Allen Stichler – Wood Carving

Bespoke Ornamental Wood Carvings & Tree Sculpture

   Jun 05

Sensory Garden Carvings at Jubilee Park, Woodhall Spa

This was really something different ~ I was asked to carve a long handrail (almost 4 metres) for a new sensory garden at Jubilee Park, Woodhall Spa, making sure the design was as tactile as possible and incorporating lots of elements from the site and the history of the village.

Jubilee Park has heated outdoor pools, cricket, bowls, croquet and tennis teams, and an impressive bandstand; nearby is “Kinema in the Woods” ~ dating from 1922, it’s the only fully functioning cinema in the UK to employ back projection ~ and in addition to all this there is the part that RAF Station Woodhall Spa played in World War 2. So…plenty to go on!

Mick at Jubilee Park had organised the timber for the carving ~ Siberian larch to match the wall cladding in the garden area ~ and initially I thought it may restrict any amount of detail in the work; once the rough-sawn outer layer was sanded down it became apparent that with some care and attention to grain it would be a pleasant carving experience. More often than not I work with rock-hard seasoned oak, so the nice soft Siberian larch made a nice change and gave my wrists and elbows a rest!

  Sanding back the rough outer layer of the larch.

  Preparing to scale up my drawings and transfer them onto the timber.

  Once the design was drawn on, I cut the profile around all the shapes on the top edge to give the handrail an interesting look ~ and to make the surfaces as tactile as possible.

  Chipping away! It was relatively quick work to rough out big areas, especially with a mallet; most of the finishing carving could be done with the gouges alone.

Lots of different textures, shapes and depths.

We’d decided to also have two pairs of vertical panels at either end of the handrail, again as tactile as possible ~ but also the aim was to have something to lead the viewer’s eye around the corner to the sensory garden. I started on the right-hand panels first, with a design based on the Lancaster Bomber.

  The two panels will be fixed next to each other when installed . The Lancaster Bomber was to be left as a silhouette with the cloud plumes  swirling in the background.

For the left hand panels I came up with the idea of a small boy peeping around the corner towards the garden, and a roll of film relating to the Kinema in the Woods.

  Cutting around the profile gives the impression the boy’s looking around the wall.


  Almost finished …

…just the addition of some bowls and croquet on the film cells.

Mick taking snaps of the finished handrail. He’ll oil it all when it’s installed.


   Mar 18

No Strings Attached

South Yorkshire musician Ben Paramore contacted me with a plan to transform his electric guitar into a dragon (as you do!), and sent me the instrument separated, sanded and stripped of its electrical elements. This unusual request excited me, being someone who has made guitars do unusual things in the past (almost coming close to producing a tune once or twice).



I designed the dragon head first and got cracking with that ; the body and guitar neck were to be covered entirely with dragon scales (although carved quite shallow on the neck so as not to interfere with playing).


The scales proved rather tricky ~ not the carving as such, but the positioning of them; the contours of the guitar body and the wavy edges threw the symmetry out and required a bit of head scratching. I found the best approach was to centralize the scales on the front and back of the guitar and join up the sides as best as I could. I’d toyed with the idea of starting on say, the front right, and working round the guitar as I went, but I’m sure the scales would have ended up going off in some peculiar directions.

All the finishing was to be done by the customer ~ either some sort of stain, lacquer or spray ; I can’t wait to see the results.


   Mar 18

Alver Valley Country Park Pictures

I finished the carvings for Alver Valley Country Park (Hampshire) around April last year, but as is usually the case with such things, the installation of the sculptures and completion of the play area took some time; I recently received some photographs of the totem pole and sign in situ ~ which was great as I hadn’t manged to get any decent pictures before they were transported to the site.

A couple of snaps taken whilst I was carving ~ I love the look of the crisp white sycamore when freshly carved.




   Dec 28

‘Twas the Ammonite Before Christmas

I was asked to carve a round sign in time for Christmas, bearing the words “Barrow upon Humber Geology Museum” and featuring an ammonite fossil; it so happened that I had a suitable piece of oak, big enough for a 14″ circle and at 3″ thick, deep enough to be able to make the fossil really stand out.


After some bandsaw calamities (my temperamental old machine finally gave up ~ luckily I had another in reserve, but without a blade…cue twiddling thumbs as I awaited delivery of a new one) I sawed the circle to shape. I’d drawn the area to be left raised for the ammonite and routed to half of the depth of the circle.



After drawing on the ammonite more accurately I tidied up the edges and the flat surface, making sure all the areas where they met were neat and crisp.

I then set about creating a bit of a Cumberland Sausage effect, lowering the coils as they turned into the centre and rounding them into a tube shape.

After that it was a case of creating the grooves and hollows that characterize the fossil:


The trick was to leave the finish slightly tooled, giving a better effect. After completing the ammonite I routed the outer edges of the circle and traced on the lettering. Once carved, a couple of coats of oil and the sign was complete.


   Nov 22

Leeches, Owls and Fairies? It Must be Anlaby Park

A large horse chestnut tree had stood in the grounds of Anlaby Park Community Library, Hull, for a number of years; it had been a real focal point for the community and the source of thousands of conkers for children spanning decades. The sight of the council turning up one day to drop it to the ground caused the volunteers at the library to race out and convince them to compromise ~ and leave it at a height of around 10ft, with the aim of it being given another life through being carved.

