Sunday, December 27, 2009

Back In The Saddle Again!

Greetings and Salutations! Hope everyone had a fine Christmas and is looking forward to the New Year.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I've been busy on a new lovespoon. This one I'm calling Cranes & Cross, for obvious reasons. It's made of a nominal 3"x1"x12" poplar board.

It doesn't come out in the photos very well, but there is a stripe of brownish-green running through the right hand side of the spoon. That's the reason the eye and wing of the right-hand crane stand out more than the left.

I'm very fond of the pairs concept in lovespoon design, especially cranes as they mate for life. After all, isn't that what it's all about? I'm also fond, as I'm sure some of you have noticed, of the two-hearts-merged-into-one bowl design.

The knot is called Fae's Eternal Promise. I have modified it a bit to accentuate the heart shape.

This spoon I did a little differently in that I only used the hand saw to rip the handle to the depth I wanted it. I used a drill to start the piercings. The rest of the shaping and finishing was done with knives. It is an original design, and took me about 10-12 hours over four days.

You might note the feet on the cranes. That wasn't an intentional design element. While doing the leg on the left-hand crane I got a little carried away with wood removal. You know how it is when the wood just seems to be flying off the edge of your knife. Luckily I noticed it before I chewed all the way through the leg. So I had to adapt the leg of the other crane to match. Ah, design adjustments! I love 'em!

This wasn't the best piece of poplar that I've ever carved. It had a tendency to split out. When I was drilling the starts to the piercings around the cross a chunk about an eighth-of-an-inch thick split out directly across the left hand arm of the cross. That wasn't so terrible since I was going to relieve the cross anyway to put it behind the cranes.

You can see some striations on the top of the bowl, and could be forgiven for thinking it showed a split-out. But that part of the bowl is as fair and smooth as can be. It has to be something to do with that greenish-brown stripe, through nothing like that has happened before.

And here's what the back of the spoon looks like. I paid a little more attention this time to the guzunders and the guzovers.

So there you have it.

Until next time, when I hope to have more in-progress photos, let the chips fly!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all! Thank you to all who have read my blog and especially to those who have chosen to leave comments. I want you all to know that among the many things I am thankful for, your attention is one of those.

And with that, a little Santa Show.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Birds & Fishes Lovespoon Finished -- Finally!

I know, I know, I have neglected you, my faithful readers, horribly. My only excuse is that I was in production mode on my Santas, every spare moment devoted to that jolly old elf.

But now I'm back! Celebration abounds!

Or, maybe not.

In any case, I finally got the guts to finish the Birds & Fishes Lovespoon that I started way back in February. It was only my third lovespoon, and I think I got a little ambitious with the design. So, seven months, three lovespoons and innumerable Santas later I decided I was ready to finish it, and here is the result.

This photo shows what a dog's dinner I made of the back of the birds's necks, all through the mechanism of not paying attention, front to back, of the order of the goesovers to the goesunders.

This photo shows the front view of the birds.

Here's the lower part of the spoon.

And a detail of the bowl.

And an overall photo of the back of the spoon. Overall, not a bad effort, if I do say so myself. Even if it did take 7 months!

So I'm off on another woody adventure or two. I've already got the design for my next lovespoon transferred onto a blank, and I'm also playing with a design for a Woodworker's Chess set. I'm almost done with the first bishop, and I have designs for the pawns, knights and rooks. I'm dithering about the design of the king, and I have no idea what I'm going to do with the queen. Once I get one of each of the pieces carved, I'm going to post them and ask guidance for the queen's design. So keep on the lookout.

Until next time, let the chips fly!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It Ain't Fire Wood Redux

We got some snow this week. I took a couple of pictures through the windshield of my car on my way to work just before sun-up.

The quality isn't the best, but you try taking a picture one handed through the windshield of your car! That white peak to the right in the first picture is Pike's Peak at 14,192'. Or something. It is one of the Fourteener's here in Colorado. If you look closely you can see the line on the mountains where the snow starts. That's about 8,000 feet.

I also did some reworking on last post's subject. I'll post the photo of the original next to the photo of the revised work.

