Canadian Woodworking

Goosing My Career

Author: Don Wilkinson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: August 2009
Goosing My Career
Goosing My Career

This is my third and final article relating to my career in carving.


After my triumphant win during Canada’s Centennial, I hung up my tools and went on to other things, the thought of carving nev­er once entering my little mind again. At least not for another fifteen years, by which time I was a man and should have known better.

One evening while shopping with my wife Kelly and our Number One Daughter in Whitehorse, I picked up a copy of ei­ther Popular Science magazine or Popular Mechanics. Either way, it was a strange maga­zine to contain an article on woodcarving. Maybe it was Chatelaine.

Having returned to our log home in the woods outside of town, I was sitting beside the woodstove leafing through the magazine when I came across an article titled, “How To Carve A Miniature Goose.” The arti­cle sparked a long suppressed memory and I glanced around the living room for something — anything in need of carving. A choice piece of pine fairly cried out from the wood-box as the twinkling gleam along the razor sharp edge of my wife’s favorite paring knife smote my eye. And I knew I had to pick up my man­tle and carve once more.

While my wife safely nursed our daughter upstairs where she couldn’t catch me using her kitchen tools, I sat up late that evening, huddled near the woodstove and whittled out a lovely little Canada goose. The carving bug had struck once again.

The little goose turned out quite well, all things considered, and I rushed upstairs to show the carving to my wife. Once she had fully awakened and was a little less grumpy, she glanced over and got nearly as excited as me. Unfortunately her excitement was due more to the fact that I still held her paring knife in my hand and less than nothing to do with my precious goose. In a feeble and some­what self-serving attempt at appeasement, I formally presented the goose as a loving gift to her, the love of my life.

I don’t think she bought it, given that a cou­ple days later I found the little goose in the firebox from whence it came. I suppose one could say, “The goose was cooked.” Much like mine was when she discovered just how dull her knife was.

A few days later we stopped in to see my parents-in-law. Kelly must have mentioned the incident to Mom-in-law, Leona. Every time I wandered into the kitchen she would jump up and follow me in and count her knives. I suppose she had a justifiable concern consid­ering the lovely number of choice blades she owned. For years after, whenever she saw me she would idly muse about a particular miss­ing butcher knife and I would plausibly deny all knowledge of its whereabouts.

(Leona, to set the thirty year record straight, I must confess that I did indeed take it. And you’re welcome to it if you wish. Although it’s a little dull and the tip is broken off and I once used it to scrape gunk off my engine block. Sorry! P.S. Let me know!)

That Christmas, in a belated pre-emptive strike to save the kitchen knives, the in-laws presented me with a fine selection of carv­ing tools. They were a great set and I still use them, but, as every carver, woodworker, and spouse knows, there is always another tool needed that will do the exact same job; only faster and maybe even better. Although for hobby woodworkers, the idea of doing your hobby faster really should go against the grain — pun intended.

Since then I have amassed a vast collec­tion of chisels, gouges and knives, some of which I actually use. I’ve discovered that like so many other woodcarvers, that the more you learn, the fewer the tools you need. I’m sure we all have just one or two cherished gouges or knives that do 90% of the carving, while the rest sit in racks just waiting to catch us un­aware. Like all carvers, I quickly learned how to properly sharpen my tools, usually to the point where they were scary sharp and I’m al­most afraid to pick them up.

We’ve all heard the wise old adage, “You’re less likely to cut yourself with a sharp tool than a dull one?” Well, that may be true but when you do, it’s going to be a lot worse than with a dull one. Just ask my surgeon. I have him on retainer!

P.S. I lied; there will be a Carving, Part IV.

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