Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Simple Woodspirit Face- Just The Steps In Brief

I thought that it might be beneficial for some new carvers to have access to a very brief look at just the steps which is a supplement to the two videos posted below on carving a simple woodspirit face. This video is a look at the very learning stick that I've been using for the last couple of years for teaching the kids in my woodshop class and Boy Scout woodcarving classes to try their hands at carving a woodspirit face.

Learning sticks are one of the most powerful tools that I have for teaching in my woodcarving class arsenal. If a new aspiring student can actually "see" with thier eyes and actually "feel" the steps in carving with thier hands, then I have found that their confidence in learning a new skill is greatly enhanced by ten fold.

Although it's not like having an "actual" example of carving in your own hands, it is my sincere hope that these videos will still be of some help to those that want to explore their own hands at carving a face. If you want to learn bad enough then you will surely get to a point where you'll want to move to the next level in carving. Don't give up and just stay with it day after day until something "clicks". If you do that then I can almost guarantee that you will eventually have many carvings that will make you proud. "Just carve!"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How To Carve A Simple Woodspirit Face: Part 2

Part 2 of "How To Carve A Simple Woodspirit Face" has been posted. I had to re-shoot one segment that got too messed up but now I'm satisfied and finished it up before this endless rain started. I like to do my videos way out in the woods and sometimes the rain, snow, or cold can put a bit halt on things. Thanks for all the wonderful and inspiring comments on this tutorial from the great folks on the Woodcarving Illustrated Message Board. Those folks are the greatest and have inspired my further carving endeavors since 2004 like no one else has. Thanks gang!

While this particular woodspirit is not exactly an advanced "Pablo Picasso" project, it is focused more on those carvers who would like a great entry level project for trying their hands at carving a face. It's very basic and has been "shop" tested with hundreds of students for more than a decade so I feel confident offering it as such a challenge. If I had only one piece of advice to give a new carver (and only one) I would insist that you carve something every single day. If you find just a few minutes a day then pick up you knife and wood then carve something. It doesn't even have to be a defined project... just carve. Grab a piece of 1" X 1" piece of basswood and just doodle away with your knife. Carve squares, circles, triangles, spirals then invent some of your own designs. That is great practice and you're elevating your carving skills by doing this probably more than you realize. Just carve!

Good luck, have fun, and be safe!

Monday, October 26, 2009

How To Carve A Simple Woodspirit Face: Part 1

I had a lot of fun putting this woodspirit instructional video together yesterday afternoon and I probably spent about 20-25 minutes shooting all the clips. After reviewing them I was amazed that I seemed to be satisfied and that I'd captured most of what I had wanted to say in the least amount of time possible, so I proceeded to "mesh" them all together into two videos that made some kind of sense. YouTube only allows a 10 minute maximum limit so I had to split them into two videos. After uploading the first one I found a flaw in the part 2 video so I'm currently making a correction and will try to get it uploaded later today.

This woodspirit is a great first carving project for the beginning woodcarver and can be considered as an entry-level into faces. I've been using this simple and basic woodspirit face for many years as a teaching tool for helping the students in my woodshop class learn the elements of carving their own. I've been continiously amazed at how so many of my students actually grasp the concept of carving faces as they have produced some wonderful creations of their own over the years. It just takes a lot of practice and a strong desire to "get there".

After presenting some basic information on the different types of cuts most students can use one of my woodspirit learning sticks and do a fairly good job. If you decide to give it a try don't expect to have a masterpiece on the first few attempts. When I first started carving faces in wood I wasn't satisfied until about my 30th one!

Carving faces takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. Study peoples faces while you are at work, at home, or at play and try to understand how all the parts fit together. As I mentioned in the video first carve the nose and the eyes, then base everything else around that and you will be well on your way.

The woodspirit produced in this video was carved from a 1" X 1" piece of basswood. Perhaps in another video I will demonstrate how I carve a woodspirit with more detail such as raised eyebrows, eyes, teeth, tongues, and a variety of emotion and facial expressions. However it is
very important that you first become comfortable with carving this very basic face then you should challenge yourself to the next level. Learning how to finish the face with stain or paint washes is another skill to achieve that is equal by comparison to learning to carve.

