Illustrated Guide To Carving Tree Bark

Illustrated Guide To



Rick Jensen


Jack A. Williams

A Book Review

The “Illustrated Guide To CARVING TREE BARK” is the most comprehensive book on cottonwood bark carving I have ever seen.  Published in 2004 by Fox Chapel Publishing Company this 75-page guide is chock full, from cover to cover, with color photos that take you step-by-step through the carving process of a bark house project. 

The book is written by co-authors, Rick Jensen and Jack A. Williams whom are both highly acclaimed, award-winning wood carvers and instructors, and their expertise shows through in the “Illustrated Guide To CARVING TREE BARK.” 

The book starts out with a page about the authors followed by a page that mentions the reasons why they prefer cottonwood bark as their medium of choice.  Next there is a 15-page gallery of magnificent bark carvings which will inspire you to read further and pique your interest in bark carving. 

Chapter One tells all about the several types of cottonwood bark that exist, and the differences between them.

Chapter Two covers some of the basic techniques and tricks used in cottonwood bark carving such as making special cuts and filling holes and cracks.  Chapter Three provides a step-by-step color photo tutorial on how to carve a whimsical bark house.

Chapter Four shows how to carve a bark tree in the round and Chapter Five goes over various painting and finishing techniques.  The end of the book (Chapter Six) includes several tree spirit patterns.

If you like to carve cottonwood bark or are even considering it then the “Illustrated Guide To CARVING TREE BARK” should be in your library.

Reader’s Comments

My first comment this month comes from an unidentified reader who had some very nice things to say:

“Bob: Longtime reader and just want to thank you for promoting our wonderful hobby. Your newsletter continues to improve and is enjoyable to read. Here is a big “I like it!!!”

Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words!  They are greatly appreciated.

My next comment comes from my good friend, Doug Prior from West Jordan, Utah who is a new Walnut Oil convert.  Doug says:

“Bob .

I just wanted to let you know that I received my order for Mahoney’s Walnut Oil this past week and used it for the first time on my latest “roughout” cowboy. I really like it after applying it yesterday. The Naturoil I was previously using was 3 times as high per ounce. I appreciate your suggestion.”

I‘m glad you’re having good success with Walnut Oil, Doug.  I have been a big fan of Walnut Oil for over 2 years now and have been getting great results with it.  As you know, I don’t like Boiled Linseed Oil for its odor and fire hazard, and the fact that it hardens after it has been applied.

Mineral Spirits are my second choice to Walnut Oil and the Natureoil you used is basically just mineral spirits at a much inflated price.  While Natureoil is an excellent product in my opinion you can get the same results with plain Mineral Spirits for a lot less money.

As mentioned, Walnut Oil is my wood treatment of choice because it is an odorless, non-combustible, non-refined natural oil.

Be sure and see Doug’s fine cowboy carving in the “Carver’s Corner” below!

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  

Our first entry to the “Photo Shop” comes from my good friend, Ray Seinhart who send in a photo of the Leprechauns he’s been carving:

Ray’s Leprechauns

Thanks for the photo, Ray!  Your Leprechauns look great!  I like how you made them all look different.  That’s a good way to challenge yourself and improve your carving skills.

Next we have a photo of a cowboy submitted by my good friend, Doug Prior from West Jordan, Utah:

Doug’s Cowboy

Good job on your cowboy, Doug!  You added a lot of nide details to it.  I like it.

Our next “Photo Shop” entry comes from my good friend Betty Klein who meticulously carved a little duck feather.  Betty writes: “Hello, here is a photo of a little duck feather carved all with hand tools approximately 2” length that was from an old years ago pattern from Chip Chats.” 

Betty’s Feather

That’s a beautiful job you did on your little feather, Betty!  It looks very delicate and realistic.

Next, we have two photos of a Saw Whet Owl carved by my good friend, Dick Bonewitz from Carmel, Indiana.  Along with his photos Dick writes:

"Bob, I thought you might like this for your next issue.  Keep up the good work. 
This is a Saw Whet Owl I just completed in a 5 day  class with Josh Guge at the Ozark Woodcarving Seminar.  It is in Tupelo wood and was all power carved and painted with acrylics.  Josh is a wonderful instructor. 
Dick  Bonewitz 
Carmel, In"
Magnificent job, Dick!  Very realistic looking owl.  The carving, detail, wood burning and painting are all very well done.

