Sunday, January 31, 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow,.. Let It Snow!

Seems like I was just here talking about the big snow of 2009.  Looks like it's a double header this winter since the North Carolina mountains got hit with another blizzard yesterday, leaving behind anywhere from 10" to 14" in our area depending on where the measurement was taken. I attempted to build another snowman but this snow was more dry-like and "powdery" so I couldn't get it to stick together. Looks like a walk in the woods was my only other option so I grabbed a few emergency survival items, put on a pair of good snow boots, then took off to the woods for a climb up the mountain behind my house.

I shot this first video just as I reached the summit of the mountain.

The second video is my favorite and it's a good example of stumbling upon the unexpected while hiking in the woods. I had broken away from the beaten trail heading straight down the mountain on one of my favorite ridges when suddenly this pileated woodpecker swooped down out of nowhere screaming his bloody-murder yell. For a minute I thought that he was going to attack me like something out of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" but he just wanted me to leave the area where a very big feast was taking place and this bird didn't want to share! Anyhow, the video below will explain everything.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Kid's Education - Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

I've said it before and I'll say it again... it is more and more apparent that our schools are failing to reach boys in the classroom. According to this article in the Washington Times nearly 58 percent of bachelor's degrees and 62 percent of associate's degrees go to women. That is a sad statistic for the future well-being of the country and the eventual consequences will be paid by all if a correction isn't put on fast forward soon.

Could it only be coincidental that at the same time of these alarming statistics our schools nationwide are also cutting hands-on and adventure/experiential education programs from the curriculum? If your child is attending a public school with a strong hands-on program then it's probably the exception these days. Strong education programs are most likely found in private schools because these institutions very survival depends on "real" results. Growing up I also never experienced a woodshop program during any grade through twelve but fortunately I had a dad who not only had a strong interest in woodwork but he also had his own sawmill, so I wasn't left behind by missing these valuable childhood experiences. Most kids today aren't as fortunate as I was.

For the time being parents might need to take matters into their own hands when it comes to a full-circle eduction program for their children. You don't have to be a professional woodworker, woodcarver, or a marathon runner to be effective but it is important to have an intense interest in learning together with your children. There are tons of how-to books and magazine articles available on woodworking and woodcarving projects that you could achieve together. With even basic search skills you can find enough wood oriented projects  for a lifetime by browsing  the internet.

Adventure/experiential education is another critical area that every boy should have exposure before and during their teen years so if you're not a fanatical long distance hiker, paddler, or bicycler like me, then may I suggest the Scouts. The Boy Scouts offer one of the best youth programs in the world providing parents and their sons an opportunity to learn together valuable hands-on/adventure skills from woodcarving to camping. The Boy Scouts will be celebrating 100 years of Scouting in America during 2010 so I can't think of a better time than now to get involved.

If you have children or if you just care about the well-being of the next generation then there is plenty you can do to make a difference. If you are waiting for your local school to provide a well-balanced educational experience for your child then you might be waiting a long time. If you believe that politicians and government are the answer then you are most likely being led by the blind. If you think that putting your child's future in the hands of anyone else other than yourself then your child could get left behind.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2 X 4 Jeep Update

After a few more days, finding a minute here and a minute there, I have finally finished the paint job on the 2 X 4 jeep that I posted here. This is the kind of a project that is just fine without a paint job and if you were to sell them painted then you'd surely go broke. A detailed paint job like this takes a lot of time so you do it because you have a love for detail, or in my case as a woodshop teacher there might be one other reason.

When constructing any project I always like to have at least one example of the possibilities for what "can be done" for the students in my woodshop class. Most of them won't take the project this far and that's ok but I still just want them to see what can be done. That's important because once in a while I will most surely be surprised when that one kid will take the challenge and that will be worth it all!

I decided to go with the camouflage look for the overriding theme but I suppose that it isn't exactly an official U.S. Army issue jeep since I also gave it a touch of "wild" with bright interior colors with a funky spare tire case to boot! Those kinds of twists in finishing a project make it a little more interesting and I like it when someone looks at it and says, "Are you perhaps a little bit crazy?" as they smile in approval.

