Here's an easy carving project that I've recently re-discovered: carving hillbilly pencils. For the most part they are pretty easy to make and carve because even if your carving doesn't make it to the level of a Picasso, then you've still got a pencil.
Lately I've been using hillbilly pencils as a project in my carving classes with the kids and they're really enjoying them. As you can see from the pictures my first pencil ended up having a funny little hairy-legged roadrunner on the top. I used a stick that had a forked top and carved out some shavings for feathers on one end. It's hard to see but I also cleaned out the wood between the birds long legs thus giving it a little more perspective and eye catching charm for the observer. All in all it took about an hour to prep the stick, place the lead tip, paint, and finish it up completely but times will vary depending on skill level and complexity of your design.
Although I used a well seasoned twig of sweet birch for my roadrunner, I later discovered that rhododendron twigs worked great. Most of these east coast bushes have tons of dry twigs on their lower ends making them perfect for my purpose of pencil making. The wood is amazingly strong and they have very interesting twists and bends to tickle the imagination.
As seen in the pictures to the left I first trim the twigs to the desired length and try to leave a "fork" on top that I can use for an interesting design. Next I use a very small drill bit (same size as lead "graphite" being inserted) to drill out the hole where the writing lead will go. I only make this hole about an inch deep, plus or minus.
Next I saw up a bunch of old woodshop pencils and strip them for their graphite "lead". You can use a nice thick lead purchased in a box but I have so many old used up pencils in the woodshop this is what works best for me. Plus, it's a great challenge to see how good that you can get stripping the lead without breaking it. I then roll the tip of the lead in some wood glue then insert it in the drilled hole and allow to dry. Before long I'm writing right along with the great admiration of all my hillbilly (and non-hillbilly) friends.
The picture to the right shows about 30 pencil "blanks" ready for carving with the lead tips already in place. I suppose that it took me about two hours to gather them out of the woods, to cut and prep. This is a great way to prepare for success during a woodcarving class with kids and I'm amazed at some of the designs they come up with. I'll post more pictures as they develop. Have fun and keep on carving... and hopefully writing with your new funky-fine hillbilly pencil!
Living in the mountains of North Carolina I have spent almost 30 very
rewarding years working with at-risk kids in a wilderness camping program as a counselor, outdoor educator, and woodshop teacher. To learn more about what my blog is all about, just scroll down this sidebar to "About my blog..."
1. Woodcarving/Woodwork: Working wood has been a lifetime obsession for me and I enjoy sharing what I know. It is my belief that hands-on and experiential learning has a direct and profound effect on the development of a child's intellect, confidence, and character. Projects of mine (and my students) will be posted as they progress and I will occasionally include a video tutorial. All of my videos can be found here .
2. Bushcraft/Primitive Living Skills: Finding ways to live closer to the land has always fascinated me. Whether it's building a shelter, fire starting, animal tracking, or just making rustic furniture... you'll eventually see some of it here.
3. Long Distance backpacking, canoeing, & bicycling: Some of my long distance adventures include thru-hiking the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to Canada and I solo paddled the 1,800 mile Yukon river across northwest Canada and Alaska to the Bering sea. More detailed accounts of these and many other adventures can be found here
4. Sustainable Living: I'm always looking for better ways to do more by using less. It's not so much an "environmental" thing to me as it is a quest for personal independence from material things and finding a path to more substantive living .
5. Scouting Activity: As a scoutmaster of 6 years (and currently assistant scoutmaster) I'm actively involved with the troop and "Order of the Arrow" where it is a joy to volunteer hundreds of hours each year because investing in the next generation insures a better tomorrow for everyone. In an era when most schools don't value hands-on learning, outdoor education, and the arts... scouting soars in meeting these critical experiences for boys.
6. Profiles: Behind everyone's success you can usually find a trail of some very significant mentors and teachers along the way. And sometimes you don't completely understand how someone affected your life for the better until many years later. You'll find some of those stories here.