I had finished both poles with the exception of a few touches here and there. One area that needed a little work was the top figure (called the watchman); the top of his hat was rough and needed to be carved smooth and slightly domed to shed water.
This being a rather simple operation, I sharpened a one inch wood chisel that could be driven with a mallet. If you look at the picture, you will see that my knee just fits under the pole; the significance of this will soon reveal itself.
Here is a fact you may find interesting, a wood chisel has two sides that react differently to being struck with a mallet. The beveled side is controlled by the carver holding the handle at a chosen angle; if allowed to, it will dig into the wood.
The flat side on the other hand will attempt to maintain a flat cut without digging into the wood. When driven by a large mallet, this effect is quite pronounced; the chisel will glide along the surface without cutting much of a chip.
Remember I mentioned that my knee just fit under the pole? This is what happened, I struck the chisel (flat side down) with the mallet; it skimmed along the surface of the wood and being just recently sharpened, stuck nicely into my thigh just above the knee.
(Just so you don’t worry so much that you are unable to finish this story, I’ll tell you now, the chisel caused no permanent damage; except for an abnormal fear of one inch chisels.)
Through trial and error, I have found it best to consider the situation carefully before removing a tool from various parts of your anatomy.
There was this one time while carving with another person where I was holding a Helvie roughout knife upside down (as if I were about to stab someone). Without too much thought, I rested my hand on my leg; the question then becomes, do I remove the blade from my leg and show the other carver how stupid I am? Or do I wait and hope he doesn’t notice the pained look on my face and the ever expanding red circle on my jeans?
This is only one of many situations I have found myself in; I could go on and on, but allow me to finish my original story.
I made the decision to remove the chisel and get a few stitches. It was a very well executed cut, creating a perfect one inch incision exactly perpendicular to the muscle; I could not have done better if I had planned and executed it using a Ginsu knife.
Still the doctor had the nerve to ask if it happened at work; I told him that I had made the incision myself at home (expecting him to congratulate me on the precision of the cut). I told him I was a wood carver with many years experience and took pride in my abilities with sharp tools. While he worked, I told him about carving the totem poles and other carvings I had made.
As the doctor finished stitching the cut; he said I had missed the tendons and arteries; but it appeared I had definitely carved my niche. I had heard of people carving their niche before; but I never realized it is located just above the knee.
Carving my niche
A Wood Carving Supply Providing Tools & Supplies To Carvers & Whittlers In Wood
Those of us carving in wood often have the desire to spend more time woodcarving; perhaps someday to even make a living at it.
I am here to say that while that may never happen, it should not prevent you from enjoying your hobby. I tried many carving styles but when I tried totem carving, I found that I had finally carved my niche.
Somehow I had agreed to carve two full-size totem poles for the entrance to my brother’s cabin property. It sounded like a deal, I would have two twenty-eight foot poles in my driveway for two years; I would provide all the tools, paint, and labor. I would spend two years of my life carving for someone else on a project I would never see again, and my brother would provide the logs.
I have to admit the first pole was fun to carve; I found meaning in the symbols and stories of the Northwest Native culture; I learned the limitations of my tool collection and discovered I could not park in my garage for two years.
The second pole was a match for the first with the exception of a moon-mask design rather than the sun.