Recent Events

SWG at the Illawarra Festival of Wood

13 & 14 October 2018 – The Sydney Woodcarving Group was excited to exhibit and demonstrate at the Illawarra Festival of Wood this year.  The turn out and atmosphere at the Festival was fantastic.  Several members demonstrated their whittling and traditional woodcarving skills, whereas others the fine art of pyrography.

There were plenty of activities to enjoy over the two days, including numerous wood related workshops, chainsaw carving demonstrations, as well as many woodworking products on display and/ or being demonstrated, with most being offered for sale.

Many SWG members sold various of their woodcarvings or pyrography items, and it must be stated, at very reasonable prices.  Not to forget, the many packaged woodcarving project kits, containing a pre-cut Jelutong wooden blank and a prefabricated sanding stick, as handed out freely by SWG members to keen young members of the attending public.

Overall, it was a great event and we look forward to attending again next year.



SWG at the Trend Timbers Open Day

13 & 14 April 2018 – The Sydney Woodcarving Group enjoyed participating in the Trend Timbers Open Day at Mulgrave with demonstrations of woodcarvings and presented a good display of members workpieces.  Members attending the Open Day included Ernie Perkins, Ro Mackie, Patrizia Cocchis, Helen Heaford and Kathryn Honor, David Drake and Peter Kruger.

Tour of Sydney Town Hall

20 March 2018 – Mark Tunstall of our Epping Group once again organised a memorable tour, this time it was a tour of Sydney Town Hall.

Sydney Town Hall was constructed of honey-coloured ‘yellow block’ sandstone quarried from nearby Pyrmont between 1868 and 1889.  Much  of the woodcarving in the building was found on the old original doors, architraves and window surrounds; generally these were all made of Australian Red Cedar.


The tour route included key areas of the building, including the Centennial Hall, Vestibule, Grand Organ, Council Chambers, Lady Mayoress’s Suite, Lord Mayor’s Reception Room and other interesting features, including the Grand Organ.


When it was installed in 1890, Sydney Town Hall’s Grand Organ was the largest in the world and described as the ‘finest organ ever built by an English organ builder’. Today, it continues to enthral organ lovers and audiences, as the Organ is used regularly throughout the year for recitals and concerts, as well as for free organ recitals (generally on Mondays at lunchtime), for dinners and conferences.


The Town Hall Tour was ended with an excellent Burger and Chips at the nearby Sir John Young Hotel.  Needless to say, the tour was very much enjoyed by all participants!


Presentation at Shellharbour Public Hospital

23 February 2018 – The Sydney Woodcarving Group (Shellharbour Branch) donated $5000 to the Shellharbour Public Hospital, raised by the sale of a hand carved guitar and a pod of five large sized dolphins. The monies raised were used to purchase an Airvo Unit for Accident & Emergency, used to administer oxygen, in various ways, to patients for emergency use in the wards. The event was attended by the Manager and Staff from the Ladies Auxiliary Team and members from the Shellharbour branch of the Group.


Anzac Day Ceremony

21 April 2017 The ceremony event was held at the premises of our Shellharbour group in conjunction with the Aboriginal Mens Group. It was followed by a sausage sizzle where our members were invited to join the Mens Group which was much appreciated.

Two rosemary bushes were planted to mark the event.

2nd Scottie Dog Whittling Workshop

8 April 2017 – We had a great turn-up at the Scottie Dog Whittling Workshop held at Chester Hill today, presented by Terry Elkins of our Shellharbour group. Starting at 10 am sharp, Terry did a marvelous job by showing us the very basics of whittling, not only what knife and wood to use, the ins and outs of necessary knife sharpening, safety gloves and thumb shields, but also how to do the various types of cuts.

The first exercise he gave us to perform was carving a cylinder out of pre-prepared square lengths of jelutong wood. Then we were asked to make a barbers spiral on the cylinder, not as easy as it sounds, if going by the seriousness of the participants is anything to go by! Then, finally, we got started on the pre-cut Scottie Dog blanks, also in jelutong.

By 2pm most had whittled the blank to a stage that the Scottie was starting to come out of the blank, but alas, it was pack up time. Dog to be completed as home work! 

