Last weekend I pulled down a fine red maple stick that's been curing in the shed for more than 5 years so it was well seasoned and begging to be carved. It was one of my smaller sticks measuring 56" tall but only 1" diameter at the top. As more carving years roll off behind me I seem to be carving small things more and more. Perhaps it's an effort to perfect my micro carving skills or since I'm getting older perhaps it's just my attempt to better understand the intricacies of my own life and how I fit into it. Whatever the reason this project is going to be another one of my efforts to better understand carving in the small.
For beginners I knew that I wanted to perch a brightly colored ladybug on the top of my stick and at some point I'd like to do one with a frog ready to jump, but today it will be the sweet little ladybug and I'll have to save the frog for a rainy day. Gosh, who can deny the intrinsic beauty of that rounded coat of orange and black spots? Ladybugs have always captivated my imagination and scientists also say that they are very beneficial to agriculture but they also have a dark side. Each spring they find their way into my old house by the hundreds (possibly thousands?) thus a battle of the bugs begin. I swat them from the ceiling with my broom, spray them in the windows in a desperate effort to control the madness, and occasionally I spit them from my mouth while eating my cereal... but I always get through it and survive another day. Yes, they can be darn pests' also!
If you enlarge the picture above by clicking on it you will better see how I first sketched an outline of the ladybug on the top of my stick with a pencil, then began removing the waste wood with my jack knife using a repeated stop cut and push cut. Right from the beginning there was no doubt that this piece of well seasoned red maple was some kind of hard. Sometimes I love carving into the harder woods because it slows down my cuts to a crawl forcing me to just enjoy the carving process on a higher level and the slower cuts slow down my mistakes giving me more time to contemplate each cut. For some reason I find a deep satisfaction from this kind of carving.
After rounding the body and adding the legs I just lightly sanded the rough carving with a piece of fine grit 220 sandpaper but not too much as I want the beauty of the cut wood to show. Next I will add the finer details of the ladybug and that's where all of the pictures of this beautiful little insect come in handy. I've been collecting pictures of ladybugs for many years and have a nice collection to study so I'll now try and get those wings, eyes, and spots embedded just right. So far I like how it's turning out and I'll post the next update soon which will include the paint work and perhaps I'll add something else to the stick. Maybe a few green leaves would be nice underneath this ladybug? We'll see.
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