It's amazing how little wood was taken off to produce this effect. I thinned down the nose and changed the profile of the bridge and elevated the tip a bit. I removed some wood between her mouth and her nose. I also altered the lower lip and took some shavings off the bottom of the chin. All the chips I removed could be put in a thimble with lots of room left over. She's still not as feminine as I would like, but good enough until the next one.

Currently I'm working on a new Santa ornament, a small male wood spirit and a very small tasting spoon. I'm using slightly different techniques on all of them. It'll be interesting to see how they turn out.

Until the, let the chips fly!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It Ain't Fire Wood 'Til It's Kindling!

Fire wood is the term carvers and whittlers use to designate carvings that have gone wrong. Might as well use 'em for fire wood and get some utility out of 'em.

My view is that most carvings that go wrong can be saved with a little imagination, flexibility and perseverance. Witness my latest foray toward the female face.

As you can see, the eyes are a mess. The level of difficulty is a little higher on this one than on my last because of the hair drifting down over the face. Her right eye is partially covered and the space between the main hair falls is pretty narrow. This branch is about 4 inches long and about 1" in diameter. (And if anyone can identify the wood, I'd be most grateful.)

All of the carving up to this point was done with my self-modified Kissing Crane Four-Blade Congress pocket knife. It's a nice, well-built knife for $15, and performed admirably up to this point.

One of these days I'll get over being afraid of eyes, but that day ain't yet. I was too timid about the first set of eyes I gave her. They were too small and too shallow. I'll admit that I was also rather intimidated by the lack of space left by the hair. I could have redone the hair, but I wanted this kind of look, so I decided to redo the eyes. Lord knows there was enough wood left.

I couldn't get the pocket knife blades down in there at the angles I needed to make the cuts I wanted to make, so I switched over to my Ralph Long long knife. That narrow 2" blade was just what I needed. It may seem contra-intuitive that I needed a long blade to get into a tight spot, but the narrowness of the point and the curve of the blade allowed me to get down in there and cut around the eye without nicking (mostly) the eyebrows and hair.

I deepened the cuts above the eyes and moved the bottom of the lower lids much further south making them deeper as well. I used the very tip of the knife to make lots of very small chips while building the eye mounds.

While building the eye mounds I decided that a sleeping dryad fit this pose better, so I finished the eyes that way.

I think she turned out pretty well, but while looking at the photos I began to think she had a rather androgynous look. She could be either a pretty-boy rocker or a woman. I'm beginning to think it might have something to do with the lower lip where it meets the corners of the mouth. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

Until next time, let the chips fly!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My First Woman -- Carving, That Is

I've learned a lot about carving faces over the last couple of weeks. I had decided that I wanted to carve a female face. I happen to like women. A lot! So a female face was a natural subject for me. It only took me almost six decades to actually do it!

But just doing something I'd never done before wasn't enough for me. No, not only did I decide to go to the distaff side of subjects, I also decided I wanted to do her as a woodspirit. In found wood! Not even that was enough. I did her in seasoned found wood. Am I a glutton for punishment or what?

Of course I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to at least make her attractive, if not beautiful. Think dryad. So I had to do some studying. My first stop was Ian Norbury's book, Carving Classic Female Faces in Wood. Of course Norbury is a good carver (yeah, let's understate the thing just a bit), but his women are fantastic. So I spent a goodly amount of time poring over his step-by-step photos, learning what he did when. (The time I spent droo . . . um . . . studying the blown up photos of his model was purely research. Yep!) I must admit, though, that his slavish attention to perfect symmetry got on my nerves a bit.

Speaking of symmetry, or the lack thereof, my next stop was a Marv Kaisersatt study cast of a young woman. I made the mind-boggling discovery that Marv is no more wedded to bilateral symmetry than I am. I must make a small diversion here to explain how I went about studying the Kaisersatt cast.