As mentioned in the previous post I suggested that this project might be most successful in the hands of older kids and that a simpler 4-wheeled car/truck might be best for the younger kids. As seen in the picture above I've included a couple of easier project ideas for the younger woodworkers. Both the truck and the car can be easily made in usually one or two woodshop classes from a piece of 2 X 4 scrap. As a matter of fact quite a few of my older students like to make these easy cars too because after all they are a lot of fun to push around and best of all, they made it with their own hands.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Firem n' Chit (Campfires & Fire Safety) Plus Some Carving

During the last decade there has been a move in our 1-12 schools for kids to be in class all day long where hands-on programs like woodshop class and action oriented classes such as physical education have been cut from the curriculum. The reasons for such cuts can be debated in another forum but it has been a sad decade for many children who are now receiving less than a well balanced education.

Although the students in our alternative wilderness school also attend classes throughout the day, the bedrock of our unique approach to education has always placed a strong focus on actual student experience with a hands-on approach. It is our goal that every student will experience at least one 2-3 week canoe trip during their 10-12 month attendance and they have weekly exposure to a very strong hands-on woodshop program in additon to Boy Scout adventure education classes. We continue to believe that this aspect of our program in combination with all our teachers dedication, has an undeniably positive effect on our students overall educational experience and our test scores just recently re-enforced this.

Today I led three scouting classes on Firem n' Chit training which has a focus on safe fire usage while camping. The training is a lot of fun which also leads to some interesting conversations during the class and when students complete the course which is about three 50-minute classes they will receive certification cards and official 2nd Class Boy Scout credits.

As seen in the picture to the left the kids in today's classes were especially excited to be here and they were also at different levels in progress so I didn't have to teach the same skills twice. The first class is an introduction to camp fires which included about 30 minutes of class time so I end it with some physical fitness activities to meet my goal of a hands-on/action oriented activity in every class. The second class is composed of a lively discussion on low-impact camping techniques, a comparison and demonstration of a variety of camp stoves, and fire building techniques.

During the third class I lead the kids on a very exciting fire building contest so that they can put to practice their new skills. They are divided into teams of two and lined up on "pads" under a piece of binders twine that was about 16" off the ground. First team to burn the twine in half were the winners. Teams have to gather dry tender, kindling, and fuel wood then patiently stack it in such a way that it could get enough oxygen to ignite, then stay lit.

This activity creates a great challenge on snowy/rainy January days and the kids love it. During my demonstrations I emphasize that lighting a camp fire should only take one single match if they did everything correctly. In addition to new skills learned the students must also work together as a team to be successful. That means effective communication before and during the contest will be crucial for a chance at success.

One of my scouting classes today had already completed all of the required course requirements and their fire building contest was held last week. I therefore began the class with a thorough review of all the material covered. One of the most effective teaching techniques when working with kids is the power of repetition so I also asked lots of questions as I demonstrated how to build another one-match fire. This time a lot more hands were raised as their knowledge of the subject had obviously increased.

After a 15 minute review I then led a carving class around our small campfire. The day was somewhat damp and the air a little "nippy" so the fire provided some warmth for our fingers while also creating a warm atmosphere for an otherwise balmy day. Some of the kids worked on carving their spoons while others worked on small totem poles and a lot of progress was made. Since this class has successfully completed this sessions course requirements, next week I'll probably take them on a short hike into the woods for another fire building review while demonstrating a few new skills. Kids eat up this kind of stuff and the hands-on element of my classes is a perfect complement to their other scheduled classes thus giving them a more balanced approach to a successful educational experience.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A 2 X 4 Jeep Is A Great Woodshop Project

One of the best parts of my job as a woodshop teacher is new project development and I make every effort possible to correlate our educational theme with a good project that compliments our students focus of study.

A woodshop class can be a very powerful hands-on extension for any educational curriculum and those schools or homeschooler's that implement such a "full-circle" plan of study will reap the greatest rewards and benefits from their efforts to teach.

About two years ago I developed a new project jeep when our students were studying World War II and I designed the entire wooden toy from a 7" piece of 2 X 4. I reasoned that a jeep would be the perfect woodshop project since this multi-terrain vehicle was specifically developed for the U.S. Army and their allies during WWII.