The Library members had specific ideas of what they’d like to see on the tree ~ an owl on the side facing the library, a small “fairy” door next to the path for the children, and a group of carvings illustrating the history of the library to be viewed on the approach to the building.

I began with the owl; there were a few tricky areas on this area, with a large patch of dark, soft wood running vertically through one side of the owl which restricted some of the work on that side. The rest of the timber in this area was extremely hard, so it was frustrating that a weak point had appeared in a prominent place; sometimes you’ve got to sigh and say, “It is what it is” ~ with trees you have lumps, bumps, rot and cracks and it’s part of the appeal and charm, otherwise everyone would have resin sculptures straight out of a mould.

  The owl, with some of the different shades of timber clearly visible

  The dark stripe of dark wood running through the left wing

I moved onto the Fairy Door next, at ground level it gave my sciatica a rest; this time the wood was very soft and crumbly in certain areas, so simplicity was the key. I’d positioned the door so I could utilise the roots for some steps, and a couple of large lumps for a lamp and some toadstools. Because the base of the tree bellied out, I had to resort to a chainsaw to flatten the area and then create the steps.

The actual mallet and chisel work was quite simple after that point, just shaping the lamp and toadstools and cleaning up round the hinges and handle.

  Note the conkers left on the step by local children!

The door was an instant hit, stories abound of small children knocking and waiting for it to be answered by the owl, and a regular pile of conkers appeared on the steps ~ a gift for the fairies?


Evidence of fairy inhabitants ~ tiny toadstools near the door, and fairy dust on the doorstep!

Lastly, it was time for the historical carvings ~ this time the wood was perfect, hard enough to take a bit of detail, but not too hard to make it a battle.

I started with the Leech Tower, which had once been a feature of Anlaby Park. Leeches were taken from an adjacent pond and cleansed in the tower before being used for medical practices, a piece of local history that not many were aware of.


The carving based on the one available photo of the tower.

Tennis courts had been a recent memory for the locals in this area, and that was the next subject, followed by some books to represent the community library.


I worked some scrolls into the design which would label the carvings, making it clear what each item represented.

   Nov 22

Posts for Paull and Others Too

With the poor weather putting a stop to any outdoor work, I’ve been able to complete a couple of indoor jobs ~ such as three marker posts for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site Paull Holme Strays, and a large anniversary oak post for a local couple.

  The design traced on to the 5ft oak post

The same process was repeated for the other species…

I like doing marker posts, with the challenge of fitting the design into a limited shape and size, keeping it relatively bold and simple (so there’s no fussy detail which would be lost to the predictable effects of weathering) and trying to make the carving interesting enough to catch the public’s eye. They’re heavy though….

….though not as heavy as the anniversary post, which at 8ft tall and 8″ square nearly killed me whenever I had to turn it over to work on the next side. Though just a simple lettering job, it looked quite striking with the wedding date carved in words with the lyrics of favourite songs down the left and right sides. Not many photos as yet, as I couldn’t get it in to a position to take any before it was delivered ~ but there’ll be some once it’s sited.



   Nov 22

Michaelmas Fair


A successful weekend at Burton Agnes, despite the gales which threatened to lift the marquee off the ground; I’ve missed the previous year or two due to work-load, but after a quiet Saturday it really picked up on the Sunday to send me home in a positive frame of mind.

In the early years at this event I had a table full of small carvings which I’d managed to squeeze in between jobs, but the flow of work has increased since then and it’s the wood-cuts and lino-cut prints that make up the bulk of sales.

   Oct 23

Pickering Park Pictures

I was invited to the unveiling of the sculptures at Pickering Park, Hull recently ~ completed earlier in the year, they honour the philanthropist and trawler owner Christopher Pickering, and Hull’s fishing heritage. Labour MP Emma Hardy was present to cut the ribbon and officially mark the unveiling of the pieces in the sensory garden.

With Pat Tharratt of the Friends of Pickering Park, and Emma Hardy MP

There was a nice write-up in the Hull Daily Mail too :




   Jul 21

Bellfield Primary School is Totemtastic!

Well, after eleven weeks, eleven schools and eleven totem poles, the Totemtastic project has drawn to a close; with an average of five pupils every 15 minutes over 12 hours at each school, I’ve worked with over 2,500 children! I need a holiday! All the pupils have been great, and have proved that Primary School children can be trusted with sharp chisels and mallets; they have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and so have I.

So, Bellfield Primary School were last but not least ~ and they came up with a design based around the school logo and flowers, along with the popular image of shaking hands.




The young lady (above right) came up with the main idea of flowers and the school logo.


   Jul 21

Marvell College is Totemtastic!

This carving workshop was a slightly different prospect, as the children were in their teens and therefore a little more able than the Primary school pupils; it was no surprise then that the totem pole produced over the three days was an intricate, interesting and well carved piece of sculpture.

The pupils pooled their designs and, after input from the Head, a final decision was settled on ~ involving an open book, the school badge, references to the Hull fishing industry, rugby and the inter-school “Rock Challenge”, as well as a scattering of hearts and stars. The word PRIDE refers to “Pride Points” within the college, as well as being an acronym for various values.

The final result was very impressive and will hopefully grace the college grounds for many years to come.