One of the blogs I follow is Doug Stowe's "Wisdom of the Hands", an excellent blog about the role of the hands in education. One of his posts (I wish I could find it again) made the point that modern Man has effectively lost the ability to "see with the fingers". As a woodcarver/sculptor I took that to heart and decided to take the Kaisersatt cast into a dark room and study it with my fingers. It took me a while to get into the groove, but eventually what a revelation! I saw something with my fingers that I had never seen before while examining the cast visually. The left side of her face was off! I speculate that while messing with the hair, he carved off a little (actually more than a little) too much off the temple. Instead of coming down and merging more or less smoothly with the cheek bone as on the right side of her face, he left a shelf of cheekbone running back under her hair toward her ear. A not inconsiderable shelf even though I never noticed it until I took her into a dark room and ran my fingers over her face. (yeah, yeah, take your best shot!) Not only did he make that "mistake", he allowed it to be immortalized in a study cast! How's THAT for confidence!

Okay, okay, moving right along. The next place I went was Lynn Doughty's blog, Out West Wood Carving. Lynn, like Marv, is arguably one of the finest caricature carvers alive today. He's always been generous with his advice and has an extensive gallery of WIP photos of his pieces. Just recently he's begun posting tutorial videos, and during the last week or so has posted a series of videos showing how he carves a head and face. Absolutely first rate work! He does have a tendency to get between the camera and his carving, but his wife, who is both cameraman and director, doesn't let that last long. If you have ANY interest in carving faces, whether caricature or realistic, you MUST view that series.

So that's what I studied. And I got a lot out of all the sources. You've seen my starting point above. You'll notice that the face is very long and the brow comes out just as far as the tip of the nose. One of the things I picked up from the Kaisersatt cast and was echoed in the Norbury and Doughty materials was that the brow is typically farther in than the tip of the nose. This next photo shows that corrected.

This is a front view at the same stage of carving. The chin is still longer than I like, and the sketched-in eye is too high.

I was able to correct that, mostly. The rest of the photos are of the almost finished piece. The only think I lack is putting in the pupils.

She's pretty good, but I'm going to do better.

Until next time, let the chips fly!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Beardless Wonder and The Fearless Wonder

First, The Beardless Wonder. He's not my first beardless face, but he is my first beardless wood spirit done in found wood. He turned out nicely, but I did some things I'm going to do differently next time. They aren't mistakes, they're learning experiences!

Overall I'm pretty happy with this guy. The biggest improvement I think I could make is going deeper into the branch for the chin. Most people's profile shows a convex curve when drawn from the hairline to the tip of the nose to the tip of the chin.

The other thing I would do is move the smile line on the left side closer to the corner of the mouth and smooth out the transition up to the cheek.

And now for The Fearless Wonder. Now you have to remember that this guy doesn't exist, never has, living or dead, in reality or in effigy. We've all got a bit of fear when it comes to our work. As you may have noticed, I've been trying to get more emotion into my faces. As I was coming down to the finish line on Beardless here, I was really happy with the way he was turning out. I got to the place that the only thing I needed to do to call him finished was to cut in the eyebrows.

He sat around for a WEEK before I could bring myself to finish the eyebrows. I started thinking (and this is not unusual for me) that I was going to screw up the eyebrows and ruin the whole thing! Never mind that I know how to fix such a screw up. Never mind that I had already fixed several things in the carving that I didn't like at first. I was going to screw up the eyebrows and that would totally ruin the entire carving. Have you ever heard of such a ridiculous thing?

Now admittedly this comes as a result of some self-examination. I didn't think specifically or rationally that I was going to screw it up. This was all some sort of subliminal gut type of feeling that didn't come out until I sat staring at the eyebrowless wonder yesterday.

This isn't the first time this gut-delay has happened, nor is it the first time I've come to this particular realization. I've got a potentially beautiful lovespoon WIP laying around that I've been ignoring for almost a year. One day I'll work up the guts to finish it.

This is all to illustrate that we all have these kinds of feelings to one degree or another, and that it is OK to give in to them on occasion. But you have to recognize that there is no rational reason for feeling that way and that sooner or later, preferably sooner, you're going to have to bite the bullet and finish the damn thing!

Until next time, let the chips fly!