Australia Day Fair at Penrith

26 January 2017 – Sydney Woodcarving Group a great day exhibiting and demonstrating at the Penrith Australia Day Fair; there was much to enjoy, including live aussie rock, much of it in acoustic versions. Bill Longhurst demonstrated his notable fan carving skills that appeared to be much appreciated, judging by the size of crowds that gathered each time he picked up his tools again. Peter Kruger demonstrated relief carving again, this time it was an Acanthus leaf in the Baroque style. As usual, there were many carving exhibits on display for the general public to view at the event.

pen68p pen60p pen54a

Tour of Church Carvings

16 November 2016 – Mark Tunstall of our Epping Branch organised an excellent Tour of Church Carvings recently.  We met at St Mary’s Cathedral where we had an unexpected, but excellent personalized guided tour by the man responsible for all maintenance and upkeep of the Cathedral over the past 40 years.  We were even given exclusive entry into the Bishop’s Sacristy, a very rare treat.  Much of the more recent carving work we saw was undertaken by Laurens Otto during restoration in the 90’s.
After leaving St Mary’s and a brief coffee stop, we arrived at nearby St Andrews Cathedral. Here we saw the the Eagle Lectern that formed the basis for the replacement Bible lectern at St John’s Bishopthorpe, in Glebe. Another unexpected treat here was the performance of live music by a classical pianist and violinist duo.
After St Andrews, we went by bus to St John’s Bishopthorpe, in Glebe, where we inspected the many wood carvings, including the Eagle Bible Lectern at Glebe, as carved by Laurens Otto in the 1990’s.  The Organist there very kindly performed an organ recital for us, as well as explaining the inner workings of the organ and allowing us to inspect all hidden features of the organ.

After all of this, we enjoyed a delightful light lunch on the church lawn ‘en plain air’  before our saying our goodbyes.

Carving Workshop at Shellharbour.

16 September 2016Shellharbour Woodcarvers conducted a Knife Carving Workshop over 2 Fridays in September. It was facilitated by a member of the Shellharbour Group, Terry Elkins.

Much of the preparation work for the Workshop was carried out by other members prior to the workshop, including the sourcing of suitable Art Work of a “Scottish Terrier”, buying timber and cutting blanks out with a bandsaw. Subsequently, handouts were produced covering sharpening techniques, types of knifes to use and the Art Work to be used for the carvings were selected. This early work was important, as the time carving in the Workshop was thereby maximised.

Terry started off the Workshop by discussing the various methods of cuts and the types of knife used. Members started by shaping a square peg into a round peg, then did some Chip Carving using the knife. For the purpose of the day, any carving knife was used, but Terry introduced his favorite knife which he recommended.

There were 17 members were present at the Workshop and it was a very successful two days. This was the second workshop undertaken by Shellharbour Woodcarvers, in a series to be conducted over next 12 months. The first workshop was on Pyrography, facilitated by Shellharbour member, Alyssa, another very successful day. Frank O’Connor indicated that the Group would be looking internally for facilitators in future, rather than go outside, where possible. For further information contact Frank O’Connor.

Trend Timbers Open Day

2 – 3 September 2016Sydney Woodcarving Group attended the Open Day at Trend Timbers with several members attending, including Bill Longhurst, Ernie Perkins, Angela Johnson, Uta Maloney and Peter Kruger.

Two good days with a bus load of woodworkers from the Richmond Terrace area attending on the Saturday.

Telopea Community Fair

27 August 2016Sydney Woodcarving Group attended the Telopea Community Fair again this year with three members exhibiting and demonstrating, Ernie Perkins, Mark Tunstall and Peter Kruger.

Public attendance was good and there were plenty of food stalls to keep the hunger pangs under control. There was considerable interest in the Sydney Woodcarving Group expressed by visitors. All in all, it was a fun affair, with despite the gloomy forecast, the most perfect weather for the last few days of winter.

Totem Pole Project

June 2016 – Shellharbour Woodcarvers have completed the Totem Pole Project undertaken recently for Tarrawanna Public Primary School. The poles chosen were 2.4m long, rectangular in shape and measuring approximately 200mm x 100mm in cross section. There are five Totem Poles, each carved on the front, as well as down both sides.


After discussions with the Principal and Students, it was decided to paint the back of the poles a white colour. The Students range from 1st class to 6th class and, as each class has its own colour, it was decided that each Student would put their hand print on one pole. So over the five poles, all the Students now have covered the poles in class colours.

The reason for painting the pole backs in white is that as each class progresses through the school and leaves, the poles can be painted white again and new pupils put their hand prints on them; it was envisaged this could happen every 5 years.

