Sunday, July 18, 2010

Easy To Carve Hillbilly Pencils

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!

1 comment:

  1. good idea. Might try something similar for those wee lads that have that look on their faces when they watch me carving.