When developing a new project I always do my homework first so I did quite a bit of research on the jeep and I gathered the history of the vehicle, it's vital role in transportation during the war, and as many pictures as I could find. From this I could better brainstorm ideas for a good bulletin board on the project and organize some worksheets on the jeep for the students. By this time in my research I had begun to formulate the foundations about how I would develop the actual thematic project.

During this session I have once again brought out the good old reliable Army jeep as a woodshop project but our education theme for study now is "Around The World In 80 Days". Seems like there is a transportation element to this theme so the jeep should work out just fine. With just a minimum of adjustment this same project could also be easily modified to be a dune buggy.

The best part is that it can be made from just a 7" piece of 2 X 4 where I first cut off about a 1/4" slice of wood as shown in the picture to the right. The next important cut is made with the band saw, as seen in the picture to the right, where I separate a block from the chassis. The block (my fingers are on it in the picture to the right) can be used to cut out the jeeps seats, bumpers, windshield, panels for bed, etc.

Other parts needed that didn't come from the 2 X 4 would be the Plexiglas windshield that I hot glued into the wood frame. The wheels and axles were donated to our woodshop program in a very large quantity but you could also modify a dowel rod or old broom handle into some pretty nice wheels too so be creative and find the solutions that will work best for you. The headlights, taillights, and steering wheel assembly were also made from various sized dowel rods. I used the woodburning pen to etch in the radiator grill on the front side of the jeep.

To make this project easier for kids to process I made a tracing template for the chassis and I also made one for the side fenders/step assembly as seen in the picture to the left. From many years in the woodshop I've discovered that kids have a MUCH greater chance for success when they can first visualize the completed project so these templates do their job well here. Also it's very important to have at least one completed example of the project on hand so that they can see it, feel it with their hands, and feel comfortable to ask questions.

I would rate this project as "advanced" in my woodshop program working with at-risk kids who sometimes don't have a lot of patience. The 15 and 16 year old kids seem to do best with constructing this jeep and I would recommend designing a simpler car or jeep for the younger students. This is a fantastic project for kids but they need to understand that it will require great attention to detail and the ability to focus on a lot of individual components. If they can keep their eye on the prize then they'll have something to be very proud about.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Blizzard of 2009 & The (Birth/Death) Of A Snowman

I knew that at some point it just had to happen... it was inevitable because after all, snow does melt. Yes, the great and grand snowman produced by the blizzard of 2009 and posted here is now (almost) gone.

From the pictures (see above) that I took this afternoon you can see all that's left is just a snippet of snowy ice. It's hard to believe that this tiny few particles of white ice is all that's left from my snowman that must have had hundreds and hundreds of pounds of snow pounded into life just a month ago today. Just amazing that it's now reduced to not even enough ice for a glass of iced-tea. So sad.

Also you can see that I decided to leave all of his wooden arms, eyes, nose, mouth, buttons, and pipe on the ground right where they fell and out of respect they will remain on the ground one more night until his entire body is finally gone and returned to the good earth.

I will miss you good man...  R.I.P. - December 18, 2009 - January 18, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Using Natural Fibers In And Out Of The Shop

I've been gathering and using natural fibers, both plant and animal, for most of my life. Those slick and shiny needles that fell off longleaf pine trees were probably my first experience with natural fibers and we gathered them for weaving twine, necklaces, and even using them as money between ourselves as kids.

Those fond memories from making fun things with the pine needles didn't die soon as I moved into my teen years and learned to tan the hides of the small fur bearing animals that I had caught on my trapline. Wild leather was useful in making small pouches, holsters, and material for lining other items.

I was about 19 years old when I made the berry picking bucket in the picture to the left. For this bucket I used the bark from a tulip poplar tree that I carefully removed  with my ax and sheath knife during the spring when the sap was flowing strong and wet. When cutting poplar logs I had noticed that the bark would peel off almost like a banana skin so my mind tumbled upon that experience for a few weeks until I realized that I could make useful things from it.

