Here are some my thoughts and notes on the class. You might remember that I had no exposure to Carving at all before your class, with the exception of a few magazine articles mostly aimed at turners who embellished their work with small grinders. I was a little reticent at first due to my lack of experience.
Fortunately, for me, however I had enrolled in the "Two Day tool forging class." The class was a great initiation, not into carving per se, but into your method of teaching, which is a very friendly, "Don't Worry Style." Don't Worry was a great way for me to approach the discipline of carving. When the Carving class began I was very comfortable and not the least nervous about what I did not know.
In the course of the carving class David slowly exposed us to complex theories of Art and Design, almost incidentally, leading me down the road to understanding with an easy deep flow like the Gloucester tides. We started each day with a "Camp Fire" where carving concepts were discussed. Concepts such as light and shadow contrasts, concave as opposed to convex forms, highs and lows in the carving, all in easy to digest plain language approach. Intricacies
such as grain direction made understandable by the Grain Compass. Stance and tool control, arms position, use of both hands, and leg position to guide tools along the projected path were made simple to grasp by David's easy style.
David uses the analogy of peeling a carrot to describe the process of reveling the carving from the wood. My analogy is his teaching is like an Artichoke, peeling away the leaves of the fruit, layer by layer until you expose the Artichoke's heart.
The information flows from; tools shaping, sharpening, to proper usage of the tools; stance, "Front seat driving" and further to concepts described as "Ceiling to Floor" i.e. Highs and Lows. Seeing the Design, peeling the carrot as the design emerges, working the carving as a whole not in parts, setting in, digging the ditch and landscaping all are descriptions of order of working a carving. But foremost remember, "Don't Worry" keep going.
The Class left me with the desire to dig deeper into the craft and myself.
To whom it may concern:
I am writing this letter to recommend without reservation the woodcarving course given by David Calvo. I took the woodcarving course and found it to be essentially a perfect introduction to the art and craft of woodcarving and would recommend it to anyone that brings a serious desire to learn. In the paragraphs below I will try to pinpoint exactly why I believe this course is so wonderful. It might be difficult for me to convey exactly why found this course so enjoyable and satisfying. So if I fail I recommend that you call David directly as I did when I was considering taking the class.
The key to the course is David himself, since for the five days of the course it’s just him and several students (Four in
my case but I’m told up to seven or nine is the norm.) in a room talking, sharpening and carving.
David wants to give his students a sense of the full range of what woodcarving is and what it means to him. He tends not to
gloss over important matters such as tool sharpening. Thus, in the five day course I took, most of us spent the first day and
one half sharpening our tools and rendering the pattern onto the wood block before we made our first cut into wood. David
carefully explained the theory of sharpening and the different kind of sharpening stones and we all practiced the techniques as
we honed our tools for the tasks ahead.
David brings a good perspective to his craft. The first thing we did in the class was for each student to discuss why he was
drawn to the class, what their experiences with woodcarving and woodworking have been and what they hope to get from the class.
With that as background Mr. Calvo was able to let the students know if their expectations were realistic (they mostly were) and
to start the students along the way to achieving their goals.
David sees woodcarving as an art that fully reflects the human experience. So, as we discussed the various woodcarving topics
such as design, style, rendering, design transfer, wood quality and type, the nature of grain and using the various chisels,
David found it appropriate to introduce a wide array of related topics. The conversation in the class often shifted to music,
philosophy, art, and the joy of life. Mr. Calvo spoke of his years in Mexico, his child, his various woodcarving projects, and
the European masters who taught him his craft and whose tools he still uses. Since you work pretty much close to each other for
the duration of the course I think it is important to be able to be in a relaxed mode and the conversation to be free. Both
these conditions were easily met. In addition, David is able to bridge the gap between being very serious about woodcarving and
having a light enough touch so that his drive for excellence and his desire to convey something important to his students do
not become too intense or oppressive.
For me it was the perfect introductory course and I enthusiastically recommend it as an inspiring and learning experience.
If you're considering taking a wood carving course and unsure if that offered in David Calvo's studio is right
for you, go no further. David's shop is where you want to be and David is the one to teach you.
Let me say for myself, as a person with intermediate woodworking skills, who has been notoriously hard to please and has very
high expectations, that I was completely blown away by David and the course. His organized approach to the craft of carving and
step by step mentoring made it a most thoroughly enjoyable and productive five days. The fundamentals were stressed in the
relaxed atmosphere of the studio and in the beautifully tranquil town of Gloucester, providing what I felt a solid foundation
for any level of carving. David was approachable and an excellent resource, sharing very entertaining historical tidbits and
anecdotes along the way as he walked us through the carving process. Our class consisted of 7 students of varying skill and we
all unanimously agreed that the course was excellent, and each of us came away with new ideas, carving talents, enthusiasm and
great respect for our teacher.
