CLARK HERITAGE COLLECTION
Claude Lockhart Clark
Each individual European carving tool is designed with a single purpose or single use in mind. These hand tools are not multitasks. The blades of each tool are firmly fixed to a handle or shaft and should not be removed. European tools are single edged, single side sharpened. The handles and blades are adapted for short reaching.Most African woodcarving tools are multi-purpose, double edged sharpened or single edged sharpened (see illustration #). Occasionally African woodcarving blades are sharpened on both sides, that is, top and bottom of a blade (double sided sharpening). African handles and metal blades are adapted to extended reaching so woodcarvers can reach inside deep recesses of their sculptures and trim wood away without their hands blocking a view or getting in the way. Most African blades and handles will separate, including knives if their handles are taped hard enough. Return to Cover Page
Some African woodcarvers do not use many of the tools described earlier in this discussion. A few people in Eastern Nigeria, other parts of Africa and Surinam, South America use a machete for woodcarving.
Most African woodcarvers practice several things in common. Their sculptures are monoliths carved from one single piece of wood. Nothing is glued on. African woodcarving tools are multipurpose instruments. Tool handles and blades are adapted to extended reaching. The carving practice can best be described as Active art, because number one, the material or information used to create the sculpture has been mapped out in the carver's head; thus making it easy to work continuously without interrupting the working process or train of thought. Two, the carving is not clamed in a vice, but can be turned and moved about freely and simultaneously while the wood is being carved. Three, the woodcarver is able to use one hand to hold and move the sculpture, while much of the carving is accomplished with one handed tools held in the other hand. Thus we have an active art. The last item common to most African art is that the creative process is socially motivated and the end product serves a social function.
The terms "adz, axe and chisel" should almost never be used in reference to African carving tools. There are no words in European languages, which correctly name the items illustrated and discussed in this chapter. For clarification and understanding of African woodcarving tool technocracy, only African terms should be used.
Museum historians and anthropologists, ignorant of African tool technocracy as well as African culture, constantly misinform their readers as to the meaning, use, appearances, and scope of this tool industry. Poor judgement, faulty museum displays, falsely written material all due to human error are the chief culprits of misinformation. Return to Cover Page
African hand carving tools can still be employed in today's wood working industry to carve beams, columns, solid doors, screens, fence post, hand rails, parts to furniture, eating utensils, cutting boards, cabinets, stools, chairs, masks, tables, lamp columns, boxes, bowls, walking sticks, trays, urns, and musical instruments.
African hand carving tools are perhaps faster and more productive than any other non-machine carving tools known to humans. These tools can be employed where electric power tools are not needed or in areas where an electric power source is not available. Evidence of this practice can be seen in the airport art industry throughout Africa. By opening new avenues of exploration, African woodcarving can be moved to higher levels in applied arts industry. Return to Cover Page