Wood Shop

I have always enjoyed working wood. Much to my dismay, I have no talent for cabinet work... the refined right angle eludes me. However, I do manage to do a fair amount of "just making stuff". Give me a sheet of plywood or a board with interesting grain and I generally come up with something. Carving, wood turning and scroll sawing have been particularly fun for me. Below are examples of some of my more successful work.



Ventriloquist Figures

Undoubtedly my most successful woodworking was my ventriloquist figure work. When I stopped doing this I was one of onlly five people still making hand carved professional wooden ventriloquist figures commercially. Naturally, I made the figures I performed with. In this picture, the two figures on the left, Barney (upper) and Uncle Fred (lower) are my own performing figures. The two figures on the right are figures I made for customers.

Carrousel Figures

I took a crack at making carrousel horses, but gave that up pretty quickly. They were simply too big a project. Somehow, the only pictures I have left of these are these two: an inside prancer for a small carrousel and a small dog model I carved as a reference for a full size figure I never did.





Tug Boat

This was a real fun project. I wrote a children's book called "Proud Charlie" about the life of a working tug. In the process I got involved with a radio controlled tugboat club... very serious people, mostly retired tugboat men. Their boats were museum piece quality and they regularly held meets at local ponds where they did actual tug boat manuevers with them. My tug, on the other hand, was casually ground out of a solid block of wood on a belt sander, though it was a working radio controlled tug. I was very, very self conscious about taking it to the pond, but they were so intrigued with its unique appearance that I ended up doing a presentation on exactly how I built it at one of their club meetings and eventually gave the it to the club, which used it for kid entertainment since it was virtually undamageable compared to their fine models.


Wooden Puzzles

I like scroll sawing. It's a very useful tool for making toys and puzzles. I made a bunch of wood animal puzzles. Each one featured pieces that were smaller versions of the finished animal puzzle. There are three small whales inside the big whale shown. Each puzzle had its own wooden box. This is the only one I still have. I kept it because I have a weakness for whales. One of the smaller fun features of these was that the two sides are the same, unfinished wood, so are the same color, meaning that when you spill the pieces out, some are going to be upside down but you won't be able to tell. Increases the challenge a bit, though none were really difficult since they were aimed at children.





I did quite a bit of knife making at one time and it usually ended up involving some wood work, either as handle or presentation boxes. This dagger was made for a customer.

Wood Turning

Again, at one time, I did a great deal of wood turning. Here are some samples of that work... the stool is solid cherry and though it doesn't show in the pic, rather massive for a stool and very heavy.






For quite a few years I made roughly 60 to 100 toys every November and gave them to various organizations as Christmas gifts for kids. Unfortunately, OSHA stepped in and issued very strict requirements regarding wooden toys, with permits to make, sell or distribute, etc. and the organizations, reluctant to deal with it all simply stopped accepting donated wood toys from casual home wood workers. I still have my patterns and I'm looking forward to making some very cool trucks out of very expensive fancy hardwoods I have left from my bow making days.


The first serious woodworking effort I made was in the "making" of muzzle loading rifles. Very early on in the muzzle loading activity that is so active today, there were no reproduction rifles. You restored an old one or you bought components and assembled them on a stock you made yourself. I'm not going to tell you how long ago that was, but I was a very young newly married man :^) Anyway, I kept at this for quite a few years, developing some minor machining skills and even rifling a few barrel blanks. These two pieces, a .36 caliber half stock cap and ball and a .40 caliber flintloc fullstock, are the only ones I still have. They are by no means my best work, but all of that went out the door long agol











Dick Wightman, Seattle WA

email: rwightman@mindspring.com

Phone: 206 784 0883


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