I am pleased to say, having just returned from Mr. Calvo's studio, that it was absolutely the best course I've ever taken and
I'm planning to return for both the tool forging course and the advanced carving course. The opportunity to gain knowledge and
skills from Mr. Calvo is not to be missed if you are a serious student of carving or are just considering it as a hobby. 5
Fellow Interested Students:
I have taken several classes from David and have come to know him as a master craftsman, a fantastic artist, a
gifted intellect, a great storyteller and a friend.
I came to the first class having somehow previously carved a wood horse head for my first son’s rocking chair. I was
exhilarated and frustrated by the experience. I persisted with that first project despite the wrong tools, wrong sharpening and
wrong carving technique. What a fantastic ‘eureka’ moment awaited with the first class I took with David. In three
remarkable days we quickly learned about the right tools, the right way to sharpen them and the right way to use them.
In addition we learned to focus the body, eye and mind on the carving process. We learned about material and design, art and
architectural history, tool design and metallurgy (examined in depth in the forging class). David tells wonderful stories about
his training and experiences as a master carver.
Woodcarving, and the teaching thereof, encompasses far more than just intellectual knowledge. This is a physical/mental, right
brain/left brain skill. David’s teaching is perfectly adapted to this holistic and challenging craft. This is not
carving-by-the-numbers. You can’t get the multi-channel learning input and feedback from a book. The skill and sensory
learning process is cyclical and David is masterful in identifying the next little tidbit of understanding that will bump you
through the rough spots. You will learn to use and trust you artist’s eye. I’ve always come away from these classes
with a lot of satisfaction and real accomplishment.
Your teaching technique had an amazing sense of balance from knowing when to take a break, to taking us to a
different local restaurant for lunch each day.
You have a unique insight that allows you to let us struggle enough to learn from our small mistakes but tells you when to be
there to answer any questions and to provide right amount of guidance to prevent us from making big mistakes.
I enjoyed your wonderful sense of humor.
What a pleasure it was to attend your woodcarving class this October.
I was amazed that as a complete novice (never having pushed a gouge before), I was able to create something I will actually
display at home! I’ve never been in a class with such personal attention, along with an honest camaraderie. It was great
I came to the class to begin a new hobby with no particular artistic flare or background in woodworking. Although others in my
class were competent and experienced woodworkers, I was able to move at my own pace, and very much enjoyed your careful
tutelage at my own pace.
And you boiled the techniques down to their essence. We were exposed to clear instruction in tool choice, tool sharpening,
techniques for lettering and design, creative design principles, design transfer methods, and general carving. Beyond that, I
learned as much by watching you use the tools and my own tools to help me “feel and hear” the wood. There were
meaningful discussions on each aspect, and a free and open response to all my questions. Mingled with the demonstrations and
instruction was exposure to some of the great sculpted works of the old masters.
Keep me on your list! I’ll be back for your graduate course….
I just returned from my two week pleasure/business trip. The week in Gloucester was the highlight of my trip.I
learned many useful tips and techniques. I will incorporate many of these things in my business and hobbies.
From the start of your class on the first day I learned many things. The sharpening tips and hands on practice are very
valuable. I have about 20 tools, other then the ones I purchased from you, and I am sharpening those one by one. Now that I
have the proper sharpening technique they are each turning into much more enjoyable tools to use. The design ideas that you
pointed out, such as the many facets of contrast, will help my work improve. Plus now that these ideas have been put into words
as far as what to look for and focus on I look at art work and nature in a much different way. Almost as if I have a brand new
connection between eyes and brain. There are things in art and nature that I have always enjoyed looking at, but now I can see
more clearly how the individual parts blend in ways to accent each other. I am now more inspired to expand my carving
techniques as I embellish my woodworking projects. Thank You. The cost of the class was well worth it.
To the interested student,
I have always wanted to learn woodcarving. Many years ago I saw David Calvo on the PBS Television Show "The Woodwright's Shop" and knew he was the one I wanted to instruct me. It was only last summer '06 that I finally had the opportunity to take a week long class with him. The reason I wanted to study with him is he was so impressive in his style and manner on The Woodwright Television show. He was able to make it all seem to flow in a natural manner. His presentation in class was a classical learning experience. Everyone was so relaxed after the first few hours that it seemed we had been with him for a very long time. I don't think one could learn more about woodcarving in one week and be able to take what was learned and run with to the degree we were able. Everyone was so excited and eager to continue. Many of us agreed we would sign up for the Second Level class.
