Student Spotlight: Lucas – Profile of a Young Carver

Give a Kid a Knife...

Last week I wrote about why you should consider giving your kid a knife. This week I want to show you the end result of that potential gift: you just might inspire that kid to become a carver! 

As a Trackers parent myself, I have often wondered, “Will this skill my kid is learning at Trackers stay with them?” Ten years ago my then 6-year-old daughter did a Trackers archery camp where she carved herself a beautiful wooden bow. During camping trips over the rest of that summer, she taught her younger cousins to make easy bow and arrow sets using sticks and string, which they used for target practice for hours of entertainment. In another Trackers camp, my son learned to build a fire in the rain, a skill he still uses whenever he goes camping with college friends here in the rainy Pacific Northwest.

Yep, Trackers teaches skills that stick. Take 15-year-old Lucas, as another example. Lucas has been going to Trackers homeschool classes every Wednesday for the last ten years. His mom and sister are serious crafters and for several years now Lucas has joined them, making crafts using his favorite Trackers skill: wood carving.

Lucas, carver, age 15

A few days ago I sat down with Lucas in his backyard carving spot and asked him a few questions about his passion:

Michelle: When did you start using a knife? 

Lucas: I was 6 years old. That was when I started taking classes at Trackers and learning how to use a knife. For years I did Homeschool Wednesdays at Trackers. I’d go every week and do different things. We used knives a lot—to carve, to start fires, and to build shelters.  

M: Where did you learn how to carve? 

L: I learned the carving basics at Trackers, but when I really started getting into it, I kind of taught myself how to do more and got more artistic with it. I learned a lot just from practice. I also looked at pictures of other people’s carvings to see what a piece looked like when it was done. That was helpful.

M: Did you like it right away?

L: Yeah, I did. But I wasn’t always good at it. It took a lot of practice. And I didn’t start making cool stuff until about three years ago when I was twelve. That’s when I started making spoons and knives and the other things I carve now.

M: What do you like to carve?

L: Mostly I make spoons. That’s my favorite. Actually yesterday I just finished my first bowl. I used some new gouges I got for my birthday and it took a while, but it turned out pretty good. I also carve butter knives and small salt bowls with spoons. My friend’s dad, who’s a bartender, asked me to make him a muddler. That turned out pretty good too. I like to carve designs as well. Some of my spoons have faces or feathers on the handle.

A few of Lucas’s spoon designs.

M: What tools do you use for carving?

L: Here are the basic carving tools that I use to make my spoons, bowls, and other stuff. Most of my carving tools go in this leather bag, which I can bring with me wherever I want to carve.

  • Hatchet
  • Carving knife
  • Hook knife
  • Gouger
  • Sandpaper
  • Knife sharpener

Lucas’s carving tools & the bag he carries them in, plus the new gouges he got for his birthday.

M: What is your carving process?

L: First I find the wood I want to work with. I look for the shape of the thing I want to carve in the wood, then I draw it out on the wood. My hatchet is really useful for cutting off big pieces and getting them to a rough shape. Then I use my knife and gougers to do the fine cutting, to make it nice. After it’s carved, I smooth it with sandpaper and then oil it. That’s the last step. 

1) Find wood.

2) Envision the carvings and draw the shapes.

3) Cut rough shapes using a hatchet.

4) Do fine cuts with a knife and gouger.

5) Sand and oil to finish.

M: What is it that you like about carving?

L: I don’t know… it’s fun to see a block of wood and then turn it into something that you made. Something different than just a block of wood. Carving takes a while, but if you stick with it you can make things that are pretty and you can be proud of. I also like that I can carve anywhere. Usually, I carve at home, in my house, or in my backyard. But I also carve when we’re out in nature, like when we go camping. Carving is a very portable activity.

Carving at Waldo Lake

M: Does carving give you skills that are useful in other parts of your life?

L: Carving has helped me be more creative. Knowing how to do different things, having different skills, is good. I also think carving has strengthened my concentration and focus. Carving is something to do that I enjoy. I can do it with my family or by myself. I can do it inside or outside. I can even carve while I’m watching a show.

M: What other skills have you learned at Trackers?

L: I’ve learned all kinds of things at Trackers. We make fires. I can do that. Bow drills. I can do that. We’ve made some cool shelters. Archery, tracking, camouflage. My favorite thing besides carving is making fires and bow drills, which are kind of the same thing. I like to make campfires when I go camping with my family.

When I’m at Trackers I really like going somewhere every week and just being outside. All my teachers have been good. They’ve taught me a lot and I trust what they are teaching me. I think I’ve learned skills that I’ll keep with me as I get older. And just being outside has made me like being outside. I think some people don’t go outside very much and then when they do they think it’s weird. Trackers has helped me really enjoy being outside. 

M: What else do you like doing outside?

L: I like being out in nature because it’s quiet and kind of peaceful. And it’s fun to do stuff out in nature with my family. We go skiing, hiking, and camping. We also do a lot of kayaking and paddle boarding together on lakes and rivers. 

M: Do you think parents should give their kids a knife?

L: I think it’s a good idea for kids to have knives. They are useful. I don’t really think you should have to wait until they’re a certain age. It’s more important to judge for yourself if your kid has the focus and can pay attention and listen. ‘Cause it is a tool and it’s sharp and I have cut myself a lot. So you have to learn how to do it. You can’t just start all by yourself—it’s too hard to teach yourself from the very beginning. You need to find someone who knows how to carve to teach you. I think the best way to learn is how I learned: take a carving class at Trackers. 

M: What do you do with your carvings?

L: For the past few years I’ve sold my wood carvings at craft fairs with my family. My mom and sister also make handmade stuff. But this year because of Covid-19 there aren’t many craft fairs happening so I started an Etsy shop called HandCarvedPDX. I also sell my carvings in my sister’s Etsy shop called NaturallyFun

Spoons, bowl, salt holder & spoon, & even more spoons made by Lucas.

Lucas & Siena: Trackers Kids, artists and entrepreneurs

Some of Siena’s handmade crafts.

Check out more of Lucas’s beautiful hand-carved spoons, knives, and bowls at HandCarvedPDX. His sister Siena, another Trackers Kid, also has tons more hand-made crafts at NaturallyFun. If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect holiday gift, consider giving a handmade artistic and functional gift created by a talented Trackers kid!