Friday, November 27, 2009

WIP: A Thanksgiving Woodspirit Marathon (Part 1)

 WIP= "Work in progress"

Thanksgiving was a little different this year as I have been engaged in a planned carving marathon to produce 4 premium sourwood woodspirit walking sticks. I chose the wood from my best drying stock and these four sticks were cut last March giving them an approximate drying time of about 8 months.

The pictures on the left show the sticks just after the initial roughing-out phase which is my method for starting all of my walking sticks. During this phase I first cut the stick to 58" long then lightly sand the bark then seal everything with as thin a layer of polyurethane that  I can possibly rub on.

Next the stick goes in the vise where I use my larger carving tools and mallet to rough-out the basic face features and hair. As the photos to the left indicate this leaves nothing much more than eye wells, a square nose & forehead but you get the point.

From this point forward I can then manage the remainder of the carving with the stick in my hands while using my smaller palm carving tools to develop and to refine the details. Some folks seem to be quite successful carving the entire stick while held in the vise but after the roughing out I like to carve them in my hands where I do a considerable bit of flipping, turning, and other acrobatic-like maneuvers to get the effect that I like. I suppose that the correct method of carving is doing whatever works best for you.

The picture to the right is the progress made up to this point and the woodspirit faces are now ready for a finish. As you can see I am also putting on a strip of five animal tracks just below the faces which has become the norm for my spirit sticks during the last 5 or 6 years. At this point I only have them sketched out on a portion of the stick that I cleared of bark using the shaving horse, then sanding to a fine finish. The tracks on this series of sticks include bobcat, raccoon, opossum, skunk, mink, beaver, muskrat, coyote, red & grey fox, whitetail deer, and black bear. It takes a lot of focus to paint the tracks onto the stick with black acrylic paint but the end result after a polyurethane glossing is a stunning compliment to the woodspirit face.

I will post the completed sticks just as soon as they're finished. Meantime, have a great Thanksgiving.


  1. Wow! Those spirit sticks look incredible. Nice work. -Mark

  2. whoa thats cool