Monday, August 30, 2010

WIP: Forked Branch Carving: Meet "Da Wiz" (Part 2 of 2)

The 'wiz' is now carved, painted, finished, and now standing its ground on the nik-nak shelf. I liked carving this project because I had only limited control over how I would shape the body since that was already pre-determined by the forked-branch limb itself. A block of basswood can be shaped pretty much into any shape preferred but not so for this kind of branch carving. It adds a neat new challenge to carving that I like to tackle on occasion.
As seen in the pictures I decided to use a watered down variety of acrylic paint to the point where it was applied more like stain rather than paint. I did apply the yellow stars in full strength color which was necessary to get the right contrasting against the light purple clothing. Looking back, I suppose that it wouldn't have taken much alteration in design and finishing colors to make this a Santa then perhaps the woodspirit staff could have been his reindeer whip... Just a little brainstorming :-)
As for attaching the wizards staff I first drilled a 1/8" hole straight through his right hand as seen in the picture above. This is something that needs to be planned before carving the hand which will grasp the staff because the necessary room must be allowed for the addition. I then went on to use a 1/8" piece of dowel rod for the staff then I drilled a small hole into another 'slightly larger' piece of dowel rod and glued them together as seen above.
As seen above I then carved a simple woodspirit face into the upper part of the inflated staff which compliments the wizard and makes the carving much more interesting. I glued the staff permanently into the hand and then drilled a super small hole for a small nylon wrist strap dangling from the staff.

This has been a super fun carving project and I'm sure that forked-branch carving will continue to have a place in my yearly carving endeavors.

If you would like to see 28 higher quality pictures of this project from beginning to end then just click here for my Facebook album on the 'Wiz'.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My 2010 Chainsaw Black Bear

I usually only chainsaw carve one bear every year as part of our camp fundraiser effort. Here's this years bear that I just completed yesterday that was cut from a yellow pine log measuring about 40" tall and 12" diameter. The 'actual' bear is about 29" tall.

Like last year's bear I used Rustoleum oil based paint for the main color which I mixed with about 40 percent paint thinner. I love these oil based paints which penetrate the wood like nothing else can. If you'd like to see more of the entire carving process I have uploaded 40 quality pictures here which is a public address that anyone can access.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Showcase Of Kids Projects On Facebook Album

I just created a new album on my Facebook page where I'll be posting daily pictures of the kids projects in woodshop class. Just click here and you can access the pictures whether you have a Facebook account or not.  The pictures are much better quality than I'm posting here so I'll be creating many new albums in the future.

The picture to the left is also included with the first 6 pictures from today's woodshop class. Dylan has been working on his mouse trap for about 3 woodshop periods and he got the mechanisms adjusted and working today so now the door slams shut when triggered. Now all that he needs to do is come up with a creative finishing for it. He did a great job on making it and had lots of patience.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WIP: Forked Branch Carving: Meet "Da Wiz" (Part 1 of 2)

WIP= "Work in Progress"
Just a few days ago I posted a short series about my experiences with "forked branch carving" and it was so enjoyable I thought that I'd share my most recent endeavors into this unique kind of carving. The best part is that you don't need an expensive piece of basswood to get started. Instead, this kind of carving provides you with the perfect excuse to get out of the house and into the woods to find a good forked branch suitable for your project.

Of course the first thing that you'll need is a forked-branch. As seen in the picture to the left I found a small red maple tree that had fallen in a recent wind storm. I'd been watching it along the trail for several months until the leaves had browned and the wood had become relatively dry. I cut off the portion of the branch that suited me and sat it inside the woodshop for a couple more weeks just to see if it was going to start cracking. Finally I was confident that it would be a good piece of wood for carving.
As seen above I first prepped the stick using the bandsaw to put a little curve into the top part where I wanted to carve the wizards tall, pointed hat. I then went on to begin shaping the face.

With the face and hat finished I then went on to carve the old mans beard and hands. I found a nice piece of river birch under the table counter that was left over from an earlier lathe project that I used for the base as seen in the picture to the right. I just carved the end of the wizard stick to fit nice and tight into the stand, applied some wood glue, then secured a tight fit.

Ahhhhh, all done... except for the light sanding and paint job which I'll post soon. I'll also show some pictures about how I carved and attached the little tiny woodspirit walking stick into his right hand.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ilsa: The Wicked She-Witch (Cypress Knee Carving)

 It's been a while since I've driven my knives into a cypress knee but lately I've had the urge to pick up a couple of them. The first project "Swamp Man Sam" can be found a couple of postings back here.

As seen in the pictures to the left you can now meet Ilsa, the wicked she-witch which is from a small 11" tall cypress knee.
In the beginning I had no idea that it would become a green faced witch because it started out as a woodspirit face. Not only was it intended to be a woodspirit but this particular cypress knee was given to me a year ago by another carver who thought that he'd messed it up and I tended to agree. He was hoping that I could somehow save it but I didn't have time to work with it at the moment.

That time finally came last week when I picked it up again. The eye-wells were deeper that I would have preferred and the mouth was offset a bit. From the pictures to the right you can see where I began to enclose the face thus defining some shape into it.

