Question of the Day: Do you do any carving?


Tennessee wood-carver Bill Henry has received a Governor’s Art Award from TN Governor Haslam. (photo from News Sentinel)

I was perusing the morning headlines, when I came across this piece from my hometown fish-wrapper, the Knoxville News Sentinel. It gave me a good idea for a Question of the Day. Do you do any wood carving, and if so to what level and with what tools?

Bill Henry is an 85-year old resident of Oak Ridge, TN. He has been whittling since he taught himself during down-time at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a young man. He has carved an estimated 20,000 pieces in his life, mostly with a $3.50 Camillus electrician that he bought more than 35 years ago at a flea market. Despite the fact that his work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian, Henry remains humble:

“A wood carver is a whittler with more ego and more money invested in his equipment,” he said. “I’m just a whittler — always have been, and always will be.”

There is a short video and a gallery of his work if you visit the website.


“Henry, who is 85 years old, specializes in carving miniature tools of intricate detail — everything from antique tobacco knives and axes to such obscure farm implements as churn dashers, featherbed smoothers, and ice breakers for cattle ponds.

His work — often described as “miniature Americana” — has been displayed in private and public collections, including the Smithsonian.

This month Henry was one of 10 Tennesseans to receive the 2015 Governor’s Arts Award. Produced by the Tennessee Arts Commission, the award is presented each year to individuals who represent the best in arts and culture in Tennessee. Henry was one of two people honored in the Folklife Heritage Award category, the other recipient being Jack Martin, a fourth-generation broom maker from Selmer, Tenn.

As for myself, I woodwork at a medium-high amateur level. I love using my Japanese hand saws. I have a couple of Lee Valley and Lie-Nielsen hand planes that with care will survive me to become family heirlooms. That being said, I haven’t really done much in the way of actual carving.

My most recent carving was a couple of “double-male” connectors for my children to use with their Brio trains. They aren’t pretty, but they work. Perhaps I will do more carving in the future as I teach my children how to use knives.

FullSizeRender (9)

an example of my “handiwork”.


What say you?



  1. sagebrushracer says:

    I really enjoy idle whittling, but since its best done outside where you don’t have clean up, I haven’t done it in years. I would say as far as skill, I make the functional object I am after, like a tent stake for example. Not really art.

  2. Bill Janke says:

    I carve spoons and other utensils in my free time. I use a Mora 120, a Marttiini Artic Carver, a North Bay Forge Deep Bent , and a GB wildlife hatchet. Unlike other carving endeavors, when I give a spoon as a gift I know that it will be used and isn’t as subjective to the personal taste/decor of the recipient.

    1. I have seen your spoons on FB, You should put together a piece for the contest.

      You certainly know much more about the subject than I…and I think you took some writing classes in High School 🙂

  3. I remember whittling neckerchief slides and various little goofy things as a Boy Scout with my own Camillus knife, a BSA Whittler that has been featured in some of my posts.

    These days I’m only really whittling for knife reviews I do here. A lot of tent stakes in general but I had a lot of fun with the spoon I made for the L.T. Wright GNS.

    My dad has a bunch of cool figures that he has carved into the top of walking staffs. Come to think of it I did whittle a couple of globes into the top of my own staff a couple of years ago, but that is about it.

  4. cmeat says:

    about the same amount that i sculpt marble. i made some pretty cool pointed sticks with a sabre folder as a kid.
    i remember a guy in ely, minn. who sold way cool faces he’d carve out of twigs and branches. i wish i had bought more of them.
    i brought kukhris back from nepal from a town called bhaktapur that is entirely carved out of (i believe it’s known as) sal wood. touted as rot and termite proof. german enthusiasts had to re- train the locals in the woodcarving art as the practice had disappeared.

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Question of the Day: Do you do any carving?

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