We have one more entry from my good friend, Jim Shay who carved a caricature turtle from a Ken Kuhar roughout.  Jim writes:

“Hi Bob ,

 Here are photos of the Turtle which is carved from a roughout purchased from  Ken Kuhar.  This is one of the first roughouts that I’ve worked with.  It’s a whole different process when working with a roughout as opposed to a block of basswood.  I’ve given the turtle a coat of Howard’s Feed and Wax.”

Your turtle looks terrific, Jim!  The carving work is nice and clean, and I like the way you blended different shades of colors in your painting.  Keep up the good work!

Carver’s Corner

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

This month I received a “Carver’s Corner” entry from my good friend, Doug Prior from West Jordan, Utah who carved a cowboy from a Dwayne Gosnell roughout and asked me to critique it.  Doug asked:

“Bob .

I just wanted to say I have finally started to read your last couple of sessions. I have enjoyed them a lot and looks like a good source to share ideas. I am going to send a picture to be critiqued by you.

Doug Prior

West Jordan, UT”

Thank you for subscribing to Wood Chip Chatter, Doug.  I hope you will continue to enjoy reading it and getting its benefits.  Overall your cowboy looks okay.  You’re definitely on the right track but there are several of areas for improvement.

I will try to help you here.  First of all I noticed that your hat brim is too thick. There is plenty of wood there.  Try to get your next one thinner.  The scarf looks good but you want to make your shoulders broader in the future.  Look at the shoulders on some actual people and you will see that they stick out almost perpendicular from the neck before they meet the arms.

The shirt and buttons look good, although I would like to see more wrinkles, and I like how you have the belt pulled down in the front.

You did a nice job on the eyes and the nose is very well done.  The ears, however, are too small.  Ears go from the top of the eye brows to the bottom of the nose, so in your case you just needed to bring the ears down to the bottom of the nose.  Overall, the face looks good but next time I would like to see some bags under the eyes and some wrinkles in the face.  Also, the mouth should be just a bit wider.

Thank you for submitting your cowboy for a critique, Doug.  Keep up the good work and stick with it.  If you concentrate on the areas I mentioned I’m sure you will see improvements in your next one.

Questions & Answers

Shortly after I posted my last blog about the Wood Properties of Cottonwood on April 7th I got a question from my friend, Brad Coval who picked up on a discrepancy in the provided data list.  Brad asks:

“Hello, little confusing. First line of cottonwood properties in the 2nd column states cottonwood is good for carving, then the 3rd grouping of characteristics at the bottom of the 2nd column states “not good for carving”. Do you know if it’s good or bad?  I ask because I have a bunch of cottonwood trees around me that people cut down.   Thanks”

Brad, the source where this data came from sometimes contradicts itself and this is one of those cases.  While cottonwood bark is soft and excellent for carving, the actual wood from the cottonwood tree does not carve well.  The data in that list pertains to the wood from the actual cottonwood tree and NOT the cottonwood bark.  I hope that helps.

Free Pattern

Here are a few letter opener patterns that are both functional and fun to carver.  Chip carvers will have a good time embellishing the handles too.

Upcoming Workshops & Seminars

Carving Little Caricature Pups

Teacher: Dale Green

Dates: May 20, 21

Times: 10:30-12:30 Mountain Time (2 hours each day)

Location: via Zoom

Cost: $95 which includes two roughouts (4″ & 5″) and shipping

Students will learn the different ways to apply texture, carving the eyes and painting for different effects.

