Spartan Spotlight #10: Jeff Caudill, Artist / Musician 11 November 2020
We were thrilled to catch up with a true renaissance man, Jeff Caudill from the bands Gameface and Low Coast to discuss his passion for... woodworking, of course! In the interview he discusses his interest in the craft, creative intersections between different mediums of art, and the perfect woodworking playlist. Enjoy!
When did your interest in wood carving begin?
I inherited a few tools and a decent work bench in my garage since my dad passed away in 2012 but only started using them a few years ago. My dad was really good at carving. He did more of your standard whittling and 3D type stuff. I was into painting and drawing when I was young but I let my skills go over the years while working as a graphic designer. I tried to get back into it but just don’t have the patience anymore. Photoshop is much more forgiving than oil painting. A few years ago I gave carving a shot and it clicked immediately. I don’t do the same type of work my dad did but I still think of it as a way to honor his memory.
What about working with wood interests you?
There’s a lot of physicality involved with making something out of wood. It’s more substantial than drawing on paper or painting on canvas and more rewarding for me. The process and the smell, etc. It’s similar to why I prefer vinyl over CDs or digital music.
From a creative standpoint, are there any similarities in how you approach both wood carving and songwriting?
Good question. I think I am a minimalist when it comes to both mediums. With songwriting, I think about ways to be efficient. How I can say what I want to say with the least amount of words, cutting away the superfluous? My woodcarving is the same way. It’s very stark and graphic. I only need to show the important details.
Can you talk about the types of tools you're using for this type of work?
It’s all chisels and gauges. And an x-acto knife. No power tools. And a fair amount of sandpaper.
Can you describe the type of headspace this kind of work puts you in?
These days, my idea of a good time is going out to the garage, turning on some mellow jams and getting my carve on. My breathing slows down and my mind wanders. My hands just know what to do. It’s my version of yoga or meditation.
What bands/songs are on your woodworking playlist?
It’s usually a good mix of acoustic based stuff. Some of the old Laurel Canyon scene — Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Buffalo Springfield and Tom Petty with some newer folk rock like Jason Isbell, Ryley Walker, Avett Brothers, etc.
For a total novice interested in the craft, where/how should they begin?
I’d suggest getting a set of gouges and slab of basswood and just start choppin’. I use pine because I like the grain and it’s a little more dense but I’ve heard that basswood is the preferred type for woodcarving. I’ve watched a few YouTube videos on the process but most of what I do has just come from trial and error. I think that finding your own way is just as important and satisfying as finding the right way.
Are there any particular carving projects that you're particularly proud of?
I’m used to working on projects no bigger than an LP cover but I recently had the opportunity to do a huge wall piece. It was easily 10 times the scale of what I’m used to doing. I had to buy some larger gauges and a lot more wood stain. I was actually really nervous about it when I started. It was like climbing a mountain. I had to plan it out and just do a small section each day. It took me about 6 weeks. It was an exercise in patience and perseverance and it came out great.