In the video I used the "Carvin' Jack" knife made by Flexcut and I just can't say enough good things about it. I'm also planning to do a full review video on it in the near future so please stay tuned.

As always, never-ever compromise your safety. When carving always wear a glove on the non-carving hand and be sure that it's made from a high quality cut resistant material such as Kevlar. If your project isn't clamped or held secure on a table with a vise then be sure to use a lap board to protect your legs. (A piece of 1/2" ply board will work.) Above all be patient and never-ever force your knife. Learn to be safe and carve your project one thin slice at a time until you achieve the correct depth. If you've never had any carving experience then I would strongly suggest that you seek personal instruction from a professional carver and/or study carving manuals such as the Boy Scout Woodcarving merit badge booklet.

Be safe and have fun!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Taking A Look At The Woodshop

This is a quick tour of the camp woodshop where I've been helping kids turn their ideas into a working wooden reality since 1995. With about 50 students each week I estimate that I have around 2,000 kids pass through the shop each year. Holy Cow!

Our camp sits snug deep in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina on 900 acres of beautiful land where the air is clean and the wildlife is abundant. I believe that this great natural environment where the kids wake up to the sounds of squirrels, crows, and a variety of churping birds that the perfect foundation is laid for the best in their creative abilities. Woodshop is a favorite class that is only rarely missed and it is a time to relax and come up with a working plan to turn their ideas into a successful final project.

Perhaps in a future video I will showcase some of the projects that have been created inside our doors. Just about anything that you can imagine has been made here. Simple projects such as boxes of every kind, walking sticks, nameplates,and birdhouses. Some students have spent several months working on more complex projects ranging from multi-compartment boxes to full sized dog houses. I might also mention that we also have a very strong woodcarving program and students can earn their Boy Scout woodcarving merit badge.

Our shop is 32' X 16' and I designed it with two double-doors on each end for easy entry and exit of larger projects and sometimes just to let that mountain sunshine in. I can safely supervise 5 students at a time and find that our shop, although on the small side, is adequate for this group size. This size shop would also make an excellent shop for the home hobbyist and I personally couldn't imagine needing more.

As mentioned I set up this shop and the tools to meet the needs of kids between the ages of 10 and 16 years old. Large stationary power tools that the kids are allowed to use after proper training include scroll saws, drill press, mini-lathe, and a belt/disc sander. On occasion and under strict supervision mature students can be trained on the bandsaw, table saw, thickness planer, and the jointer. Safety is never-ever compromised and we continue to have an excellent safety record going on 15 years now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Soap Carving at Parent-Son Camporee

I don't often have the opportunity to participate with the younger kids in Scouting activities as most of my time is spent with my own Troops success. Fortunately every October the Old Hickory Scout Council sponsors two Parent-Son Camporee weekends at the 3,200 acre Scouting paradise in northwestern North Carolina known to us as Camp Raven Knob.

The Camporee is a great opportunity for the Cubs who are about 6 to 10 years old to have an excellent outdoor camping experience with their parents and Cub leaders in a safe, fun, and educational environment. They can test their skills at shooting BB guns, archery, and slingshots in addition to making a personalized walking stick, scurrying up a 30 foot climbing tower, fishing on the lake, or attend a soap carving class.

In the video above I have described my experience at leading the soap carving class where Bear Cubs had an exciting opportunity to earn their "Whittling Chip" cards and obtain their Shavings and Chips Achievement #19 in the Bear handbook.

This was the first Camporee that I've attended and I was immediately asked to lead the Whittling Chip class after the regular instructor canceled out for the event. The experience ended up being one of the most enjoyable experiences of the year for me! I was caught a little off guard when asked to lead the class during the first Camporee because I only had a couple of hours to prepare. I then had two weeks to prepare for the next class and as the video shows, I invented a very effective carving knife for the Ivory soap fashioned from Popsicle sticks which have a two inch blade on one end and a nifty scooper-scraper on the other end for detail work.