Yes, it was well on it's way to being a woodspirit face but while having lunch one afternoon with one of my woodshop groups, one particular kid said that he saw the makings of a witch more so than a woodspirit so that caused me to study the shape and lumps of the wood a little closer as I began to agree. I then began transforming the mouth area into an uglier and toothless witch-friendly look and chip by chip the idea took hold. I cut in a lot of wrinkles on the forehead and lower face then completed "Ilsa" with a fine bulging mold on her chin. I then shaped up her tall pointed witch hat by using the natural shape of the cypress knee.

Ilsa has been another fun woodcarving project. Not only fun but this has been one of those carvings that sort-of found itself. It began with an effort to save another carvers failed attempt, then it was enhanced by one of my students ideas. The lesson here is to never look at any carving as "lost" but instead as an opportunity to see what you can still find in it. Open up you senses, your mind, and ask those around you for ideas. It's amazing what you'll come up with sometimes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WIP: Forked Branch Carving: Meet "Herbert Sherbert" (Part 2 of 2)

WIP= "Work in Progress"

 Herbert is now finished and standing his ground proudly wherever I decide that he will stand. As previously mentioned in part 1 of this carving, it was one of my funnest projects ever. In the past I have dabbled with forked-branch carving but this particular project has taken my curiosity to the next level, which as a carver, has always been an ongoing goal.

Note in the pictures above the "Popeye" forearms of Herbert. That is just one of the wonderful effects that I was able to achieve by using the mortise and tenon joinery. The bulging eyes, nose, and ears also benefited from this method of carving by attaching various parts of the carving with joinery. I thought about adding a ball cap on Herbert's head which would have added additional joinery but decided that I'd rather have all of his bright green hair showing. After all that's why he was named "Herbert Sherbert".

In the pictures directly above I give you an idea about how I carved the hands for Herbert. I used a small limb of rhododendron, carving one hand on each end of the stick. Keeping the hands on one single long stick made the carving much easier with the natural "handle" then I cut them to size when done.
Since the body of Herbert didn't come with forked limbs for the legs I had to attach them separately as seen in the picture to the right. Once again I drilled a mortise into his body then a tenon on the "legs" section. I also decided not to apply wood glue to this joint since it fitted so squeaky tight and most of all I discovered a nice surprise. I found that putting the mortise hole close to my lips and blowing air at an angle across the surface I had a very loud whistle. That was just too cool for hiding in a permanent joint so Herbert's legs can now be removed at will to amuse folks with the bonus whistle. Sweet!

I finished up Herbert with watered down acrylic paints (including an American flag belt buckle) then applied a rub-on polyurethane. Forked branch carving has now become a regular part of my daily carvings and more interesting creations will follow in the days ahead so stay tuned.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bernard Queneau: 98 Year Old Eagle Scout

It's not every day that you get to meet a man who was working on his Eagle Scout rank way back in 1928 but here's a video that will open up that window for us. Mr. Queneau talks about winning a contest as an Eagle Scout and being selected to travel 7,000 miles across America at a time when there weren't any Interstate Highways. He was part of a 4-boy team leading exhibitions on safety, first-aid, making fire by friction, and other Boy Scout related topics.

Mr. Queneau later became a Commander in the United States Navy, earned a PHd in engineering, and was in charge of quality control at U.S. Steel Corp. He says that he owes a lot of his success to his early Boy Scouting experiences, especially when it comes to being "truthful" and "working hard" for what you have. Today we live in a much different culture where more and more people depend on anything other than their own hard work to succeed. It's nice to be reminded about some of the values that led America to producing the largest middle class in the history of the world. I sure hope that we can hold on to these indispensable values in an ever-changing world that appears to be headed into the opposite direction.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

WIP: Forked Branch Carving: Meet "Herbert Sherbert" (Part 1 of 2)

WIP= "Work in Progress"

Here's one of the funnest little projects that I've worked on this year and it's been "ongoing" for a full month now. Thank goodness it's almost finished and the picture to the left shows exactly where I am with it right now.

What is it you ask? Good question because I've completely made it up as I went and this little fellow has evolved into quite the character. For beginners his name is "Herbert Sherbert" because I was looking for something to rhyme with Herbert when one of the kids suggested "Sherbet" and to paint his hair a bright and crazy color. I wanted Herbert to be a bright, happy, and cheerful fellow so that name sounded good to me.

I began this little mortise & tenon carving project by first cutting a nice three-prong rhododendron branch that was well seasoned. As seen in the pictures to the right those two outer branches looked like outstretched arms to me and that's all that my mind needed to get going. The center branch was a bit too narrow to make a good head so I decided to strip the outer bark away then made the stem perfectly round. I was thinking that I could use it as a tenon to hold an enlarged head securely in place.

As the pictures just below show, I then used a 1" diameter maple branch for the head by first drilling a 3/8" mortise which would tightly fit my tenon. With a little wood glue I then placed it onto the body for a snug fit.