I used a small green hickory twig around the rim of the opening to give it a more permanent shape and to help keep the poplar bark from warping as it dried out. From the hickory tree I learned that the inner bark made extremely strong binders twine when cut into thin strips so I used that for sewing the bark together including a circular piece for the bottom. I still have my berry picking bucket today and value it greatly as part of the history of how I became who I am. You just can't put a price on things like that.

Today I still find myself gathering various forms of natural fibers for making everything from Indian dream-catchers to weaving rope. I used some of the fibers from the inner bark of the poplar tree (top photo) to make the naturally woven rope in the picture to the right. Although the inner bark of a hickory tree is much stronger, this poplar bark is very easy to work with and provides my Boy Scouts with an excellent introduction to the many uses of natural fibers. Some of my students have made some amazing things using the fibers from these trees and I've been inspired on many occasions by their imagination, ingenuity, and ability to make something from nothing. Working with natural fibers is right down a kids alley and teaches them to be resourceful while also gleaning a lot of satisfaction from making something useful and beautiful from the woods and trees around them.

A couple of years ago our education theme was Black History so in woodshop class I provided each student with a small piece of 2" X 4" X 6" piece of pine wood for making an African mini-mask. We did a lot of research and found tons of information and various examples so using that as our reference point combined with their own ideas, the kids came up with some really beautiful masks. Just let kids loose with an idea and most of the time they will surprise you with their creations. American Indian masks could also be the subject for this project if desired.

The mask pictures just above show just how creative that some the kids got with their creations and I bet you can't guess what some of them used for decorating their masks. Yeah, that's right... the inner bark fibers of the poplar tree. They really got some "wild & woolly" looking hair using the fibers that we found in the woods and the more they worked them between the palms of their hands the more "fluffed" appearance they could achieve.
Just last Halloween I rambled the woods around property as Rambo as seen in the picture to the left.and once again those natural fibers worked great for my "swamp" hair. You certainly don't have to go to such extremes as I do portraying Rambo and scaring kids but if you're not using natural fibers for crafting, projects, or fun then you're surely missing out on a great avenue that can lead to many more discoveries.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mini Skateboards Spark Imagination In Kids

Our education theme this session has been "Around The World In 80 Days" so this is what the kids math, language arts, sciences, and other subjects are based upon. In woodshop class today one of my students began a mini skateboard project but I'm still not sure that a person could make it around the world on one as their sole source of transportation but then again  I haven't referred to Guinness Book Of World Records either and who am I to say that the imagination of a 14 year old is invalid... so permission to begin was granted.

Since our woodshop program isn't geared for the construction of a full-sized skateboard I have found that the kids enjoy making these mini key ring sized skateboards just as much and they have become quite popular. My 13, 14, and 15 year old students seem to be the ones most infatuated with making them and I enjoy watching their minds figure out just how to make them work.

First, there's just something magical about making these little 4-wheeled boards that sparks the imagination and engages their brains. Secondly, making miniature woodshop projects is also a great way to "grab" a students attention for detail in even a more challenging way than making it full sized. I also don't have to worry about them breaking an ankle (or worse) from something that I approved for their construction. Last of all I always teach my students to start small then progress to the larger project as you pick up the necessary skills of fine woodworking. I usually tell them that when I first wanted to carve a chainsawed bear I first carved a small one that I would use for reference. I tell my students that you don't start out building the Taj_Mahal until you first learn how to build a doll-sized house, then progress to the next level and so on. It's a good lesson for teaching and a good lesson that they can also think about applying to how they will be successful in living their own lives. Building small while learning the skills of woodworking also ensures success.

Today Anthony wanted to make this project but he asked about how he'd make it with wheels that actually worked. Most of the kids choosing this project center most of their attention upon a compelling paint job with their mini skateboards so I was thrilled when this student wanted to take the mechanics of his woodshop project one step further. And best of all he wanted to partner up with me for a workable solution so another journey in discovery had begun. I might have been even more excited than my student which is usually the case in any class I'm teaching.

