Carving Western Figures

Welcome back everyone!!!  I want to start off this week by saying I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Happy New Year.

Getting back into the groove after our holiday break I thought I would start off with a book review on one of my favorite old Harold Enlow books.

Carving Western Figures

By Harold L. Enlow

A Book Review

Front Cover
Back Cover

“Carving Western Figures” is just one more of the many excellent woodcarving books written by the renowned wood carver, instructor and author, Harold L. Enlow from Dogpatch Arkansas.  It is one of my favorite books in my library.  Published in 1984 by the Western Printing Co., Inc. this 57 page book contains eleven fun western caricature projects in varying stages of difficulty which include ‘Cowgirl Saturday Night’,  ‘Sheriff’, ‘Poker Player’ and ‘Rodeo Star’.

The beginning of the book covers what woods and tools to use, how to sharpen your tools and finish your projects, and even a little on how to create your own patterns.  Although this ‘older’ book is printed in black and white there are plenty of helpful “go-by” photos to guide the carver through each project.

If you like carving cowboys and figures of the ‘Old West’ you’ll love “Carving Western Figures”.  I highly recommend it.

NOTE: I haven’t been able to find this book through any of my woodcarving suppliers but it is available for $15.97 on Amazon.

Here are two figures I carved from the book:

“Little Britches” carved by Bob Kozakiewicz
“Cowgirl Saturday Night” (front) carved by Bob Kozakiewicz
“Cowgirl Saturday Night” (side) carved by Bob Kozakiewicz

Questions & Comments

Our first comment of the New Year comes from Nicky Foley who writes:

“Another great blog Bob, thank you for the reviews all taken on board and I will carve a new one based on your advise thank you and Happy Christmas”

Thank you for the Christmas wish, I did have a Merry Christmas and hope you did as well.  I’m glad to hear you will be doing another carving using some newly learned techniques.  I hope you will share it with us when it’s finished.

Our first question of the new year comes from John OBrien regarding the use of oils prior to painting your carvings.  John writes:

“Greetings. Your last 2 posts talk about oils to soak our carvings with prior to painting. I have had this discussion with a few well known carvers but none have been able to give an explanation as to why it is recommended to put oil on a carving and then paint over it with water based acrylics? Everyone tells me thats what we are suppose to do.

I say oil and water do not mix. What say you?

John OBrien”

That’s an excellent question, John, and thank you for asking.  To answer your question in one sentence, using oil is not what we’re ‘supposed’ to do.  Just like every carver has his/her favorite way of finishing their carvings they also have their favorite way of going about painting their carvings, and they all have their reasons why they do what they do.  Some use oils, some paint on wet wood and some paint on dry wood.  I believe in doing what works for you.

Personally, I either use walnut oil or paint on dry wood, and have equal success with both methods.  Much of it comes down to your painting technique and ability.  The main reason why I will sometimes treat with oil prior to painting is that is allows the wood grain to show through the paint better, probably for the reason you mentioned, “oil and water don’t mix.”  So the oil tends to keep the paint from soaking into the wood too much.  At least that’s my theory.

Regardless of which method you use the key to a good paint job is to use watered down paints.  Build your colors with several layers of paint rather than applying one thick coat of paint all at once.  Your results will be a lot better.

Our second question comes from Dennis Hess wanting to know which type of Tried & True finishing oil product I recommend.  Dennis writes:


When you wrote about the finishing oils, you wrote about Tried and True. Did you mean the Danish Oil, the original traditional oil, or varnish oil? I found all 3 on Amazon but was unsure what you exactly recommended.

From what you wrote, you recommend Tried and True Danish oil over other Danish oil. Can you clarify this any further?

Dennis Hess”

Thank you for writing, Dennis!  You have a very legitimate question regarding the three types of Tried & True available on the market and I’ll be happy to try to clarify the differences.

Three different Tried & True Oil Products

Varnish Oil

First let’s eliminate the Varnish Oil right off the top.  The varnish oil is a penetrating linseed oil made with pine resin that is used for interior furniture and table tops.  It has high abrasion, scratch resistance and durability.  You would essentially be putting a varnish onto your carving which is not what you want to do at this stage.