I like David's approach. It's not all mechanical. There is an organic feel to it all. Getting to know your
tools...making them an extension of yourself...knowing the wood and working with it. David gave me the "outline within which to
work. Now I can allow myself to fill that "outline".
Excellent learning experience. Appreciate your extreme patience. You are a natural teacher. Easy to ask
questions and get clarifications for what the student needs help with. Enjoyed the lunch experience. Very helpful all around.
Today, I am walking out with a real sense of accomplishment. I thoroughly enjoyed the course. You opened up a
new world and passion within my life as a beginner woodworker. I know we will meet again in another course. I would really like
to take your forging class.
I always wanted to learn carving - a quiet and cerebral pursuit- but I couldn't do so from books or a video.
It takes a master carver with a gift for teaching to impart the secrets. In David I was fortunate to find that individual. He
explained, and the class applied, design concepts, drawing, material selection, tool techniques and sharpening, and error
avoidance - all the important fundamentals. I'm quite pleased with what I can produce now and it gets better with practice.
I've wanted to learn how to do ornamental and architectural wood carving for many years. I took a course
several years ago from which I came away extremely frustrated and quite pessimistic about my chances of ever acquiring the
skill. I now have the time to devote to carving, so I did a Google search on “woodcarving instruction” and found
David Calvo’s web site. A quick review of David’s background and work convinced me to contact him. Since I live an
hour or so from his studio, I arranged to meet David. That led to my decision to take his beginner's course.
First, let me say that if you don’t already have a collection of carving tools, buy the beginner set David sells.
Don’t buy a set of tools from a retail store or on the internet. David carefully selects the tools you need to begin and
his set doesn’t include any tools you’ll never use. But if you have a collection of carving tools already, bring
them to class and buy any additional tools you need from David.
Learning woodcarving is a daunting undertaking. There are so many skills involved. You need to learn how to shape and sharpen
your tools. You need to learn how to approach a carving – what do you do first, second, third, etc. You need to learn how
to hold your tools and use them, both with and without a mallet and using both hands. You need to know about the types of wood
to use. You need to understand design. You need to know how to achieve depth in your carving. You need to know how to work with
wood grain and how to fix your “oopses” and how to avoid them the next time. That’s a lot to learn in a three
day class. It requires a well-structured course. The course begins with a discussion of tool shape - why you need the shape
David recommends and how to sharpen your tools to achieve the correct shape. You have a chance to try a tool of your own
sharpening and compare it to a tool David has sharpened. If that doesn’t make a believer of you, I don’t know what
could! You learn how to know when your tools are properly sharp. Hint: it’s not by shaving your arm or testing on your
thumbnail. When the carving actually begins, David demonstrates the tools you should use and the cuts you need to make. It is
marvelous to watch David carve. The wood seems to know what he wants and does it willingly for him. The wood didn’t obey
me nearly as well, but having watched David is an inspiration. I know that it can be done well and I'm confident that with
properly shaped and sharpened tools and lots of practice, I too can produce really good work.
Throughout the class, David takes breaks from sharpening and carving to discuss topics related to design, types of wood for
carving, etc. He knows intuitively when the class needs a change of pace. He’s also present all the time and quite
willing to answer any questions you might have or show you how to do something with which you’re having difficulty.
If you want to learn woodcarving, I highly recommend David’s beginner workshop, if you can possibly do it. You
can’t learn from videos what you’ll learn from a live instructor. When (not if) you encounter difficulty,
you’ll have no one to ask for help if you go the video instruction route. The interaction with other students in the
class is also a real bonus. I thoroughly enjoyed the other students in the class I took. One last word. David is a real master
carver. He learned from masters and wants to pass that knowledge on. He believes in what he’s teaching because it has
worked so well for him for many years. David approaches his teaching with confidence because he knows he’s teaching the
right way to carve. He doesn’t try to hide anything from his students or keep any “trade secrets” to himself.
David is also a really nice person, which isn’t always true of highly accomplished people. I’m thankful I had the
opportunity to take the course and very thankful to know David. I have to go practice. I want to be ready for David’s
next intermediate class.
I took David Calvo’s carving class to learn carving taught by a respected craftsman with a national
reputation. And carving I learned. What I really found, however, was how David used carving and his beloved seaport
town of Gloucester to take us through a journey of European carving techniques surrounded by consideration of aesthetics,
design, work ethic, small business models, and personal health. And yes, the outings of food, art and boatbuilding. All of this
in an atmosphere of mutual respect and the easy throw of ideas between teacher and students. For a week we learned, we
experienced… and we were happy.
I wanted to drop you a line thanking you for a great class.