For information contact Dale Green at: or call 801-503-8754

Female Bust

Teacher: Janet Cordell

Dates:  June 2,5,9,12,16 

Times: 2-4 p.m.  Pacific Time 3-5 p.m.  Mountain Time 4-6 p.m.  Central Time 5-7  p.m.  Eastern Time

10 hours ( 5 sessions – 2 hours each day) 

 Location: Online (Via Zoom)

For details and to sign up email

Creative Caricature Heads in Wood

Teacher: Dave Stetson

Dates:  June 3,4,10,11,17,18

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 Stetson

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

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

Woodcarving Academy

Established in 2020, the Woodcarving Academy offers dozens of videos and seminars created by some of the country’s top level instructors.  More videos are added regularly as they are created by the instructors.

With a paid subscription to the Woodcarving Academy you can view any videos you like for as many times as you like.

Subscription rates:  Monthly = $19.95   Quarterly = $49.95   Annual = $139.95

There is even a Free level which allows you to tour the website and watch the sample videos and content, and receive email updates as new content becomes available.

Check out the Woodcarving Academy and learn with the masters right in the comfort of your own home!  Go to: http://www.woodcarvingacademy.comor Email:

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

Presentation Schedule:

5/6 – Marc Strozyk

5/13 – Mark Dellinger

5/20 – Lucas Kost

5/27 – Woody Wood Spirits (Reese)

The International Association of Woodcarvers will go to its Summer schedule for the months of June, July and August.  Meetings will be held just once per month during that time.

Summer Presentation Schedule:

6/24 – Jeff May – Chain saw carving

7/15 – Randall Stoner (The Mad Carver)

August – TBD



Special Note: Congratulations to the International Association of Woodcarvers who just celebrated their Third Anniversary in April!!!

The Jersey Hills Wood Carvers (JHWC) club is a small but growing group of wood carvers sharing their time, knowledge and joy of woodcarving.  The JHWC generally meets from 7:00 PM EST to 9:00 PM EST on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursday of each month (when school is in session) at the Jefferson Township High School wood shop classroom.

Membership is “FREE” and open to anyone interested in woodcarving regardless of their ability.

JHWC’s Upcoming Meetings and Events

May 18th

June 1st, 15th

There will be no meetings held during the Summer.

For more information contact:

Al Santucci  President

Bill Brunner  newsletter/website editor

Or visit:



AML Wood Carving Knives

AML Wood Carving Knives are handmade by my good friend, Andy Loughlin in Monroe, New York.

The blades are made from 1095 high carbon steel which sharpens easily and holds an edge well.  The variety of handle styles are all made from diverse exotic woods from all around the world.  The knives are all available for auction on EBay under AML Knives.  Bidding usually starts at $22 and most knives sell for between $40 and $100.

I have personally used AML Knives and can tell you the quality is excellent.  They are very sturdy and well made.  These knives have quickly become quite popular and sell out fast so check the site often for availability.  Below are examples of some of the knives that have recently sold:

The next issue of Wood Chip Chatter will be posted on June 2, 2023.

Keep a sharp eye out for it!

Keep a sharp edge, 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.

11 thoughts on “Illustrated Guide To Carving Tree Bark

  1. The comments are missing from Dick Bonewitz.

    I took this class with Dick and we had so much fun!

    Dick is now a new friend of mine!


    div dir=”ltr”>Thanks for also sharing my good friend Rick Jensen’s book


      1. The Saw Whet class that I took with Dick Bonewitz was with Josh Guge in Springfield MO at the Ozark Carving seminar in mid-March.
        This was a power carving class. Josh is an excellent instructor!


      2. Thank you. If you don’t mind I’ll put your comments in next months blog post. Do you know Rick Jensen? Have you ever taken a class with him?


      3. Yes! I know Rick Jensen quite well and have taken a class with him. He is a very good instructor and very giving of his time and expertise in carving bark.
        I called Rick today after I read your blog to let him know that you were featuring his book on your blog. He was quite pleased. I also forwarded the blog on to him.


  2. Hi Bob,

    Always look forward to seeing Wood Chip Chatter in my inbox. Thanks for your work on this, and for helping others out with their questions.

    I’d love to get some feedback on this small bust of a construction worker : ).


    PS, I tried sending this as a reply to your blog email, but I got an error of some sort. I also sent a few photos of a carving for critique. If you didn’t receive it, let me know and I’ll try again.



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