Danish Oil

Tried & True Danish Oil is a premium Polymerized Linseed Oil wood finish which is safe for skin contact, food contact and application indoors without the need for ventilation or gloves.  It’s made from 100% renewable ingredients and no heavy metals, solvents, petrochemicals or synthetic additives are used. 

Note: Since this is a linseed oil product it has the combustibility hazard as Boiled Linseed Oil.

Because it is a polymerized linseed oil my concern with this Danish oil is, as it is with others it further polymerization properties.  When a Danish oil dries it hardens (polymerizes).  When you paint your carvings you don’t want to paint over polymerized oil.  It defeats the purpose of using the oil.  If you are going to use this product my suggestion is to paint within 30 minutes of applying the oil.

Original Traditional Oil

The Original Traditional Oil is my recommendation for a Tried & True product for applying an oil prior to painting (Remember, this was my third choice, however,  after Walnut Oil and Mineral Oil).  Tried & True Original is a premium wood finish made from only two ingredients: Polymerized Linseed Oil and Beeswax. Original Wood Finish is safe for skin contact, food contact and application indoors without the need for ventilation or gloves.  It is ideal for cutting boards, bowls, counters, baby toys or any interior wood project. The combination of polymerized linseed oil and beeswax provides a soft, matte sheen with added moisture resistance.  Like the Danish Oil, Tried & True Original is made from 100% renewable ingredients and no heavy metals, solvents, petrochemicals or synthetic additives are used. 

Note: Because this is a linseed oil product it has the same combustibility hazard as Boiled Linseed oil.

Our next question comes from my good friend moonwolf71, who I also know as Laura.  She has a question about adjusting the guide wheels (tracking) on her band saw and writes:

“Mine has a squelch in the guide wheels and no matter what I have done I can’t get them to stop.”

Thank you for your question, Laura.  I’m not sure what you mean by “squelch” so I’m not sure that I can answer your question.  If you mean that the wheels are squealing it could be a couple of things.  Otherwise, perhaps you can describe what you mean by “squelch.”  The following are some of my thoughts:

1. The bearings on the wheels could be bad.  Try putting a drop or two of light machine oil or a  short spray of WD40 on the bearings.  If that doesn’t help, the wheels/bearings may need to be replaced (worst case scenario).

2. First, check the blade tension on the saw.  If the blade tension is correct the blade should only move 1/4″ when pushed with your finger from the side, and the guide wheels should barely touch the blade when cutting a piece of wood.

3. This is a bit of a stretch but if you haven’t tried replacing the saw blade you might try that.  Just a crazy thought.

I don’t know if any of this was helpful but that’s about as much as I know about band saw blades and guide wheels.  Perhaps some of our other readers/carvers with more band saw knowledge will provide some input to try and help solve Laura’s problem.  Let’s hear from you!

Carver’s Corner

“Carver’s Corner” is the section where you can send in photos of your carvings to have them critiqued by me and get my truthful opinions on what you did right and where you might improve next time.  It’s an excellent opportunity to improve your carving skills!

We have only one photo for our “Carver’s Corner” this week…a photo of a mushroom carved by Dean Stewart:

Mushroom carving by Dean Stewart

Carved mushrooms are usually mythical in nature so they’re difficult to judge as far as what is right and what is wrong.  The mushroom cap looks good…I like how you carved the little ribs (I don’t know what they’re called) underneath, and the leaf shaped mustache and beard.  The face is carved well too.  The eyes and nose, which are the hard parts, are accurate, but the lips are too small.  The width of a humans lips is roughly from almost the center of one eye to the center of the other.  Of course on caricatures these distances are often altered.  Lastly, I would have painted the eyebrows, perhaps  with a contrasting color to make them stand out more…possibly a green to match the beard or a brown to match the cap.

Photo Shop

“Photo Shop” is a new section as part of Wood Chip Chatter where carvers can send in photos of their wood carvings for display.  The photos will only be displayed and no comments or critiques will be made.  For critiques on your carvings send them in to the “Carver’s Corner.”