We first began with a small block of pine and sketched off a portion that measured about 1" wide, 1/2" deep, and approximately 2-1/2" long. Anthony is a bit slow when it comes to working out his own projects and normally this project would have been above his level of understanding to complete on his own but the class was small and well behaved so I decided to embrace this opportunity to work with him one on one. In doing so I first began using my pencil to sketch out a rough outline right on the wood until Anthony's vision of the project was achieved. Even the slower kids usually have excellent visual perception and usually just need for someone to help them project their vision into reality so I don't do it all for them but use plenty of prompts, sketches, and a lot of questioning until I can help them transfer their ideas onto the wood.

Next we cut out the body of the little skateboard using the bandsaw although a scroll saw would work just fine for such small stock. Now the real challenge of this project was coming up with a way for the wheels to actually turn so we then placed our attention on the mechanics of making this a reality by using only wood for the friction that would be produced by wheels, axles, and trucks. For all three of these components I knew that working with dowel rods would be our best bet for success so we gathered up a variety of sizes until we determined that a 3/16" rod would work just right for the axle when inserted into a 7/16" rod as the trucks. 7/16" was also just the right size for the wheels when fitted into the smaller axle rod.

The axle did fit a little tight so using a pocket knife in a "scraping" motion Anthony got the wheels to spin pretty good. The 3/16" hole that we drilled into the trucks rod using the drill press was still a little too tight and Anthony wanted a good spin for his wheels so we then came up with another solution. As you can see in the picture to the right we cut a short arc across the center of the trucks rod thus eliminating most of the friction created by the axle. This worked just perfect and a big "yelp" of success was heard from both of us across woodshop class. Success was ours and we made sure everyone in class knew about it!

We then used wood glue and a good clamp to attach the wheel assembly to the skateboard body so now we only needed the patience to allow it to dry, then make another one for the other end of the board but that will have to wait until the next woodshop class next week. Time was gone.

Nothing like sparking the imagination of a kid (and one anxious teacher) while trying to capture as many opportunities to teach as is possible in a 45 minute class and today was a good day for being a teacher in woodshop class.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

WIP: Designing OA Arrows- (Part 2 of 2)

WIP="Work in progress"

Although it's been a somewhat gradual process I have finally finished 40 arrows for this summers Order of the Arrow Ordeal and what an enjoyable project it has been. Somebody on another blog recently discussed what to do when the carving doldrums hit and you just can't seem to get started carving anything. That's a common condition that woodcarvers occasionally have to deal with and my solution is often to dig deep into the creative process and try to produce something original.

For me this usually means to start the project on the sketch pad until something "clicks" and then it's time to transfer it to the correct piece of wood. The 40 arrows, each measuring 8" long and cut from simple 1" pine stock, were to be a mass-produced project so I had to keep it simple to make so many arrows BUT I still wanted it to have that special hand-made feel to it. My overriding purpose going into this project was to produce an arrow that would symbolize each participants personal sacrifice to cheerfully serve others and I wanted it to be an arrow nice enough that they would hold on to it for a life time and one day look back upon that experience. Hopefully I accomplished those goals but only time will tell.

As previously mentioned I made the arrows from 8" long 1" pine stock and I chose boards with the softest knot-free grain that I could find. After transferring my sketched design to a piece of this wood I then cut it out on the scroll saw and used it for the template for tracing the other arrows. Next I took my "V" parting tool and carved all the feathers, letters, and arrow tip to give them a more 3-D effect. This was about as simple as a carving could get but it gave the piece that original hand-made feel.

I then took the propane torch and very, very lightly glazed the entire arrow with the flame giving it a slightly dark and aged look. This burnt effect made the arrow seem like it had been in battle by removing the solid "new" look of fresh wood. With the drill press I drilled three small holes evenly spaced from top to bottom for the lanyard and the center hole for the bead decoration. I completed the arrows by using my wood burning pen to inscribe "118" in the center which is our Lodge number, then using a thin acrylic red and yellow paint wash for the letters and the arrow tip. Finally I spray sealed the entire arrow with Krylon Acrylic Sealer. I then thought that I was done but decided to add a small piece of leather lacing in the center of the arrow with three beads of no particular colors. This addition really gave the arrows that "unique" hand-made feel that I wanted to achieve and giving each arrow their own distinct difference and look.

