Our artist, Eric L Knowlton, suffered a stroke in March of 2016 after a series of surgeries. He continues therapy and hopes to regain his ability to produce carvings but currently is no longer able to take any commissions. Heidi (Eric's wife) will be selling off works created prior to the stroke, and will continue producing our lines of resin castings which are exact reproductions of Eric's original wood carvings. This is a family business, and while this is a setback, we hope Eric will be able to work at some time in the future. If you would like to donate to the family to assist in this difficult time, you can send donations to our GoFundMe campaign (www.gofundme.com) Donations can also be made by paypal here:
Question: How long does it take to carve a fish?
Answer: It can take anywhere from 6 – 8 hours to over 100 hours to carve a fish. It all depends on the size, shape and amount of detail. One thing Eric does that takes longer is to burn/imprint all the scales on a fish carving. Yes, it takes much longer than other methods, but the results speak for themselves, setting his carvings above the average fish carving. It can take 1/3 of the overall time of carving and painting just in burning the scales in. Another area that can increase the time is to carve all the interior mouth detail. While it seems like it may not be seen often, it really adds to the lifelike presentation of a carving.
Question: What type of wood do you use?
Answer: Typically kiln dried basswood. We find kiln dried basswood will hold its shape and takes detail nicely. Other woods used are tupelo and juletong, though these are less available in the Pacific Northwest.
Question: What tools do you use to carve the fish?
Answer: Eric uses a 14″ Delta bandsaw to cut out all the outlines. From there, it’s on to the Mastercarver flexshaft tools. The flexshaft is like using a big crayon with a high speed router bit attached, and takes some getting used to. Eric prefers this flexshaft to Foredom and other brands as it has more power and is easy to maintain. Power tools are essentially safer than traditional knives and chisels. He prefers Saburr carving bits, Iwata airbrushes and the Mastercarver Micro-Combo carving/burner unit for all the fine detail. Just like any painter or furniture craftsman will tell you, the painting is only as good as the surface it’s going over. Sanding, sometimes for hours by hand, gives the final shape to all the details, ready to seal and paint. Eric feels that tools are in the same category as boats and fly rods… you can never have too many!
Question: Do you seal your carvings?
Answer: Always, and in layers. Green wood is a poor choice for wood carvings that are going to be painted and sealed. This is another reason for the kiln dried wood. The final carving, after all the scales are burned in and all sanding completed, is sealed with a wet coat of lacquer sanding sealer. This is allowed to dry overnight, and then sanded smooth again, then sealed with a coat of B-I-N shellac based primer. This is the best primer that we have found – Eric learned about it nearly 20 years ago while working for a painter. It blocks color, staining, moisture and provides a superior base for paint to adhere to. Finally, after all the painting is done, several light coats of clear lacquer are use to gloss the fish carving. He prefers lacquer as it can be repaired later if necessary.
Question: What type of paint do you use?
Answer: We use LifeTones lacquer based paints, Shiva oil sticks and a variety of acrylic paints. The way we apply the paint is how we get the results we are known for, using both airbrush and hand brushing in details. On a large commission fish, hours are spent detailing each and every scale with iridescent colors.
Question: Why are your prices for commissioned fish higher than taxidermy?
Answer: Commissioned carvings are unique in that they are not a ‘production’ item; each commissioned fish is patterned after the clients specifications. Whether it is of a fish the client caught or of a sculpture the client requests, this takes the full attention of the artist to create the composition, work with the client to fine tune the details and finally, the many hours to carve and paint the fish and habitat. Even at this pricing structure, due to the amount of time involved, the labor costs are not much more than any typical trade. And if for any reason the commission sale is not completed by the client, then the artist is ‘stuck’ with a carving to sell – not as easy as it may seem, considering it is a custom item, carved for a specific clients tastes.
However, since it IS a unique sculpture, it also increases the value. If price is a concern, you might want to consider a half body fish carving, which is more along the pricing of a typical taxidermy replica mount. The carving is still an heirloom quality, and it will match your fish instead of getting a ‘close enough’ fiberglass replica of a fish killed by someone else.
Question: What is the turn around time for a fish carving?
Answer: That depends on a few things. Our in stock carvings ship within a week of the order date, while a fish portrait or commissioned fish carving can take anywhere from 4 to 18 months (depending on back order). Our goal is to keep the custom work limited to prevent such long delays, as we’ve had some experience with this when we first started the studio. Any item in the giftshop or other regularly available carvings will ship within 5 business days (in stock) or within 6 weeks (backorder) and you will be notified of any delay. Commissioned fish carvings will be quoted an approximate due date at the time of order. Please contact us before placing a deposit if you need to meet a specific time frame.
Question: Do you offer discounts?
Answer: Retail outlets and collectors often ask us this question. We do have a discount structure for non custom orders, however, minimum orders are required. Please contact us if you are interested in becoming a dealer or placing a multi-piece order.
If you have any questions we may have missed, please feel free to contact us anytime. Thank you!
scroll down to see multiple projects – you can click on a slide show to see larger images
Atlantic Salmon grilse 24″ wood carving – the process
Arctic Grayling 15″ wood fish carvings for Montana Arctic Grayling Recovery Program
Trout wood fish carving steps
Maine brook trout wood fish carving – commissioned to recreate the clients trophy trout from just a photo!