WoodCentral's video reviews
Essential European Woodcarving Series
The Nora Hall Essential
European Woodcarving Series

by Nora Hall
A nine-DVD series of intensive carving lessons from a master of the art.

PUBLISHED BY: Nora Hall Carving Designs: 2002 - 2006

Reviewed on this page: (Click a title to go there.)
#6: Carving the Newport Shell
#7: Master Woodcarving Tips and Shortcuts
#8: Carving the Egg and Dart
#9: Carving the Linenfold

About these videos...
Nora Hall is a third-generation Dutch Master carver who has been involved in carving for more than sixty years. The first three videos in this series teach the fundamentals of woodcarving. The rest of the videos, including the four reviewed here, assume the viewer knows basic carving techniques including sharpening and working with grain direction.

#6: Carving the Newport Shell
DVD, 60 min., $ 22.95

    The Newport shell is the beautiful convex shell carving that adorns blockfront cabinets designed and built by John Townsend and John Goddard of the Newport School of Rhode Island, widely regarded as some of the finest American furniture. In this video, master carver/instructor Nora Hall shows how to lay out and carve the convex Newport shell. The concave shell is not shown.
    Nora begins with a discussion of the important layout features and reference points of this shell. Then, starting with a piece of basswood sawn to the outline of the shell, she spends the balance of the 60 minutes carving it. As she works, Nora describes her actions verbally while subtitles indicate the tools she is using. The tool sizes are given in metric terms, so Imperial tool users will need to select equivalent tools.
    The video is shot in real time without interruption and the production quality is terrific. The only editing is for camera angle changes and these are done to provide the viewer with unobstructed views of the carving sequence and techniques. The camera angles and closeups are very good and the lighting leaves no shadows unturned.
    Included with the video is a full-size pattern of the shell as well as a list of the tools Nora uses to carve this project.

#7: Master Woodcarving Tips and Shortcuts
DVD, 40 min., $22.95

    Here is a compilation of many of Nora's tips, tricks and shortcuts for professional and hobbyist carvers. The video consists of a series of short unedited lessons, just as you'd see were you to go to Nora's shop for instruction. She covers a lot of ground in these lessons, so few are in depth.
    Among other things, Nora discusses bench height, lighting, how to secure various shapes of workpieces, preparing work for finishing, setting depths for relief work and tips on drawings. She covers the use of punches for backgrounds, incised carving, hand positions on various tools and the value of clay for modeling. She goes into greater detail on the use of the V-tool versus the stop cut for setting in to ground.
    Although well lit this video has a few camera problems. In an effort to get very close to the workpiece the camera loses focus several times and has a hard time getting it back. Trying to obtain the best angle for the viewer a moving camera makes for uncomfortable viewing at times. To be fair, it's challenging to film a carver's work close-up and keep a clear view, especially as the carver is moving constantly. Fortunately, no content is lost due to these problems.
    There is a lot of information here and it's covered in a personable way. Nora Hall is a very good teacher.Watching her as she works is both instructive and inspirational. Her running commentary describes many of the "whys" as she works and the sparsely edited format is very much like a lesson you'd get in person.

#8: Carving the Egg and Dart
DVD, 30 min., $22.95

    The egg-and-dart motif is an important and well-known one in classical European woodcarving. In this DVD, Nora clearly shows how to lay out and carve this distinctive molding. As she proceeds through the sequence of cuts, the camera does a great job of showing depths of cut and angles of attack. The lighting is well done, and the camera angles and closeups are terrific. You won't miss a tool stroke as Nora works.
    Nora does not completely finish the one egg and one dart by the conclusion of this video, leaving the project in an unfinished state probably due to the desire to keep the length of this lesson under 30 minutes. Nora assumes the viewer has the skills to smooth the contours and complete the finishing touches. As a carver, I would have also enjoyed seeing Nora carve several eggs and darts in a sequence, as is customary in production.
    Included with the video is a printed template and tool list for layout and carving the egg-and-dart into a quarter-round style moulding.

#9: Carving the Linenfold
DVD, 45 min. $22.95

    The linenfold is another important classical pattern, popular in furniture and architectural carving. It is a surprisingly complex motif, and Nora addresses these complexities very well. As with other DVDs in this series, this one includes a pattern and list of the tools required, in metric sizes. Nora also suggests making a plaster casting of the linenfold to help visualize the levels and contours that make this pattern flow.
    As with the others this video is well lit, well focused and the various camera angles provide a terrific view of the work. What I find most charming about these videos is that they are filmed in real time, which means that viewers get a realistic notion of how the work actually progresses, which makes them inspirational without being intimidating.
    In the video, Nora does not discuss how to scale this pattern for different panel widths, but a clever student will not have trouble finding the expandable lines in the linenfold to lengthen or shorten the pattern as desired.
. . . Lee Grindinger