As you can see this was a very simple project and something that I myself designed. I can't wait to hand them out at the next Ordeal and perhaps in another 50 years these young Arrowmen will still have the arrow that I gave them long ago. Perhaps it will rekindle fond memories of days past by of a job well done and when their character was being shaped. THAT will be the ultimate hope of my gift.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Put Another Log On The Fire.... NOT!

At least 90 percent of my winter heating fuel comes from wood. Therefore you could sign me up as a true testament to the fact that, " If you can't carve it, then burn it". I love everything about wood because wood is the real deal. I can find it growing naturally all around me unlike heating oil, kerosene, or electric heat which requires unbelievable manpower to mine/generate, process, and transport. You could say that I'm just a "wood" person and there's nothing "plastic" about me. So like I said, If I can't carve it then just please let me burn it!

In the woodshop we go through quite a bit of wood through out the year and something in me dies whenever I have to burn it up into thin air via the fire barrel just to get rid of it. Those scraps are bone dry and make excellent kindling for starting up the wood heater so I use as much as I can for doing just that. In addition to generating btu's such practice also produces a very gratifying sense of satisfaction and resourcefulness when I know that wood isn't being wasted. I manage to save some of that scrap wood but not all of it.

Just this afternoon I brought in another bag of the woodshop scraps for starting a fire that would get me through another frigid Carolina mountain night. This particular bag held scraps from more than a year ago and I paused before offering it's sacrifice to my warmth. In the bag I broke a smile when I found a myriad of familiar objects that rekindled a lot of fond woodshop memories.

As the picture to the right shows I found a canoe, a piece of a nameplate, a couple of mini-basketball goals, a motor boat, an African mask, and a flag that was intended for a small boat. I could easily write a book on these unfinished woodshop projects but these were projects that for one reason or another never got finished. While some of them just never met the quality standard that we have, others might not have been finished because a board got ripped beyond repair as young hands were learning about the limits of stress upon the grain of wood.

For whatever reason they didn't get finished into useful objects but now these scraps  reminded me of the education themes we had during a particular session of study. Once our theme was African History so we did a lot of research and learned about how young African children used masks to imitate and to test their transition into adulthood. I therefore had the kids make their own masks based upon this beautiful art. During another session our theme was about pirates and piracy so I had the kids design their own pirates ship. A theme on extreme sports led to the small basketball goals where a small wooden ball could be shot by the spring produced by a plastic spoon positioned just right on the base. Dug-out Indian canoes are always a popular carving project when the kids are meeting the carving in-the-round requirement for their woodcarving merit badge The nameplate you see is the first woodshop project that I have every new student make as it gets them familiar with some basic power tools and provides a good introductory orientation to the shop as they begin to imagine the possibilities and gain confidence for greater projects later on.

Those scrap pieces of wood represent a lot of hours spent learning something about wood AND something about ourselves in the woodshop. And now I hesitated to put them in the stove but finally my cold fingers convinced me that I was gonna have to do it. My fire is now pumping out heat and I am warm but just seeing those scrap pieces from a shop class long ago warmed up a part of my soul from a time now gone and I know that I'll sleep good tonight... even when the temperatures outside might be in the teens.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Best And The Worst Of 2009...(Carving And Wood, That Is)

When it comes to carving wood 2009 was a new banner year for me! While browsing over my carving folders from last year it was quickly apparent to me that never before have I produced so much from wood... so much that I'm still in amazement. There were walking sticks galore, chainsaw carvings, spoons, totem poles, and so much more. By the way I carved a 15' totem pole in 2009 that I haven't even revealed yet! Yes, while it is true that some folks like to read books, while others like to fish, and some even spend their time wrestling alligators... I try to spend as much time as I can finding expression in wood. Wood has got to be the greatest most organic medium that an artist could hope for. I just love it.

So if I could narrow down all of my 2009 carvings to just one favorite, which one would I choose? In a way I don't like having "favorites" and look at such a question as being unfair and the potential for a biased opinion never makes be breathe with ease. When I'm working with my woodshop students it's also so easy to choose my "favorite" kid for a variety of reasons but I still make a devout effort to treat everyone as unique and special in their own way. Nobody is shunned and everyone is special. Nonetheless after spending the better part of Sunday contemplating this dilemma I finally had my answer as seen in the picture just above.