Our first entry to “Photo Shop” comes from my good friend Wayne Smith from Nova Scotia, Canada:

Santa ornaments by Wayne Smith

Those are some nice Santa ornaments, Wayne!  You’ve got a jump on next Christmas already…it’s never too early to start!  Wayne told me the reason the ornaments are shiny is because they are still wet from the finish he just put on them.  Nice work, Wayne!

Our next entry to “Photo Shop” comes from Joan Groot-Riphenburg:

Carving by Joan Groot-Riphenburg

Excellent carving, Joan!  Lots of detail and it tells a nice story.

And finally this week we have a photo of some Simple Snowman ornaments Steve Bistritz carved from my article in the Winter 2021 issue #97 of Woodcarving Illustrated.

“Simple Snowman” ornaments carved by Steve Bistritz

Terrific ornaments, Steve!  You sure were busy!  Thanks for the photo!


The first meeting of the International Association of Woodcarvers will be held on Saturday, January 29 at 3:00 pm EST.  CCA member, Bob Hershey will be the presenter, and will be giving a demonstration on how to carve a floppy eared Easter Bunny bust.  You don’t want to miss this!

Zoom:  3104603575


1/29 – Bob Hershey

2/5 – Jim Hiser

2/12 – Tom Wilkinson

2/19 – Kevin Applegate

2/26 – Dave Francis

3/5 – Rich Schneider

3/12 – Roger Beane

4/9 – Joe You




I’m sure you all have some terrific carvings to share in my new “Photo Shop” section.  Photos of your carvings help to liven up the blog’s appearance and make it more interesting.  Also, my “Carver’s Corner” is a great way to get constructive critiques on your carvings so you can learn where to improve on your next ones.

When sending in photos please specify whether you want them for display in “Photo Shop” or if you want me to critique them in the “Carver’s Corner.”


Send in your questions and comments so we can keep Wood Chip Chatter active and keep the conversations going!  Effective discussions are one of the best ways to learn about the topics that interest you.  Remember, there’s no such thing as a dumb question.  Plus we would all love to learn about the unique tips, techniques and products YOU use in your woodcarving process.


I sincerely apologize if some of the book pages in the book review came out blurry. I don’t know why that happened. It all looed fine in my draft when I go to post it but then it looks blurry once it’s posted. Would someone please confirm with me if this is in fact case with your post when you receive it?

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Why are pirates so mean?

They just arrrrr!

Published by carverbobk

I’m a self taught award winning wood carver who has been carving since I was a teenager. I enjoy instructing other carvers, especially beginners.

9 thoughts on “Carving Western Figures

  1. Hi, I was looking for your other post about which oils to use and it seems it’s mia in my inbox. Would it be possible for you to send it to me? I am currently using minwax 209 before painting but considering using an oil instead. I thought I saved that article, but I can’t find it now.

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Hi, Carole,
      There are really only two oils I recommend and that is walnut oil and mineral oil. I strongly recommend walnut oil which is what I use. Mineral oil is a good second option. I have heard of carvers having good success with it but I personally don’t have any experience with it.
      If you want to read the posts, I believe they are all in chronological order dating backwards. The oil posts are the last three most recent ones I wrote dated Dec. 3, 10, and 17.
      Let me know if you still need help.
      Have a great day!


  2. Hello,

    Curious, are the zoom meetings/classes free of charge? Please let me know. This was the first time I have seen your blog. Thank you


    🇺🇸 🇺🇸

    A dog can express more with his tail in seconds than his owner can express with his tongue in hours. – Unknown

    Sent from my intergalactic communicator


  3. Hi, Brad,
    Yes. The IAW Zoom meetings are absolutely free. Just use the Zoom code to enter the meeting. Each meeting runs about an hour to an hour and twenty minutes. You’ll be glad you tuned in!


  4. Well, I found the post. I would like to use the mineral oil but don’t know how long to wait before I paint on it.

    Sent from my iPad



  5. Hello Bob here’s a photo for the photo shop in the next blog. They are your simple Santa pattern in ten different colours that a customer of mine ordered. Cheers

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: