Old Time DIY


When I had this finished project I asked my youngest grandson (15) if he knew who this carving represents. To my surprise He answered Tom Sawyer right away. Not bad for a Norwegian. It just goes to show how widespread Mark Twain’s stories have spread. A world class author. I had a role in a Tom Sawyer play while in grade school which we performed for the parents and students. It was a lot of fun and it is one of my fonder memories.

My real reason for doing Tom was not however due to fond memories . I wanted to try carving a figure with hands and feet in the hope of learning a little more about anatomy, and I immediately thought of Tom as the perfect subject. Secondly I wanted him to be doing something so as not to look too static, but not doing too much as my skills are currently at the bottom of the ladder, so I figured the fence painting chapter would be perfect. Even worse than Tom was the rather badly carved dog. I realized at the last minute that there was too much empty space in the scene, so I did him rather quickly and rather badly. At least I’m rather consistent! The dog is not attached to the scene and I plan to do another and better one later. I will probably have to keep it in my shop as I don’t think anyone would want it, but it will be useful to measure my future work against to see if I improve.

This was fun to carve, but at a little over 12” it was a lot more work than I had planned on. I made it bigger because i also wanted it to be big enough to allow for some facial details, especially the eyes. Of course I couldn’t put a lot of character into the face as Tom is very young and therefore has a smooth face. I’m not thrilled with it, but it is marginally better than my last face, so I just have to practice more. I’ve been reading up on figure carving, watching some online videos and I bought some caricature carving books to study. I also want to thank ’Druid’ aka John for emailing me several carving books which he had available. They were a big help, but of course theory is one thing and practice is another, so I realize it will be some time before I do anything worthwhile. Anyway I will now have something to do while sitting on the terrace in the spring and summer soaking up the sun!

Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to criticize as it can only help me do better next time!

Mike, an American living in Norway


Well done sir. I see nothing wrong. 100 times better that I could do.

Tor and Odin are the greatest of gods.

That’s Tom alright!

Great carving Mike.

Abbas, Castro Valley, CA


My husband immediately recognized Tom. You’re too hard on yourself; we think you did a fabulous job!


“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin

Thanks much Madts, Abbas, L/W and Jan. Another fun project. I’ve always wanted to carve, but I made the mistake of trying relief carving which is really much more difficult, to me at least. One thing that has always ‘worried’ me about carving is the need to cut with the grain. Grain direction related to your tool edge is not always so obvious, but I have found that you can easily feel when a cut is going against the grain and then you just have to reverse the direction, or in some cases just roll your chisel to cut with the opposite edge of the tool. A no brainer approach that makes life carving more enjoyable.

Mike, an American living in Norway

I love it. I think you did a awesome job on it. I can’t carve one bit. I’d say your skills are well above what you stated.

Jeff Vandenberg aka "Woodsconsin"

Thanks Jeff. Everything is relative and there are so many really talented woodcarvers around that I have a pretty good idea where my skills are at this point. But I’m not worried about that anyway as I am probably enjoying the work as much as any of the experts despite the results, and for me that is what counts the most.

I am very glad that there was such a positive reaction to this project because I think so many of us have been inspired by the Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer stories where we learned that if we had some of Tom’s spunk we could make our own luck and be in charge of our own destinies.

Mike, an American living in Norway

I think you portrayed Tom Sawyer very well! You did a great carving! Love it.


Wow Mike this a so charming,great job.

woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

Nice to see this work from Mike here in the spotlight. Mike past away some years ago, and in this way I remember his positive attitude and help he provided to other members. 


A wonderful carving. This brings inspiration, sad about his passing.

Main Street to the Mountains

a beautiful carving for sure.
maybe martin can create a memorial here for those that contributed to the success of the forum like they have at lj's ?

working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

Sasha. - Life is not a draft, you can't redo it tomorrow

I love it.  Reminiscent of simpler times.
You put a lot of good craftsmanship in Tom. And you did a great job on the hands  and feet. its good your grandson is reading classics by Mark Twain. In the USA the woke public schools are teaching them how be trans gender and taking 1st graders and up to drag shows. 

James McIntyre