Traditional Santa Carving With Tom Wolfe

Traditional Santa Carving With Tom Wolfe

by Tom Wolfe

Text written with Douglas Congdon-Martin

A Book Review


Tom Wolfe, who unfortunately passed away in September, 2020 was one of America’s most recognized and respected carvers.  A long-standing member of the Caricature Carvers of America, Tom was also a well known instructor and author (over 10 books) who was originally from West Virginia, but was most recently living in North Carolina where taught woodcarving from his studio.

“Traditional Santa Carving With Tom Wolfe” is somewhat of a follow up to Tom’s greatly successful book, “Santa and His Friends”.  Published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. (1st edition January 7, 1997) this 64 page full color paperback book takes the carver from start to finish (including painting) of a Santa leaning back while sitting on the floor.  

The photography provides large, clear, close-up photos with easy to follow text explaining each step.  Patterns for 2 other Santas and an elf are included in the book, along with a full color Gallery in the back showing the finished projects.

In addition to the Gallery, there is a section in the back Tom calls “Study Models”  As an added bonus, Tom shows you step-by-step how to carve a Santa face in a pencil.

The one disappointment I have with the book is that I would like to see patterns for more Santa projects as well as carving instructions and photos for at least one more project.

“Traditional Santa Carving With Tom Wolfe” as well as his many other carving books are available through most woodcarving suppliers.  The book is also available on Amazon for $10.27.

Questions Comments

Our First comment this week comes from Bill Jones who writes:

“Nice Penguin project, and thanks a lot Bob. I did a bunch of your simple Santa carvings years ago, and this is similar and will do several.

Thanks, Bill!  I’m glad you enjoyed carving my Simple Santa and hope you will have just as much fun with my Simple Christmas Penguin.

Our second question comes from Terry Grimm who wants to know about storing and carving freshly cut (damp) basswood.  Terry states:

“A buddy of mine gave me some basswood for carving. A couple pieces have knots, but that’s okay, it’s free wood.
Kind of damp right now, he said there was 25% moisture content. I have the boards in my basement with a dehumidifier running, he told me it shouldn’t take too long to dry out. Or would it be okay to start carving now, the largest I carve is 2″X2″X4″ flat plane carving.
I think this is going to last me awhile.”

That’s a very good question, Terry.  Keeping your damp basswood in the basement with a dehumidifier running should be fine.  The wood will dry out slowly enough that you shouldn’t experience any serious problems with checking (cracking) on the ends of the boards.  You can also feel free to start carving the wood right away, though.  Carving wet wood is often easier because the wood is softer when wet than when it is dry, which is how the 50/50 alcohol and water mixture works on hard to carve basswood.

I also received two very nice “Thank you” comments this week.  The first one is from my friend, Dan Bennett who said:

"Hi Bob,
Thanks for your suggestions and kind words in reviewing my photo submission last issue.   I really appreciate it. 
—Dan Bennett"
You're quite welcome, Dan, and thanks for sending it in, and I hope to see more of your fine work in the future.
The second comment comes from my good friend, Tami Wass who said:

“Hi Bob ~ I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to critique my carving. I appreciate the accolades, and the honest and inspiring feedback.

Hope you had a nice time at the CCA Show. My husband and I were planning on going, but he ended up having a gall bladder flare up and we were unable to go. Hopefully next year.

Thank you again ~ Tami”

You’re quite welcome, Tami!  I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my constructive feedback to anyone who asks.  I truly enjoyed seeing your adorable fisherman scene!  Thank you for sending it in, and I hope to see more of your carvings soon.


Next, we have a question from Glenn Calabrese of Fort worth, Texas who needs some advice on finishing s face on one of his “gourd heads”.  Glenn asks:

“Hi, Bob. I’ve been enjoying your carving tips and photos. I’ve been carving these “gourd heads” from basswood goose eggs and I’ve run into a carving block on what to do with the mouth, chin on this last one. 

