Hand-Carved Wood Animals

Tom Benson hand-carves wild animals out of hardwoods.

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Tom Benson works with animals. Wild animals. He also uses his background in aerospace engineering to make working with those animals a little easier. Benson is a woodcarver who enjoys creating the visages of wild animals out of hardwoods by hand.

Benson starts by using his personal wildlife photos to decide on a design or creature. He then graphs everything out on his computer until he is satisfied, and then prints it out to scale. The wood he will use is actually several pieces that have been glued together forming a block the size of the piece he wants to create. This includes picking pieces that fit together well and applying a highly temperamental glue, then clamping it and letting it dry until it might as well be a solid block. Once the block is complete, the computer design is taped on it and traced. This gives Benson the beginning lines for carving. All the carving is done by hand.

Benson carves the entire piece in layers of detail, a process which can take many, many weeks to get right. He uses many different sizes of gouges to get the details to varying degrees of depth and thickness. After the layers of carving are complete, the laborious process of sanding begins. This is also done in layers and is very messy. Once the piece is finally smoothed out to Benson’s satisfaction, any coloring of the wood is done; in this case, creating the different spots of the giraffe’s skin. Then a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine is applied by hand, making the wood grain stand out beautifully.

Once the oil is dry, the giraffe is buffed to a sheen. Yet another layer is added--this time of wax--and even more buffing is done. The end result is an extremely smooth and high-shine finish. Benson's animals are wonderfully creative and original, each one with a unique personality and depth.

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