I decided to choose my super-duper deluxe backscratcher that I carved over a period of several weeks throughout each day whenever I had a little time. I did a video about it on June 23rd which can be found here. This particular carving was special and definitely stands out ahead of the others when I considered just how it came about. With most wood carvings I have a plan... a road map to follow and a final destination in mind before I even pick up a knife. Not so in the case of this backscratcher.

In the beginning I had originally intended for this piece of tulip poplar, from a limb on the ground, to be a large cooking spoon but that idea changed as I began to "see" something else. Once I had settled on a backscratcher I then began adding flowers and vines while trying to determine a good theme so it wasn't long before I knew that it would center around the "nature" of plants, animals, and the earth. Working from the center of the handle I then worked my knives outward in both directions with more flowers, a lizard, a snake, and even a butterfly. One idea led to another.

This is a project that I made up as I was carving it and the addition of one thing literally sparked my brain for the idea of what would come next. Sometimes I like this kind of free form carving which can be very relaxing and the catalyst for my most creative work. No rules, no plan, and no limits. The backscratcher is special and it will never be for sale. I just love it I guess.

The worst of 2009 didn't take but a second for me to decide. This centered around an accident that I had while using a hydraulic wood splitter almost one year ago from today on January 15th of 2009. The middle finger on my left hand got caught between a piece of firewood and a 3/8" bolt which punctured my finger in half like a paper puncher. It was severed in half a full 50 percent but excellent doctors put it back together with such expertise that today you can't even tell that it was cut in half. It works great and doesn't hinder my carving in any way and I am now the biggest proponent that the United States of America has the best health care professionals in the world.

From the pictures to the left, taken by a friend, you can see my finger just before the doctor began fixing it and then the injection to deaden it for suturing. By the way, this was very painless as they had me on a healthy dose of Demerol which had me in an altered state where my finger could have been cut off and I wouldn't have cared.

Yes I was lucky and had a full recovery but this accident was still the worst of 2009 for me. It is my goal for 2010 to be another banner year for carving so please be safe and have some fun!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

WIP: Designing OA Arrows On A Freezing Winter Weekend (Part 1 of 2)

WIP="Work in progress"

Temperatures in the North Carolina mountains aren't rising above freezing for a three day block and it will be in the low teens tonight. As I stoke up the wood heater I've been reminiscing from last summer when I came close to passing out from the searing heat during my Ordeal. Man it was hot but I wouldn't trade that experience in Ordeal # 1 or serving as an elangomat in Ordeal # 2 for the warmest tropical beach in all the world.

I am very honored to be part of Order of the Arrow and this first experience last summer was quite a moving moment in my life as I had the opportunity to cheerfully serve others, then in the second Ordeal I helped lead a new group of 15 boys and adult leaders on their first experience. What an honor that was.

Now on the first weekend of 2010 (and a cold one at that) I have begun planning for this summers Ordeals. It is my desire to serve again as an elangomat in both Ordeals. An Elangomat is a friend to each candidate and also a Big Brother, so to speak. The candidates look up to you as a friend to help them through the rigors of sacrifice during their experience so that hopefully it will be as memorable and moving as my own was last summer.

With several months of time for planning I decided that I will design each of my candidates their own arrow as  seen in the first picture up top. Candidates are always given an OA arrow to wear during the duration of their Ordeal but I'd like to personalize the arrows for the members of my groups so I'll need to make about 30 total. I carved my own arrow from the rough-out provided then finished it later and I described it more here.

It is a high honor to be chosen for Order of the Arrow and new candidates should feel being a part of something much bigger than themselves. The arrow they will wear will be a lasting symbol of that experience when they sacrificed personal comfort while serving others and I hope that they will cherish it for many years to come.

For now it's a very cold winters night in January... time for putting another log on the fire, pulling up a chair and carving another arrow. It just don't get much better than that. Stay warm and keep on carving!