Any suggestions?


Glenn Calabrese 

Fort Worth, TX”

Glenn’s Gourd Face

I’m glad you’re enjoying Wood Chip Chatter, Glenn, and I really like the gourd heads you’re carving.  I think on your last one you just need to flatten the mouth mound a little.  Make it less pronounced.  Maybe a mustache will help out on this one also.

Take some off the mouth mound and keep going.  I think you’ll be fine.

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!  Send your photos to 

Thomas Buie sent in photos of two pumpkin head men he recently carved and would like me to give them a little critique.  Thomas asks:

“Please give me ideas to improve my carving. I have enjoyed the comments you have given me on previous carvings”

Those are two terrific pumpkin head men, Thomas, and I can’t really see anything wrong with them.  They are carved very well with clean cuts and the paint job excellent.  The paint was applied in thin layers so the wood shows through, and a like the way you antiqued the carvings, or is that wood burning.  Either way it looks good.  Perhaps you share what you did with everyone.  I’m sure many of us would appreciate that.

On your next ones you might want to try adding some creases to the cuffs of the pants with a small deep gouge or V-tool.  You can even do it with your knife.  You might also want to add another way to make the creases where the shirt tucks into the pants.  Now this may be a matter of personal preference but I like to make some of my creases in the form of “V”s.  I’ve drawn a diagram (Figure 1) to help illustrate what I mean.  The creases will look much better in person than they do in the diagram.

These “V” cuts are also useful on the inside of the legs behind the knees, and anywhere you want to show stress where a button pulls against fabric.  Notice where these cuts are used behind the knees and where the strap pulls against the overalls in Figure 2.

Lastly, you want to get your elbows to stick out more.  Notice the elbows on my caricature in Figure 2 and how they seem to stick out away from the body.  To do this, make sure the elbows are the widest part of the carving and carve inward towards the shoulders and the knees.  At the same time you want to make the body a little thinner which will give you more wood for the elbows.

Overall you’ve done two very fine carvings, Thomas.  You should be pleased with them as they make nice additions to your Halloween decor.

Our next entry to the “Carver’s Corner” come from my good friend, Vern Freer of Ontario, Canada.  Vern would like to know more about making realistic folds and wrinkles in clothing and faces.  He would also like a little critique on his latest caricature.  Vern writes:

“Hi Bob,

Thanks for sharing the tutorial for your penguin ornament.  It’s a great pattern which can easily be given lots of variation.  I know it will get lots of use in the days ahead.  I was wondering if you might share any tips or techniques you use to make more realistic folds and wrinkles in clothing and faces when carving.

I would like you to critique my new friend Earl Lenmeier (he comes from a past existence).  Earl just loves to be outside in the fall enjoying life.  

Like many, I seem to end up carving pumpkins of some sort in the fall so here is a group photo of some of the latest.  Most of these pumpkins follow Doug Linker’s pumpkin video tutorials which are well done, easy to follow, and just fun to do.

Thanks again for all you do for the carving community!

Vern Freer

Ontario, Canada”

Vern’s Pumpkins

I’m glad you like my pattern and tutorial on the Christmas Penguin ornament, Vern.  Have fun carving it and perhaps you’ll send in some photos. 

I carve folds and wrinkles in clothing with various size gouges.  Then I trim off the hard edges with a knife.  To carve realistic folds and wrinkles in clothing you need a good understanding of how the clothes fit on the body and how the move and pull when the body moves in various directions.  Like anything else, it also takes a lot of practice.  Become a people watcher and take note of how clothing lays and folds on people when they are in various positions.  Drawing simple sketches will help.

There is an excellent reference book out called “Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery” by Burne Hogarth.  The book is actually written for artists but the same principles apply to woodcarving.  It contains sketches of people in all sorts of positions and clearly illustrates how the clothing wrinkles and stretches as the body moves.  I highly recommend it.

