WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Twenty Decorative Carving Projects

Twenty Decorative Carving Projects
by Steve Bisco

Fox Chapel Publishing: 2010
Paperback, 192 pp., $24.95
ISBN 978-1-56523-535-9

     Getting started in wood carving can be a bit daunting. There are several books of illustrated patterns available, but few step by step guides to give us advice as we learn the process. Mr. Bisco presents twenty individual projects in several styles, each with complete instructions "so you don't have to keep referring back to other parts of the book to find out how to use a particular technique." He describes how to use patterns, how to fume oak, and how to apply gilding. He goes over necessary tools and those nice to have. His projects are done in oak, lime or sapele as a substitute for mahogany, but he encourages use of other woods.
     The projects begin with a Celtic cross and a Heraldic Shield, centering designs and grounding out the pattern. The generous pictures show modeling of forms, undercutting shapes to emphasize shadows, and texturing for contrast. The artist does an Arts and Crafts floral panel, a Holker Olive panel, a Renaissance panel and a Gothic window. Other styles presented are Art Nouveau, Victorian foliage, and a classic floral festoon. He guides the carver through lathe-turned parts for a spiraling Pugin Column Table and describes how to finish the carved column with acrylic colors and gold leaf.
     Bisco also shows a few projects of oversize wall décor. One is a door-topper Acanthus Leaf Crest 32" wide. Another is a 16" square Acanthus Leaf Swirl adapted from a door screen design. There is a Rococo mirror frame, a Georgian Corbel, and with the aid of a lathe, a small Tazza supported on three gilded dolphins. The final project is a large scale Arabesque "not for the feint-hearted." It starts with 77 pounds of timber, 66" x 22" x 4" thick. The final carving is shown mounted to lag screws set four inches from a wall so the room lighting allows a play of shadows around the form. It is a stunning sculptural piece.
     Some basic woodworking and turning knowledge would be required to tackle Bisco's more ambitious projects, but there is plenty here for even a beginner to pick up some gouges and follow along with, to produce work to be proud of. If you've ever wanted to try your hand at carving, or go beyond simplistic beginner's projects, this book will help you on your way.

. . . Barb Siddiqui