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.


  1. Great Posting Dave! Great "little" project. But best of all for me is the suggestion for coming out of the carving doldrums. It sure makes sense. A new creative effort will now start.

  2. I used a blowtorch on a carving for the first time just last month. I love how it highlites the grain of the wood and there is something of connection between natural and spiritual that I can't really describe. Kind of a "refiners fire" type of thing, burning away the impurities in our lives. The stuff that shapes character as you said above.

  3. Tom: I definitely go into the carving doldrums once in a while and I'm sure everyone does. What helps me recover when this "hits" is to engage my body in some kind of action oriented activity. It might be a long walk in the woods, an afternoon bicycle ride, or a 30 minute run.

    I do know for a fact that if I continue to sit around the house in a sedated mentality it will only get worse. My best advice to get back into a creative producing mode is to get my blood circulating while concentrating on my next project. Works for me but I have to attack it head-on.

    Rojo: Thanks for your elegant description of the wood torching. That really brings everything full-circle for me and will be a wonderful description that I can give to my group participants. "Burning away the impurities in our lives" does lay the foundation upon which meaningful character can be built. And that is what kids need to hear. Thanks!