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Carving and Sculpture
I have had the great honor of carving the wonderful Creche scene – often referred to as the Nativity – Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. I will be delivering this on Friday to Mepkin Abbey for their Creche Festival and I still have a few days of fussing with the finish.
Throughout the carving process, I quite often found myself praying for guidance – not only because the wood and design was a challenge, but the simple and humble honor of carving such incredible figures from the greatest story ever told!
I have decided to finish it with 3 coats of shellac with light sanding between each coat. The first 2 coats are brushed on and the final coat is sprayed. This is just to keep it simple and quick. I am definitely far from a finishing expert, and when I do have to finish my work, I keep it as basic as it gets. The thing I like about shellac is that if I screw up, I can remove it! Great news when I have no clue what I am doing! Time is running short, so I just need to get it done…
Here are photos of carving Mary. The Process was a real challenge because this was from a Pawlownia wood log that had been sitting outside for 2 years. Half of the log was rotten with very soft wood. I had to simply grind away all this nasty wood and carve Mary out of what was left – which caused the first attempt to not work out as well as I had wanted. I was not happy with the way the legs were positioned. I had to remove so much wood from the soft sections, that the legs were sort of awkward shaped – too thin. So I decided to remove the lower section of Mary’s legs and replace it with the piece of wood I removed from Joseph. This allowed me to have Mary in a kneeling position, which I liked much more.
Here are the photos of carving the Baby Jesus:
The most students I have had in my workshop at one time is 7 (Charles Neil and gang). I had to clear out areas in my shop that had not seen light for a very long time in order to find a place for them all. This past class wasn’t nearly as crowded, but I did have to find enough level spaces on workbenches for 5 students.
A great group of guys from Asheville, NC area came down to little ol’ Charleston for a 2-day carving class. They drove down with their spouses, and while their wives went shopping, the guys spent 2 days studying woodcarving with me. I personally would rather be carving – but that’s me (unless I’m shopping for tools). They were a relatively subdued, well-behaved, and focused group – definitely NOT like the Charles Neil Gang.
We covered a lot in 2 days – several of the guys had never carved before so we started with the basics (the worm!) and then the camellia and finally the shell. Two others who had carving experience carved a ball and claw, and one other with carving experience carved a shell on the back-splat of a chair. Everyone did very well with the carvings, and a genuinely nice group of guys – they even took me out for lunch! How much better could it get???
A friend of mine in Summerville, SC, Tom Timm, is selling off much of his 32 year collection of genuine mahogany. He has some beautiful wood 1 inch to 5 inches thick, 20 to 38 inches wide.
So if you have a dream of making that tilt-top tea table, this might be the place to find that perfect board for the top. The sale will go on for the next month. He also has walnut and other figured woods.
I will be heading over there soon and hope I have enough discipline to not spend all of my children’s inheritance…
His web site is http://www.customwoodcrafter.com
His phone number is 843-871-8815
Tell him Mary May sent you!
Any of you who followed my treadle lathe project know that most of it was based on Stephen Shepherd’s drawings of an 1805 Turning Bench. You might also remember that I stalled for a long time while searching for a blacksmith … who apparently fled NY’s wonderful tax system and literally headed for the hills.
I recently heard from another lathe builder who was also looking for certain parts, all the metal bits. Good News…
Just in! Stephen Shepherd has just pulled together a hardware package for people building the lathe. The hardware lets one keep the authentic nature of the machine with fittings that match the original plans (with a very minor size difference here or there). From Stephen’s description, the fittings look great and I see the price as very reasonable.
Highly recommended! see: http://www.fullchisel.com/blog/?p=4425
We just had a wonderfully successful week at Woodworking in America in Cincinnati. I taught on “How to Bring Life to Leaves” and “Linenfold”. My husband, Stephen, came with me. I find it fascinating that I can comfortably teach 40 or 50 complete strangers, but if my husband is in the room, I get all flustered and nervous. Why is that??? He actually was a great help, and after I got over my anxiety of having him there, everything went fine. There were those first few minutes of being self-conscious, but then I had to get on with it – and, well, basically ignore him and pretend he wasn’t there (poor guy). I am glad I got past that issue because now I am much more comfortable with him being invovled in my teaching. But why was there even an issue? Why would I get nervous about having the person who knows me best see me in my “natural” environment, doing what I love to do? Maybe it’s the fear of critique. Maybe it’s just an irrational anxiety that can’t be explained?
I was not able to see much of the other demos, but was able to sit in on a few. One in particular that was fascinating was a round-table discussion about online schools and woodworking forums that involved 9 prominent people who run some very popular forums and successful online woodworking schools. The “round-table” discussion went over many topics and it was interesting to hear how everyone got started, the struggles they had, and the reasons they decided to start a forum or school. Ultimately, everyone’s desire on these websites is to have discussions, learn from a variety of woodworkers out there, and teach – either by video, audio, or written blog. With the technology moving along as it is, the most amazing information can be shared, and it is great to see that so many people are willing to offer advice (both the hosts and the guests), share their knowledge, and just be available for both those who are starting out in woodworking and those who have made woodworking their life.
