The Lost Carving by David Esterly

Have you ever tried to carve a Celtic weave? Have you ever tried to carve a ball and claw foot? How about a bouquet of flowers sitting on top of a life-sized violin? 

I accept that I have some limitations in what I can do with wood. Generally this means minimizing the gaps in dovetail joints. However today’s podcast reviews the Lost Carving by David Esterly, and he had no such limitations – in fact it’s safe to say that his work is some of the most spectacular carving I have ever seen.

I think the narrative has two main areas of interest for me. The first is David’s journey from struggling student to master. It’s fascinating to understand how badly he wanted to surpass, understand, excel and match Gibbons work, and the realisations he had about art as he went along this route.

Whether its his begrudging acceptance of sharpening as something he had to do, or the experimentation with different woods, I would suggest that the the book has a resonance with any woodworker. And there are some great quotes and thoughts to go with the story. A favorite of mine was:

“at my own workbench I slowly graduated to different kinds of mistakes, The quality of my errors improved”

It reminds me in a way of Rogowski’s line of thought that you’re not working on the wood at the bench, you’re working on yourself. Which got me to thinking about the difference between quality and perfection. The book is full of ideas like this, that I think are worth pondering. In fact I’d go as far as to suggest you spread out the book over a few weeks of reading. Read a bit, stop at a logical point, and then spend some time mulling over the thoughts before progressing.It’s a bit like Krenov’s Cabinet Maker’s notebook in that regard. Take your time on the journey – it will reward a slow an careful reading.

If you’d like to listen to the full review, you can find it wherever you get your podcasts, or listen here: