Wood Sculpting – A Different Approach to Woodworking

I have found a way to make myself worry less about woodworking and enjoy it even more. It all started when I got into doing more rustic work, especially on wine cellars, where perfection can look less authentic. Since I knew that the parts didn’t need to fit exactly, I used fewer jigs and did more freehand work. And, surprisingly, parts were still fitting together quite nicely. I stopped worrying about it so much and just did it. The entire process was more fun and had a much better flow to it. I would keep working instead of worrying about working or making jigs to help me work.

I was thinking of it more as woodsculpting. I was starting with a big chunk of wood and used various tools to whittle the wood away until a finished piece appeared. I used saws to remove wood in straight and curved lines, chisels to remove wood from odd angles, and even sandpaper to remove very small chunks. If something was too small I would glue chunks of wood together to make it bigger and then sculpt some more.

Now, as woodworkers we think of straight cuts as normal. Try to think of the straight cuts as a bonus and the freehand work as normal. Stop worrying about how to make a jig for every little move of your router and grab a chisel. You know where your line is, just find ways to work up to that line. Cut a tapered leg with a bandsaw (leaving the line) and sweeten it up on the jointer. No one is going to check to make sure that all your legs match perfectly. Use a scraper to make a small piece of moulding instead of buying a $50 router bit that you will only use once. Or, use a chainsaw to cut a thick chunk of wood at a steep angle, then straighten it out with a belt sander. There are plenty of places in your woodworking where mathematical precision isn’t necessary (ask anyone who has a 42” wide tabletop that finished at 41”). The key is that it looks good and fits together when you are done, however you get there.

I think you will find that when you start to think about your work as woodsculpting it will open up more doors than you ever imagined. It will give you more options, and make your woodworking less scary, more rewarding and enjoyable. And, if you do mess something up, don’t worry and just grab another piece of wood. After all, this stuff does grow on trees.

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About wunderwoods

Hi! My name is Scott Wunder and I am the owner of WunderWoods Custom Woodworking. We build wine cellars, built-ins and furniture from local woods, here in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I finished a three-year term as the President of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild, which had me writing a monthly article for our newsletter. I love to write, especially about wood, and found that I still had more to say. Every day I run into something wood related that I realize some of my customers don't know and this seems like a great forum for sharing what I have learned (instead of telling the same story to each person). The main thing to remember is that I try to keep it light and as my wife always reminds people that have just met me, "He is joking."

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