I also started the class with a 20-25 minute lecture, discussion, and question period on pocket knife safety, carving methods, how to sharpen a knife, and a show-and-tell on many different carving ideas. Once again I was so humbled and impressed with the respectful attention and participation of all the kids and parents during this pre-carving time. These folks, both young and old, were really interested in what I had to offer. I would also like to thank all of the parents and Cub leaders who were there with their Cubs which was the real key to their sons' successful carving experience after I had planted the seed.

All of the classes were a great success and I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the kids to make a unique soap creation of their own, some of which are showcased in the video. We went through 234 bars of Ivory soap during the two Camporees and including the supportive parents and leaders I estimated that a total of 350-400 folks must have attended the carving class and that's impressive when you consider that BB guns, archery, slingshots, and fishing were also on their minds.

In conclusion it was my goal for everyone to have a safe, a fun, and a new learning experience. Finding ways for kids to have a lot of positive experiences in a safe environment has become a tall order in a time where gangs, negative mass media, and broken families present a challenge like never before. If you're a parent and have risen to the challenge of putting kids first no matter what, then I commend you for ensuring the success and happiness of the next generation. You are the real heroes of this generation.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bald Headed Woodspirit Walking Stick

Here's another very popular walking stick that I've been carving pretty regularly for about five years now. This type of woodspirit adds a somewhat much fuller "3-D" face that extends around all sides of the stick top. The top few inches of this sourwood stick were slightly twisted and thus added an additional nice
A :en:sweet chestnut forest in the swiss alps(...Image via Wikipedia
look to the woodspirit face.

Carving a more complete face on the top of a walking stick does add an exciting new challenge especially if you're accustomed to the one-sided woodspirit faces. Attempting the the full head will take your carving to the next level so go ahead and give it a try! In doing so I would first suggest that you do a search and study some bald heads and especially look at the rear side where the skull dips back to the inside toward the back and shoulders.

The stick ended up bringing in $44.00 at our annual fundraiser auction in September so the money went to a good cause and I also know that "Baldy" has a new good home for many years to come.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's a Yellow Submarine!

After a carving a hippy walking stick I thought that I'd stay on topic with this posting. Well, it's not exactly wood or wood carving but it is a bit of creative art.

About 5 years ago I had an idea to turn our propane tank into a classic Beatles Yellow Submarine as taken from their eleventh album release "Yellow Submarine" back in 1966 when I was just 10 years old.

Anyhow, the paint was finally fading and the sub most definitely yearned for a face lift so I spent a day last week doing just that. I used an oil based enamel which did well on the tank and holds up good to the blistering weather, year after year.
Yellow Submarine album coverImage via Wikipedia
Now it's once again a bright and shiny part of our daily life and a popular spot to have your picture taken.

This was another fun little project that didn't take a lot of time to design and complete but now adds a lot of spirit (and a few laughs) to everyone's day where what was once just a plane white and boring propane tank that had no other purpose other than to supply fuel for hungry indoor appliances. Now it's a Yellow Submarine!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Carving a Hippy Walking Stick

I still have quite a few carvings that I haven't had time for posting but I'm getting them up as fast as time allows. The video above is about a hippy walking stick that I carved a month ago for our annual fundraiser auction and fierce bidding to the very last seconds brought in $65.00 from the new owner.

I've carved tons of woodspirit and Indian walking sticks over the years but suddenly this idea to
Russian Rainbow Gathering.Image via Wikipedia
carve a hippy walking stick hit me and what a lot of fun that it ended up becoming! The further the carving went along the more hilarious that it seemed to get as you can see from the colored bead necklace and the love beads that I added to the wrist strap.

Other than the idea to carve a "hippy" this is one of those projects that sort of invented itself and my carving hands just happened to be there for the ride. :) I used a nice red maple stick that I'd been curing for about 8 months and it was a pure pleasure to carve. Usually I opt to remove the bark from maple but it showed every sign of being very firmly attached so I left it on although when doing so I always lightly sand it with 220 grit, steel wool, then I rub in a very thin coating of polyurethane and shine it up "wet" until it leaves the bark with a very desirable flat luster of a shine. The new owner of the stick expressed the utmost satisfaction from how I'd applied the finish and wondered how I did it.

I finished the hippy with thinned acrylic paints that were carefully layered with Krylon acrylic
sealer. I'll be making more of these in the future!

