If there was a "formal" beginning to the type of carving I do, it was the summer between my junior and senior years in college, when I picked up the idea of whittling a rooster from a forked branch while working in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina. When I returned to college in the fall of 1966, I self-employed myself and used my $1.95 or $2.95 Barlow knife to help pay for my senior year. To be sure, a lot of water has gone under the bridge during the fifty years since then!
Since the late 60's I've had the fun of demonstrating and teaching this uniquely simple type of woodcarving in many parts of the U.S., as well as in a fair number of foreign countries. People of all ages, from 9 to 90, have picked up the concept and run with it. Some young people have even used their pocketknives to pay for their own college expenses.
My first instruction sheet was a two-sided paper printed back in the early 70's. Since then, writing and printing has expanded quite a bit. It's really fun to see an ever expanding number of people discovering what they can do with a simple two-bladed pocketknife and raw material all around them!
So . . . throughout the rest of this website I'm hoping to show how raw material like that in the left column of the photos below can become like the finished pieces in the right column.
It's been a lot of fun to share this whole concept of working with twigs and branches and other scraps of wood, using a simple pocketknife as the main tool, doing so not only in English but in a number of other languages as well.
Among the things we'll be covering throughout the website are:
Choosing a knife
Sharpening and honing
Kinds of wood
PROJECTS (Samples of what can be done)
ANSWERING SOME QUESTIONS
A RUNNING BLOG OF RECENT PROJECTS
PROGRAMS AND WORKSHOPS
. . . and some past editions . . .
Another one of my favorite wood projects (and parts of it actually done with my pocketknife!) was the tree house in my back yard. The floor of the main house is 20 feet off the ground, and the "crow's nest" is 39 feet up. All kinds of fun!!
Probably one of the most fun projects I've done in my 50 years of working with branches and a pocketknife were the two "chicken chess" sets I made almost 20 years ago. The one shown here is the first one, finished in 1997.
I'm guessing that I was no more than seven when I started making stuff from wood with a little knife. My dad (born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens) and mom (born in western Kansas) were serving as missionaries in the Ucayali River town of Contamana, on the Amazon rain forest side of Peru. Dad was great with hand tools, and there definitely wasn't any lack of wood around! I'm quite sure that my appreciation for working with all kinds of wood started from the cutoffs that came from his workbench. Now, even at 72 (70 in the picture below), I still find it hard to stop climbing trees!
Just recently I got word that the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Whittling Book will be published in Chinese, accompanying the two previous books that have been published in Mandarin.
Be sure to check the "Recent Projects" page, kind of an illustrated running blog of some whittling experiences.
Whittling with Chris Lubkemann -- A Unique Slant on Woodcarving
Over the past fifteen years I've also had more than a little fun with various versions of my "Country Pitching Machine" -- one of them usually anchored to the roof rack of my vehicle. I guess I should say that my wife does NOT like to drive my van! She is the prototypical, sweet-looking white haired grandma, and when she gets in the driver's seat in front of the supermarket with several folks standing around gawking at the contraption on the roof, she gets a bit self- conscious. Maybe the spectators are thinking,"Wow, she surely looks nice enough, but she's probably mean as all get out! Don't get too close to her!!"
The three books in the top row are German editions. The bottom two are Russian. As of July 2017 there are now four books in German, two in Russian, two in Chinese, one in Dutch, one in French, one in
in Spanish, and one in Estonian. That last one caught me by surprise. There aren't all that many people in the world that speak Estonian!
But I'm glad someone thought The Little Book of Whittling was
interesting and helpful enough to publish in Estonian.
This is the current version, as of December 2016. Sometimes the projectiles are baseballs, but lots of other dense and round things work as well. I especially like it when the big black walnuts are in season. They go a long way, are biodegradable, and I don't have to try to find them. The squirrels do that!