Fine Woodworking

Saving the Whales

September/October 1981

Saving the WhalesI guess I’ve always loved whales, ever since as a kid I watched Moby Dick sink the Pequod. There was justice! But where is the great white whale when we need him most? I’m saddened that my sculptures may outlast their living counterparts.


All my whales are anatomically correct, and are carved from walnut slabs, 6 in. thick, air-dried for 30 years.


After bandsawing to make the initial side and top-profile cuts, I work with hand tools: spokeshaves, rasps, rifflers, files, gouges and lots of sandpaper. I strive for a continuity of surface, and the sense of touch is often more important than sight. If an object feels right, it usually looks right. Symmetry is another concern, although I don’t use calipers or other measuring devices.
It may take up to 100 hours to complete an individual whale, depending on the species. Killer and blue whales have a more hydrodynamic shape, simpler from nose to tail, whereas the sperm, with its bulbous head and ripply back, and the hump¬back, with its bumpy nose and ribbed body, demand more attention. Scale also varies, depending on the species. The pieces here range from 21 in. to 33 in. long.

—John C. Jackson, Chalfont, Pa