There was approximately four months of work for the Carvers, with 25 members participating. The Artwork was chosen by the Students and one of the Teachers who coordinated the Project. The Totem Poles are installed in a newly created Nature Garden at the school; the Principal put on a morning tea for Members of the Shellharbour Woodcarvers as a way of saying thanks.

A DVD was filmed from start to finish and can be seen on “You Tube” under the name of ‘ Tarrawanna Public School Totem Pole Project


James Craig Restoration

July 2015 – SWG restored the carving on the original 140 year old ship’s wheel made of solid teak.

Photo 1: James Craig under full sail.

The barque James Craig was built in 1874 in Sunderland, England and was employed carrying cargo around the world, and rounded Cape Horn 23 times in 26 years.  Unable to compete profitably with freight cargo, in her later years the James Craig was used as a collier. Like many other sailing ships of her vintage, she fell victim to the advance of steamships, and was first laid up, then used as a hulk, until eventually being abandoned at Recherche Bay in Tasmania. In 1932 she was sunk by fishermen who blasted a 3-metre hole in her stern. (Ref. Wikipedia).

Restoration of James Craig began in 1972, when volunteers from the ‘Lady Hopetoun and Port Jackson Marine Steam Museum’ (now the Sydney Heritage Fleet) refloated her and towed her to Hobart for initial repairs. Brought back to Sydney under tow in 1981, her hull was placed on a submersible pontoon to allow work on the hull restoration to proceed. Over twenty-five years, the vessel was restored, repaired by both paid craftspeople and volunteers and relaunched in 1997. In 2001 restoration work was completed and she now goes to sea again on a regular basis.

The James Craig is currently berthed at Wharf 7 of Darling Harbour, near the Australian National Maritime Museum.  She is open to the public, and takes passengers sailing on Sydney Harbour and beyond. She is crewed and maintained by volunteers from the Sydney Heritage Fleet (SHF). The James Craig is of exceptional historical value in that she is one of only four 19th century barques in the world that still go regularly to sea. She sails out through the Sydney heads fortnightly, when not on voyages to Melbourne, Newcastle or Hobart.

One item that still needed some restoration work was the ornamental carving on the original 140 year old ship’s wheel made of solid teak.  Due to the routine maintenance activity of scraping back the varnish and grime accumulated on the wheel over the years, the carving had in certain areas almost completely been worn away (see Photo 1).
Photo 1: Detail carving worn away
The Sydney Woodcarving Group (SWG) was contacted by the SHF to see if it was possible to have the carving repaired without impacting negatively on the structural integrity of the wheel.  Peter Kruger of the Epping branch of SWG undertook an initial inspection of the wheel and, as a retired engineer, was confident that the impact of the restoration work on the carving would be insignificant to the overall strength of the wheel.  Shane Nunn, the Shipwright at SHF, requested that one spoke first be restored completely, before further work was undertaken on the rest of the wheel.
Due the the bad weather at the time, the wheel was removed from the ship and placed onto trestles at a suitable location at Wharf 7.  The completed restorative carving of the first spoke is shown in Photo 2 and following inspection Shane Nunn gave the OK to complete the remainder of the work.
Photo 2: First re-carving completed
Photo 3 shows all the carving completed and the existing varnish around the work area scraped back such that the new coating of marine grade wood oil could be blended in.  Photo 4 shows the completed wheel.
Photo 3: Carving completed
Photo 4: Wheel revarnished
All in all it was a great honour to be entrusted to work on this historic ship and to discover that the teak wood of the wheel was absolutely wonderful to carve.
Photo 5: Ships wheel back in place.

At The Timber & Working With Wood Show

June 2015 – It’s part of the annual tradition of the Sydney Woodcarving Group (SWG) to mount a display at the Timber & Working With Wood. This year was no exception as you can see from the samples shown in the photos below.

The group has four meeting places: Chester Hill, Epping, Southside and Shellharbour and novices through to experts are encouraged to join and get together for events and information sharing.

More information at or send an email to


Red cedar platter, John Unwin.

Red cedar platter, John Unwin.


Screen with pyrography by Neville and Alyssa Pike. 

Screen with pyrography by Neville Pike and Alyssa Willstrop.


Graeme Sobels, Collage, carved from driftwood.

Graeme Sobels, Collage, carved from driftwood.


David Crawford, Naked Lady, mahogany.

David Crawford, Naked Lady, mahogany.


Terry Elkins, Mates, painted white beech.

Terry Elkins, Mates, painted white beech.


General view of display.

General view of the SWG display.

The above article originally appeared at on 17 June 2015.