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Carving a Nametag For My Scout Uniform

Here's a little video/slideshow that I put together on how I made a nametag for my Scout uniform. It's a great little project that I just completed last week and now folks can easily see who I am at all the Scout gatherings.

I used a thin 1/8" thick piece of scrap basswood that measured 3" X 1-1/2". It was a pleasure to carve but a project this small requires some intense concentration and patience. After the carving
boy scout badgeImage by Leo Reynolds via Flickr
was completed I then did some background texturing with my woodburning pen which added a nice touch. Next, I very carefully painted it with simple acrylics watered down slightly then I attached a pin on the rear side with contact cement. When everything was good and dry I sealed it with a flat satin polyurethane.

I enjoyed wearing it to our last scouting event and it got a lot of compliments... especially from those (everyone else) who were wearing those standard factory stamped nametags. Nothing like personalizing a nametag that is custom made by you for a unique woodcarving project on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Happy carving!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Parent/ Son Camporee Weekend

There wasn't a cloud in the sky last Saturday when more than a thousand scouts, scouters, cubs, and their parent(s) met at Camp Raven Knob for the annual Parent/Son Camporee. This event is specially planned for the smaller Tiger, Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, and Webelo Scouts between the ages of 6 and 10 so you can just imagine the the vast amount of energy that was raring to be released and this 3,200 acre Scout reservation fills the bill every time for that calling!

The main events and activities occurred on Saturday which included three VERY popular shooting experiences. The longest lines were at the BB rifle range and the archery range where your hand/eye coordination could be well tested. Safety is always the most important aspect at any shooting event and I was impressed with the attention given to being sure that there were no accidents and that every boy enjoyed these great activities. The third shooting event was at the slingshot range where target pans were lined up and personal instruction was given to each individual child on how to properly hold, load, and
shoot a real slingshot.

At other parts of camp there were many other activities offered which included two (yes TWO) climbing walls. Boys love to climb so not too many Cubs missed these great experiences as they "monkeyed" themselves to heights of 30 feet on the tower where they could press a wild sounding buzzard to signal their achievement and an applause from the by-standers. These kids felt like a million dollars with their achievement and all of the positive attention. Great stuff!

There were also hikes up a very steep trail to "The Knob" where one of the most panoramic views of northern Surry County was the reward. This was a somewhat difficult hike with a 900 foot elevation gain but the views were worth it as my video below shows with great clarity. Cubs earned a nice pin for their hike. See a video of the view that I shot during the day by clicking the video below:

Leading all of the events were about 35 Order of the Arrow Wahissa Lodge 118 members who take great pride in volunteering and making sure that these events are safe and successful . I enjoyed leading the Whittling Chip station where more than a hundred Cubs and probably two hundred parents and leaders attended my classes on soap carving. It was a great experience for the kids to try their hands at shaping a bar of Ivory soap and I had boats, canoes, crosses, names, fishes, and you-name-it as carving projects and they did a great job thus earning their Whittling Chip card. I greatly appreciated the help of scouts Chris and Noah who provided me with a lot of support.

Other events included making a personalized decorated walking stick, fishing in the lake, visiting the Scout Museum, and a great fur display and trapping demonstration by representatives from the North Carolina Trappers Association. The day was a great success an
Cub Scouting (Boy Scouts of America)Image via Wikipedia
d I anxiously await the next event.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Chainsawed Bald Eagle

I just posted a video slide show of a bald eagle chainsaw carving that I did in September. I've never attempted an eagle by chainsaw before so I thought that I'd give it a try. I used a bald eagle walking stick that I carved 5 or 6 years ago as a reference since my eagles sometimes tend to look more like parrots. (HA).
He is an injured bald eagle now living at the ...Image via Wikipedia

I used a well seasoned yellow pine log that was about 4' tall and it worked out just great. After roughing I completed smoothing it up with my regular carving tools which also included the eyes. This was a nice challenge since my talent lies more with the mystical and fantasy side of carving rather than the "realistic".

At our annual fundraiser auction this eagle went for $95.00 which was a fair price. However, I might concentrate on my black bear chainsaw art more since that one posted here brought $270.00!