Oregon. The spoon measures just over seven feet tall and has a key hole in it. Don't ask me what the key hole is all about because no one seems to know.  I finished it with a satin black enamel, There approximately over a dozen coats of paint on the finished spoon.  

 I started with a set of engineering drawings supplied by the client. I took them to a copy shop in Taos and had them print a set of full size prints. This made it easy to get all proportions correct and this was critical with this client as they had all their dimensions to an 1/8th of an inch.

Using a band saw I cut the various pieces to as close to the exact size as possible. This cut down on the amount of carving time required.

I carved the spoon in sections, glued these sections together and then finished carving them as a unit.

One problem with making a large realistic spoon or say something such as a carousel horse is that there are weak spots. Areas where there is a shear point and on this spoon it is where the handle curves down to meet the scoop. A shear point is where the grain is r. Solution, I decided to insert a diagonal mahogany mortise to add strength.

The rest is history. I have provided several photographs to show you some of the steps and how the finished piece actually looked. Enjoy!!!

Terry R. Wolff
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Saturday, January 1, 2011


Here it is New Years Day and I had planned on skiing today but it is so darn cold, below zero that my studio needs my attention today. So i will be out there keeping the fire going and doing some carving as well. I have a few projects left over from last year that I need to finish up and today looks like a good day to do that.

Terry R. Wolff

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Yes, I am getting really close now. This door is the most elaborate of the series. It is the door that separates the living room from the mechanical room, leaving only one more door left to carve. What does this mean? It means that now I will have to hang them. But more importantly, it means that the house is getting closer to completion and that I will be starting on a new main entrance door to replace the existing one.

The reason that this door is quite different from the rest, is because I chose to have it compliment the entertainment trastero (a common Spanish hutch found here in northern New Mexico) which is located near to this door. Well lets face it, at about 1,600 square feet, everything is close to everything. Anyway the Indian blanket has been replaced by this door and has become our cats new bed to fight over.

The first of the interior doors that I completed for the Solar Ranch was about two years ago and was made from Ponderous Pine whereas these eight doors that I am now working on are made of Sugar Pine and vary slightly from the original door.

The second interior door was originally an exterior door when the mechanical room and laundry room were one in the same. However about three years ago I decided to add solar water heating and need somewhere to put the 240 gallons of heated water. So in order to accomplish this I added a separate laundry room off the mechanical room which gave me another interior door. This door was never carved! So guess what I will be doing with this door sometime in the near future?

Terry R. Wolff

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Back in October of 2000 I started building our house out in Carson on the west side of the Rio Grande. An area known as part of the West Rim. This was exactly one year after I started my woodcarving studio which I finished that June. We moved into the house in February of 2002 with the exterior completely done and mush of the interior completed as well.

I worked on the house around carving commissions, carvings I did for a few years for Taos Fall Arts and doing installs for Gary over at Taos Mountain Electronics. In 2003 to make my life just a wee bit more interesting or maybe complicated I added a solar business to the mix (thus the name of our property, Solar Ranch). What was I thinking. Perhaps that I could do it all!!! Well, here it is 2010 and I am finally realizing that I don't seem to have enough energy as I did when I was in my 20's or for that matter in my 50's.

This past month or so just trying to up grade the solar site and bookkeeping programs are tiring me out. But after working on the Turner carving project with Peter Templeton I had decided that this is also the year to finish my inside doors. I did do a door for the bathroom a few years back. And I do have almost all the cabinets and furniture made and carved. I just have these last eight doors to do.

The spice door is my fav. It combines the door to the pantry with a built in spice rack which can be accessed from either side. As with most of my projects, they always seem to involve carving. All eight of these doors are carved on at least one side with a theme I created for the house. You can see it here on this door. This theme is carried throughout the Solar Ranch, on all the doors, gates, and furniture.

Here are some additional photo details of this door.

Well that is all I have for now.

Terry R. Wolff