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!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sundry Sunday

Welcome back friends and neighbors. I've spent the last couple of weeks doing different things and trying different techniques, so this blog post is something of a hodge-podge. First up is a little Celtic dragon I did for my daughter. She's going to make a pendant (or something) from it for her jewelry line.

The wood is 1/4" walnut that I got from Woodcraft. Walnut wasn't as hard to carve as I thought it would be. Of course it was only 1/4" thick so I wasn't taking off huge pieces. The only machine I used on this was a drill to start the piercings. Everything else, including rough shaping from the original square blank, was done with a knife. Could be better, but for a first effort, I'm rather pleased.

This wood spirit is the first I've ever done in found wood. As such it was something of a new experience. I believe the wood is aspen. I am not a student of plant life. I know there are two kinds of trees, deciduous and evergreen. Beyond that I'm pretty clueless.

I did this guy a little differently than the others I've done. I did the eyes the way Don Mertz, The Woodbee Carver, does in his tutorial. Then I used a round, negative space for the irises/pupils. I rather like the way it turned out. I also got a little more curvature on the dental mound than I usually get and got more of the nose on the face rather than sticking out in front of it. Still not quite where I want it, but getting better.

The next series of photos is of another technique I've picked up from Don, the Whittle Doodle.

A Whittle Doodle is just exactly what it says. It's a doodle for whittlers. Instead of doodling on a piece of paper with your pencil, you doodle on a piece of scrap wood with your knife. In this case it's a 2"x2"x2" block of basswood. It's a low-pressure way to practice since (unless you are Don) it's not meant to be seen by anyone else. As you can see, I screwed up the eye on the right royally, but I'm really happy with the way the nose turned out. You can also see that the regularity of my borders needs some work. I've still got a lot of room on this Doodle to play with. I'm going to keep at it until I've got every face full. It's going to be interesting when I get to the end-grain faces! That may take a while.

That's enough rambling for now. So, until next time, let the chips fly.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Many Mini Santas

Christmas time is a-commin', so I'm starting to stock up on Santas. First up is my 2009 ornament. I try to do a different style of ornament every year. I'll do some of the old ones as well, but I introduce a new one annually.

These guys are carved from 1.5"x1.5"x4" basswood. They are carved "on the corner". that is, they are carved so that the nose is formed from a corner of the block. This is a technique to make getting the curvature of the face easier.

This year I'm also doing a limited edition of 5 sets of 5 different Santa miniatures. This Old World Santa will be the first figure in the sets. These are MINIATURES! They are carved from a 1"x1"x3" block of basswood and are NOT carved on the corner.

Minis are a lot of fun to do. Some people do this size of carving all the time. I tease Tom H all the time about how his carvings are so small I have a hard time seeing them, much less carving at that scale. And Don Mertz, The Woodbee Carver, has a whole "line" of carvings he calls Whittle Folk that are all about this size. This, however, is my first major foray into carving this small. I had to go out and buy some +3 reading glasses just to be able to see what I was doing! Gettin' old is hell, let me tell ya.

The knife is a Ralph E. Long Model WH-9 that I've modified to fit my druthers. The blade is about 1" long, and the point originally continued on up which put the tip of the knife about 3/16ths of an inch above the back of the blade where it joins the handle. That put the tip too high for me to use comfortably, so I took a diamond hone to it. I brought the point back down to where it is even with the back of the blade. This is one rockin' miniature knife!

I'm not real pleased with a couple of these guys. A couple of them are probably going to get recarved before long. Eyes at this scale are a real b. . . . . . challenge.

This next bunch was inspired by Don Mertz, again! He calls them Pin Heads because they are carved from the old-fashioned clothes pins that you can get from Hobby Lobby. I saw his, and I just HAD to try it!

I think the pins are made from beech, but I'm not totally sure. The ones I have are almost as easy to carve as basswood, but the wood is darker and has some dark spots in it. These pins are about 9/16" in diameter. Talk about a challenge! Especially the eyes! Never mind carving them, painting them is the real killer. If you click on the picture you'll see that the eyes on the two red-and-whites on the right are pretty wonky. I either need to make the eyes bigger or get a smaller toothpick (that being what I use to paint the eyes).

If you are interested in talking to Ralph about his knives, his email addy is

And now for something completely different:

This woodspirit is carved from a birch dowel 1.5" in diameter by 6" long. I'm working on a step-by-step that will appear on this blog real soon now.

Until then, let the chips fly!