Here is the list of participants in this round-table discussion:
Ellis Walentine, host of WoodCentral. The guys from WoodTalk Online – Matt Vanderlist, Marc Spagluolo (also has an onIine woodworking school called the Wood Whisperer), , and Shannon Rogers (also has an online school called the Renaissance Woodworker). Then there was Wilber Pan who has a forum about Japanese woodworking tools and techniques called Giant Cypress. Steve Schuler (I may have gotten his name wrong) of Woodnet. Then there were 3 from the Modern Woodworkers Association, Chris Adkens, Dyame Plotke, and Tom Iavino. Check out their forums and woodworking schools – you could get lost for weeks or months (or more) soaking up the knowledge – and please participate! These cannot be successful unless people get involved.
I had a great time making leaves flip and twist, and also showing the linenfold carving techniques. I hope I got people inspired to try carving. There were many people I have spoken to and told me they are wanting to carve, but that it just seems too difficult. I hope that by showing what can be done this past weekend, I was able to motivate some to simply take a chisel in hand and start.
I also got to see my buddy, Roy Underhill, but was not able to sit in on any of his talks. Doing a demo in the room next to Roy is always a daunting experience, and this is exactly what happened last weekend. My quiet slicing of wood, with maybe an occasional tapping with the mallet is often interrupted with the massive pounding, hollering, and intermittent hoots of laughter from the room next door. I was afraid people were going to start saying “wow – that sounds like they’re having a lot of fun next door – I wonder when I can sneak out without being noticed…” In Roy’s shadow…
We filmed another show last spring, and it should start showing up on PBS stations. I am pretty sure it is also available for viewing on their website.
Off to go play in my shop and work on the nativity scene than needs to be finished way too soon. Happy Carving!
Yes, a tool tote. One project too many found me making numerous trips to the workshop, usually for a few tools per trip. It’s long past time to have a carry tote or tool tote for the projects away from the workshop. One of the very simple projects at Paul Sellers’ Woodworking Masterclass site is a “Carrying Tote.” The purpose of the 2 episode project is to teach the basic dado (housed dado in UK) joint. Hey, I had some lumber of appropriate size. Actually it was a bit wider and I wasn’t in the mood for ripping. So, I used the width I had and it worked out OK. Building the tote itself was easy.
But, it was plain. Plain wood. Ahhhh, the problem was an absence of carvings! Have to fix that…
There was a time that we vacationed away from the shop, and I substituted a pencil and yellow notepad for gouges and wood … making lots of drawings of Acanthus leaves and scrolls.
I borrowed from that collection for these carvings. These are shapes that are actually better in high relief, on wood an inch thick or more. The challenge here was executing them in low relief while still giving the right sense of shape. At the same time, I wanted them incised instead of raised where every knock and bump would produce damage.
The box is made of Radiata Pine from New Zealand, the “white wood” carried by our big orange home center. When I started, I was skeptical about carving this stuff. It actually worked out well, a bit stringy in places, but not too bad. Finish is 3 coats of shellac. No rub out. No wax.
Desk box, keepsake box, any other kind of box, what’s the difference?
It’s another American Cherry box, all from heartwood. Like most cherry I’ve come across, there are a few dark stains here and there. Those are from bird pecks. Birds harvesting insects from the bark leave marks which end up as nearly black marks within the grain of the wood. If I were to look for peck free cherry, I would find little useful material.
Three things are distinctive with this box. One, is the mitered dovetails. They provide a very nice miter on the visible edges while retaining traditional dovetails. The miters are perfect hiding places for the grooves that retain the bottom. No more fussing with trying to plane a stopped groove! In another 2 or 3 boxes, I won’t be calling this feature distinctive, but the norm.
The tilt top is a first for me. It’s simple, fitted on wood dowel hinges. The hinge pins are placed so as to keep the top edge flush with the tops of the sides and ends. A notch cut into the front of the box completes the flush fitting. The lid is lifted from a curved edge that protrudes about 1/8″. I made that curve match the oval of the carving. The placement of the hinge pins also allows the lid to rest at about 95 degrees in the open position. Nice!
The third distinction, not really new with this box, is what some call a “3 corner grain wrap.” The grain flows around the box, matching at all corners except the last, and even there it’s not far off. How is that done? Carefully! First, resaw a piece of wood that is as close as to the length of one side plus one end as possible. Open up the book matched pair. Mark carefully in either clockwise or counterclockwise rotation: end, side, end , side. The marked faces are the outside faces of the box. Keep the parts in the correct order when cutting the joinery and assembling. See; simple! (In the photo, each piece includes it’s A, B,C,D marking plus a script “f” for “f”ace.)
Note to self: that pink chalk finds its way into the grain and is hard to remove. Find another marking method.
The only other “design decision” was the size of the dovetails and which orientation for the pin boards. I made the choice on achieving a balance of end grain areas in relation to the size of then ends or sides. Dimensions: outside – 9″ x 6″ x 2 3/4″ inside – 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.
The rest is the pleasure of assembling and especially carving. Finish is hand rubbed shellac and paste way, very satiny. The box is available on Etsy.
Here are pictures of the grain wrap….