The art of woodcarving

Steve Winters was fascinated by the craft of woodcarving at an early age. He remembers going to Silver Dollar City as a kid and spending hours watching the Ozark Mountain Woodcarvers.

“I had the desire as a kid but didn’t have the opportunity,” Steve said.

That desire to carve resurfaced in 1991, when he took a class with the Mark Adams School of Woodworking and learned to carve ball and claw furniture. From then on he was hooked on learning the craft.

In 2010, he discovered the Mid Missouri Woodcarvers. The club meets every Tuesday night (6-8 p.m.) and Thursday afternoon (1-3 p.m.) at the Columbia Senior Activity Center. It is free for students, and the older adults pay a couple dollars each time to carve.

New carvers that join the group start out with a 2-dimmensional duck. The point of carving the duck is to learn safety and basic carving techniques. Steve showed me how to carve the duck and talked about some of the carving lessons beginners learn from the experience.


Safety first:

Wear a cut resistant safety glove on the hand that will hold the wood. You can wear a thumb guard and woodcarver’s apron for extra protection. Don’t carve in shorts.


  1. Draw arrows around the edges of the duck with a pencil to indicate the lines of the grain. It helps to imagine a horizontal line splitting the duck in half from head to toe. Looking at what’s above the line, you always aim to carve downhill.
  2. “Lock down” the piece of wood by holding it firmly in your hand and pressing down on the wood with the knife-holding thumb as you carve. This is called “controlled” carving.
  3. Use a carving knife and follow the arrows to carve with the grain. Carving against the grain will split the wood.
  4. Rotate the duck as you go to continue carving downhill or with the grain.
  5. Carve to shape and sand it to finish.



Woodcarving is all about learning through experience. I tried to carve the duck, and it was harder than I thought it would be. Steve taught me to slice the wood by skimming the surface instead of hacking at it with my knife. It seemed like such a smooth process when I watched him do it.

“The carving will let you know if you’re going the wrong way, because it starts to split,” Steve said.

Steve recently took a second class with the Mark Adams School of Woodworking and learned how to carve high-relief floral. The piece he made in that class won an “Outstanding” award at a University of Missouri staff competition. It is his favorite carving so far, and he plans to continue learning more about high-relief floral carving.


According to him, Steve was elected president of the Mid Missouri Woodcarvers because he was the youngest person attending at the time.

Many of the club’s members are older, skilled woodcarvers. When they pass away, their knowledge dies with them. Under Steve’s leadership, the club encourages younger participants and hopes to pass on their skills to the next generation.

“I’m trying to preserve the dying art of woodcarving,” Steve said.







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