 After the head was securely attached I then went on to drill the holes for the eyes, nose, and ears. I'll post the remaining photos and the finished "Herbert Sherbert" just as soon as I can finish him.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

WIP: Indian From Core Of Red Cedar (part 2 of 2)

WIP="Work in Progress"
A few weeks ago I began carving an Indian warrior inside a very nice piece of eastern red cedar where part one can be found here. I carried it around everywhere I went for several days and continued carving on it whenever I could.

As you can see from the picture to the right as it sits on the steps of my house this warrior is now finished. Standing 9" tall with a 2" diameter it isn't too overwhelming and will draw just the right amount of attention from its place on the showcase shelf where it will remain, unless... someone pulls out a hundred dollar bill. (Ha) Don't laugh too hard because that's exactly what happened about ten years ago when I finished a very similarly carved Indian in a piece of red cedar. I told the kind lady that it wasn't for sale because I really liked it and wanted to hang on to it. She then proceeded to pull out a one hundred dollar bill when I then told her that I could "learn" to live without it.

 The carving went very well as red cedar is mostly a pleasure to carve. I used my Flexcut Carvin' Jack the most but I resorted to my macro tools for some of the finer detailing and hard to reach areas.

When the Indian was finished I then decided to add a Thunderbird just above his head as seen in the pictures to the left. This was a simple and very shallow low-relief carving because I wanted only the creamy white "surface" wood to show. I then went on to burn in some outlining of the design then added some very watered down acrylic paints for a touch of color.

The final finish consisted of a light sanding then a couple coats of gloss polyurethane. Only the face of the Indian, the Thunderbird, and the very top of the wood received the high gloss. I only hand rubbed a dull polyurethane finish into the surrounding wood for a "complete" seal and a nice contrast.

This one's not for sale at any price!
Well.......maybe I'll think about it if some kind soul just happens to pull out a hundred dollar bill. :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Learning To Carve: My Story

Learning to carve takes me back several decades when I was in elementary school. Remember those kid's in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade who were "revered" for their ability to draw great pictures during art class? Besides producing great pictures they always got special recognition from the teacher and everyone in the class. Even more than producing great art I believe that I envied their positive attention which became a motivator. Kids are no different today where positive attention for excellent work is a very strong motivation to succeed.

I noticed that the kid's (usually only one in the class) who produced that great art were the one's who were always drawing. I'm talking all the time. One kid named Dan Roper especially comes to mind. They had the best decorated 3-ring binder notebooks, they doodled during class... they were always drawing on request for everyone and it seemed like the pencil was glued to their hand at every opportune moment.

I believe that this early experience taught me that the only way to get better at something was to do it all the time. To get better I know that I have to carve something every single day. That's the reason I wear pants with cargo pockets so that I can have a small project with me 24/7... OK, I do take my pants off for bedtime, but they're only 3 feet away at any given moment. My Carvin' Jack (by FlexCut) is also always on my belt loop so I’m always on “go”.

Back in the early 1990's I wanted to stretch my ability to the next level so I became obsessed with learning to carve face's... mainly woodspirit faces. I literally studied the people around me with a laser beam focus (and I continue to do so today). Whenever I'm talking to someone my brain is also absorbing a lot of information about how their nose is shaped and its relation to their eyes and forehead, the unique form in their lips, their eyes in relation to their nose, etc. I am truly obsessed with learning and EVERYONE is my teacher. I've actually become pretty good at carrying on a conversation while simultaneously absorbing a lot of facial structural information then tucking it away somewhere in my brain for future reference. That's really how I've gotten better at what I do because there's a lot more to it than just reading how-to carving books. You must engage your brain in real life.

As for woodspirit walking sticks, I recall having to carve over 30 of them before I was finally satisfied with trying to sell them. They weren't bad sticks and I loved them but I still needed to improve. I gave them all away and remember jokingly telling the happy recipient that it was only a "B" stick. But the day came when I was finally satisfied and knew that I deserved to be financially compensated. I continue to refine my own unique brand of carving but I never want to feel like I have "arrived". I continue to be obsessed with learning more and being obsessed has a lot to do with it for me.

 When I successfully hiked 2,565 miles in 2001, Mexico to Canada, on the Pacific Crest Trail I became obsessed with ultra-light camping methods and pack weight reduction. The base weight of my pack was only 9.2 pounds and that's the main reason that I made it all the way in only 109 days. Same goes for learning to carve because you WILL learn how to carve if you become obsessed with learning how and never quit looking for your own answers. If you want something bad enough then you WILL find a way to get there. Several decades ago I wanted to be a good wood carver more than anything so I kept at it almost every single day for years.

Looking back to those early experiences in elementary school I know that I learned a lot about how to obsess myself with learning something new. Then I was motivated by all the positive recognition from teacher's and peer's, but today I am doubly rewarded with extra dollars in sales and even my career has been centered around teaching kid's to carve and work with wood every day in woodshop  and Scouting classes.

So how long did it take me to get what I consider good? All in all I'd have to say that it's been a lifetime experience and that I've always found ways to push myself from one level to the next... AND I always carve something, no matter how simple, every single day! If you do that then you will greatly improve your ability to carve great things tenfold.