It was amazing to see a group of people with different reasons for taking the class, different interests and different skill
levels all get the same amount of satisfaction from the instruction. The structure of your class meets the individual student
where they are skill-wise and enables everyone to progress at there own rate. I have taken courses previously where the class
was too difficult or not challenging enough, which ends up causing an unsatisfying experience. I think I could take the same
class again and achieve the same amount of progress that I did the first time.
The sharpening component of your class was most helpful. Today there are so many options when it comes to sharpening tools it
is hard to know where to spend your time and money. It is hard to become more proficient at putting an edge on your tools if
you don’t commit to a sharpening strategy. Your method makes sense and doesn’t require a lot of money for some
machine. It is reassuring to know that carvers have been using the method that you teach for generations (before expensive
machines were available). Once you taught our class the proper steps I could see that your process makes good theoretical
sense. After some guided practice I was able to satisfactorily sharpen my tools. I have continued to use your sharpening
methods back in my shop with good results.
I personally enjoyed the portion of the class on the history of design. To see examples of symmetry in architecture and nature
was fascinating. In our present day society so much of the information we are presented with lacks specificity. It was
wonderful to be able to be immersed in a few details such as: the edge of a tool, the design of a leaf, and carving a small
piece of wood. I feel like the old saying that, “less is more” holds true for your class. We only focused on a few
details but I feel like I came away from the class learning a tremendous amount.
Finally, the setting in the historic town of Gloucester was great. To wander around the old village during breaks was a lot of
fun. Thanks for a great class!! I hope I can take another class some time this year.
David Calvo's Barebones class was just the thing for me. The abilities in our 5 day class ran from very
experienced to no carving experience, and from furniture carvers to caricatures carvers. David's lessons were of great help to
all of us. His training in classical carving and his practical approach to using these skills made learning woodcarving very
approachable for the novice and the experienced.
The hands on classes covered a lot of material from how to sharpen and what kind carving tools are best, to project designing
and how to decide what comes next in the carving. David is available all along the way, patiently answering questions and
pointing out problems.
I had been thinking about a piece before the class but had no idea how to start. After I got home, I was able to design the
piece using a lot of David's technique. The carving took about a week with some stops and starts. I was very pleased with the
I find I am better able to think through my carvings with a new view to design using David's valleys and mountains metaphors
and his concave and convex theory. I can better guide my tools and am more aware of a dull tool. I am better able to design a
project and have a fool proof method of where to go next .... I also, for the first time, have some very sharp tools.
David Calvo's passion for wood carving was evident as he taught us the techniques that have been passed down
through generations of master wood carvers. As a design professional, I was delighted that David incorporated design concepts
throughout the week long Bare Bones course. He is a talented wood carver and an excellent teacher.
I just got back from David Calvo's Five Day Bare Bones Wood carving Class. After spending many months researching
which of the many wood carving classes to take, I assure you, without any reservation whatsoever, that this is the class to take.
Five days with David is worth ten thousand pages! David learned his craft from European masters, and has honed his skills for
decades. He is a master woodcarver. While remaining aware and attuned to changes and developments which are worth adopting, like
the shift from oil stones to water stones for sharpening, David consistently and continuously emphasizes the basic skills of
woodcarving which have not changed for centuries. I am not a skilled woodworker, but I have always enjoyed working with my hands,
and I have basic skills which make me teachable. David taught me the basic skills which it took him years to master in just five
days! Throughout every day, he reminded us of those basic skills and reinforced and instilled them in a way that resonates in my
memory - and my muscle memory -- every time I pick up my tools.
David talked to us about, showed us, and taught us about the details of every aspect of the craft... sharpening, clay modeling (I
never imagined the importance of modeling until I met David), body position and mechanics, wood choice, tool choice, design and
imagination, to mention only a few. He made us THINK about what we were doing and why each step was important to schooling in and
development of the craft. As elementary as my efforts must have seemed to someone so skilled, David was nothing but encouraging
I came home with a confidence and excitement which has not abated after 5 weeks (and I'm still in the process of getting my shop
set up)! I will soon be diving into my second fleur-du-lis, as I plan my next trip to Gloucester, Mass. and another David Calvo
class. The first day of that next class could not possibly come soon enough! In the meantime, David, who became a mentor and a
friend in only five short days opened the door to endless hours of getting lost in the joy of woodcarving!
David's skills and experiences of woodcarving show in his teaching. His teaching of his techniques are very
valuable. I would highly recommend taking his workshop because when you come away from it you'll find satisfaction in getting
ready to do some serious woodcarving at home on your own. Again, he's approachable, down to earth and a great teacher. The art
of woodcarving is evident.