Square Dance Butternut Wood Carving Whittling Puzzle

whittling woodcarving

A few months ago I picked up a copy of a book authored by Bjarne Jespersen titled Woodcarving Magic.  The book is put together wonderfully and is chock full of mindbogglingly intricate wood creations and boasts it teaches “How to Transform A Single Block of Wood Into Impossible Shapes.” The book is well worth twenty bucks, especially for novice wood carvers. The introductory chapters share useful information about wood carving, tools and techniques. The first few projects are relatively simple with clear diagrams and explanations.

Then we take a turn onto an unfamiliar, yet fascinating, winding road.  For a laymen the clarity is replaced with math formulas and nicely rendered 2d illustrations unable to clearly translate what we’re supposed to visualize in three dimensions. However, to the credit of the author, I believe this is intentional. The projects are not something to follow one after another to instant mastery.  Instead this book is something you refer to over a lifetime to study and consider as your skills grow in the craft.

One of the projects in the book is the Square Dance, which I completed in the image above. The result of the finished project is six separate interlocked square rings. This was an incredibly fun and rewarding project!

While working on this project I recalled the days when I started to carve wood; I was focused on purchasing all kinds of knives, gouges and whatever else I could find to help me carve better. I completed this project with a block of butternut wood, a pocket knife, a section of jigsaw blade and a drug store emery board.  I’ve learned to enjoy sitting with a knife and patiently carving out geometric forms. There is something therapeutic about the process. The more I carve the less interested I am in pulling out all the tools and racking my brain with ambitious projects.

One day, probably soon, I’ll try to tackle another Woodcarving Magic project.


  1. Hi John.
    Thank you for writing so enthusiastically about my book. I am especially hapy to hear that you have found the meditative pleasure of just carving with a simple tool. Congratulation with your succesful conquest of Square Dance and good luck with any other project you might try!
    Bjarne Jespersen – The magic woodcarver

    1. Hello Bjarne! Thanks for reaching out to me. I’ve made several things from your great book, my favorite is the Double Star. There’s a photo of the finished Double Star carving in the Gallery/Sculpture section of my site. I’m happy you sent a message. Lately I’ve been wrapped up with old fashioned stick and tissue airplanes, and not much carving. Although I have been carving some parts and propellers for the planes. When the weather gets nice I’ll likely get back to more pocket sized carvings. Thanks for sharing your secrets in your fantastic book – I tell all my carving friends to get a copy. ~john

  2. Hi John,

    You’ve done a great job of this carving! Your execution of double star is great too, not one I have attempted yet. I recommend Bjarnes Magic Woodcarving book to everyone I know as well, one of most inspiring presents I’ve ever received.


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