Like most artists, Russ Aikins doesn’t consider his work a mere hobby; it’s a passion. That’s why it took him more than 20 years to create a wooden relief carving of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” Aikins unveiled his piece on July 1 at First United Methodist Church in Plano, TX.
“I don’t know how many thousands of hours it has taken,” Aikins said, adding he had no idea what he was in for when he began working on the carving. “I quit counting at 1,000 hours when I finally just said enough is enough. In the last four years I have been working out of a violin shop in downtown Plano because I was having a hard time focusing and freeing up time to work when I was at home. Since then, I have spent about four hours each afternoon when I have been in town.”
Now 70, Aikins began his wood work in 1988. For the complicated, specialized carving, he used about 170 carving tools, including some he made by hand when store-bought tools wouldn’t allow him to complete a necessary step in the process. The carving features 54 individual figures, which are carved out of 4-inch thick basswood. Aikins said the first step was drawing the outline of the people onto the wood, and then clearing away large amounts of wood to get a rough outline of the subjects. Then, it was countless hours of detail work using progressively finer carving tools to get to the finished project. He said all of the work was done by hand, and no sanding was involved in getting the people to have a smooth finish.
The result is simply spectacular. Also check out this video about Aikins’ project.