Carving facial wrinkles is done with small gouges and V-tools.  From looking at your carving of Earl Lenmeier it appears you have the hang of it.  As before, just keep practicing.

Now for my thoughts on Earl Lenmeier.  Overall the carving is well done and very pleasing.  I like the job you did on the plaid shirt.  The shape of the face is nicely formed, as all of the details (eyes, nose, ears, mouth, etc.) are done well.  You also did a good job on the hands which are hard to do for many carvers.  Deeper knife cuts all around and less wood burning would look a little better on your next one.  The paint is on a little too thick for my taste.  I like to see the paint applied in thin layers instead of one thick layer so that the wood grain shows through.  And of course, work on adding some wrinkles to the clothing.

That’s a great patch of pumpkins you carved there, Vern!  I really like them.  Nice detail and great facial expressions.  Thanks for sending them in, and thanks for sending in Earl also.  Carving photos are always greatly appreciated.

Photo Shop

“Photo Shop” is the section of Wood Chip Chatter where carvers can send in photos of their wood carvings for display. It’s your chance to show off your work…sort of a show and tell. 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.”  Send your photos to

This week we have two more contributions from my good friend, Dean Stewart.  The first one is a photo of the pumpkin he carved with a natural stem.


My wife and I teamed up to make this 6 inch basswood pumpkin with natural wooden stem.  Came out really nice.  Acrylic paint and brown wax.  Happy Fall Y’all.”

Well, Dean, I must say, it looks like a "Great Pumpkin"!
The second is photos of the amazing fox ring he carved for his son-in-law.

I returned to ring carving recently.  This shy fox is for my son-in-law. It’s carved from basswood, textured with my wood burner and painted with acrylic paint. It was finished with a coat of Howard’s Feed and Wax.”

That’s a cool looking ring you carved, Dean, and you did an excellent job on it.  The carving, wood burning and painting are all very well done. 

Next, we have a photo of the remarkable fish Barry carved.  This is only his second one! “Here is a photo of my second fish.  I have found that I learn with each carving that I do so the next one will be better.” 

Barry’s Fish

Quite a superb job you did on this one, Barry!  Your first one was good but this one really shows the improvements you’ve made.  Very nice work!

Finally, since the month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month I thought I would post some photos of my Breast Cancer Awareness Cat.  Thanks for looking!

News & Announcements

The International Association of Woodcarvers has upcoming Zoom meetings on the following Saturdays at 3PM EST with special guest presenters.  Check them out…

Zoom:  310-460-3575


10/15 – Nikki Reece

10/22 – Bob Hershey

10/29 – Rod Gatlin

11/19 – Ryan Olsen



Upcoming Workshops



Teacher: Dave Stetson

Dates:    November 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20

Times:  Sat, Sun – 9:30am-11:30 Pacific /11:30am-01:30pm Central / 12:30pm – 2:30pm Eastern

12 hours (6 sessions – 2 hours each day)

Location: Online (Via Zoom)

For details and to sign up email Dave

Raccoon Santa

Raccoon Santa

Teacher: Bob Hershey

Dates: December 3, 4, 10, 11

Time: Sat, Sun – Sat, Sun – 1:30pm-3:30 Pacific /3:30pm-05:30pm Central / 4:30pm – 6:30pm Eastern

8 hours (4 sessions – 2 hours each day)

 Location: Online (Via Zoom)

Contact Bob Hershey:

Chris Hammack

Online Classes With Chris Hammack

Teacher: Chris Hammack 

Chris Hammack is offering a new series of online classes to help students learn and sharpen their woodcarving skills.  Individual and Group Classes are available through his web site

Dwayne Gosnell

Whittle Wednesdays

Teacher: Dwayne Gosnell  

Dates: Two – 2 hour classes each month on Wednesdays

Location: Online (Via Zoom) To sign up contact Dwayne Gosnell via email:

Stay sharp, and keep on carvin’!

Funny Bone

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.

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: