Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Good Weekend for a Woodcarver...and a Grampa

When my wife came back from a brief visit with our Daughter, Son-in-law and two grand children last weekend, she said that she thought 2-year old Clara -- who has an affinity for owls -- would *really like* to have a "Grampa-carved" owl for her bedroom wall.

The whole family was to be in town for the my birthday this past Saturday so the question became: "Could I find a suitable owl to use for a pattern and could I get it carved and painted in 5 days?"

If I had to decide what I thought was the Internet's most important use I would say, without a doubt, that it is finding images for carving.
I pulled up Google Images and within 5 minutes I found a picture of the perfect owl (just to the left here).   I don't know for certain but it sure looks like something that flew off  the Disney drawing boards.

I blew up the image to the desired size and printed it out.  Two minutes spent with carbon paper and about five more with the band saw and I was off to the races.

Since the wings exist almost in the same plane (even though one appears to be way in front of the other) and since my basswood was only about 3/4"thick, the entire piece had to be done in rather shallow relief. But the head, which is much smaller needed to be almost done "in the round" for everything to look right. This was the first time that I had ever tried anything like that.

I started carving Monday evening and took my tools and the blank with me on a business trip so I could carve in my hotel room Wednesday night. [Note to self: Remember to send a note of apology to the poor hotel maid that had to vacuum all of those little wood chips out of the rug the next day. I picked up most of them, but those little things really stick! :-)].
I got home Thursday evening but couldn't paint the little guy until Friday evening. I sprayed the owl with Polyurethane Saturday morning and presented it Saturday afternoon. A close call, time-wise, but I think that the results were worth it. Clara was having a snack -- away from her older brother -- so with her parent's permission, I chose that moment to present it.
Clara's reaction? First she cried, "An owl!!!" Then she reached out and hugged it...then me!

Grampa's reaction? Kinda warm all over.

"Til next time...keep makin' chips...Oh...and maybe an owl for your grand-daughter:-)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Barry Badhop and Dusty Jowls -- Sports Superstars

I’ve been going through some of the oldies but goodies so I’m going to be post some of them over the next couple of days.

Case in point: Consider Barry here.  Some days it just doesn’t seem like it’s a good idea to get out of bed.  Barry must be thinking just about now since that “easy pick” grounder took a *bad hop* and is currently attempting to replace his Adam’s apple.  I’ve never been in this particular situation, but I’m betting that starting tomorrow Barry will be re-evaluating his choice of activities.  Maybe he’ll decide to take up woodcarving :-).


“Dusty Jowls” here may be having similar thoughts.  It seemed like a really good idea -- at the time -- to grab that ball before it could hit the ground but I’ll bet that Dusty will consider all of the possible implications of his actions after this little episode.  That's gotta hurt!

Wow, I just noticed as I am writing this that these photos have dates on them...I did this carving 7 years ago!

I also just noticed Dusty's jersey number..."0".  I guess that fits :-)

"Til next time...keep makin' Chips!

Friday, April 16, 2010

OK, So Now I'm *Really* Curious...

Since I installed my "hit counter" I have been amusing myself with looking at how many hits the blog gets and where they come from.  In the past couple of weeks the number of hits -- from what appears to be new viewers -- is just going through the roof!...from the UK, Germany, France and a whole slew of folks from Canada.

I'm certainly not complaining.  In fact, I'm *thrilled* that people actually find my blathering on about carving even remotely interesting!  

But I'd love to know *how* people are finding the site and *what you are looking for* when you find me.  If you've got a moment-- and I assume that you *must* because you've taken the time to look me up -- please drop a comment to tell me how you found me and if there is something in particular that you would like to see here.  Maybe I can come up with something that you find even more interesting.


'Til next time...keep makin' chips -- and comments!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More Love Spoons

I was sorting through photos last week trying to pick ones to print and culled out these love spoons that I did for last year's Christmas Craft Show.  Most are my designs but I have to admit that they are *highly* influenced by others I have seen in person or on the web.  So, if I have copied yours, I apologize and remind you that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Sorry for the squirrely layout, but the tool that they supply for entering the blog stuff is pretty crude and I'm not good enough at HTML to clean up what it puts out.

'Til next time...keep makin' chips!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ventriloquist Dummies

On Monday night we a special guest at The Chisels and Chips Carving Club.

Scott Bryte, whose hobby is building ventriloquist dummies, wowed a crowd of about 45 people with a discussion of the fundamentals of dummy creation followed by an impromptu ventriloquist performance.

At the outset, Scott admitted to being "just a little nervous". He had many performances under his belt, but had never presented a "how-to" to such a group of capable artisans. He needn't have worried. The crowd loved his talk.

Scott describes himself as a "bagpipe-playing, Victrola-collecting, children's-book-writing, woodcarving ventriloquist, who while currently a Lutheran pastor, hopes to be an artist when he grows up."

Also making an appearance last night were:
1) his "altar"-ego "Pastor Woody" [Sorry, I just couldn't resist that one:-)],
2) a 4-foot tall, Frankenstein-inspired creature named "Sparky",
3) "Herold, the Christmas Angel"
4) several other tiny dummies that Scott calls a "Carv-TOONs"; an Oragatan, a little frizzy haired blonde kid (no name yet)and Mr. Puppet. These clever, albeit very simple dummies sport only movable mouths. However, what they lack in complexity, they more than makes up for in "cute".

So, was Scott's presentation well received? You be the judge. Before he left, he had 3 people begging him to run a puppet making class for them.

And, for those that live close enough...The Chisels and Chips Woodcarving Club meets on the 2nd Monday (evening) of every month at the Parkwood Presbyterian Church, located on Mount Royal Boulevard, Hampton Township (north of Pittsburgh) PA.
Everyone is welcome, whether you are woodcarver, a woodcarver wantabe or would just like to hang out with a group of "incredibly cool people" who enjoy using wickedly sharp tools to reduce perfectly good chunks of wood into interesting well as big piles of woodchips:-)

'Til next time...Keep makin' Chips!

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Carving of St. Francis

Many years after the fact -- like a couple of weeks ago (!) -- it was brought to my attention that my son was born on the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4th.  [OK…yeah...I *knew* he was born on the 4th…I just didn’t know that the date was “important”:-).]

I knew that he had a large print of the Saint in his house but I always thought that he just like the “look” of the picture.  Who knew?  Well, apparently my wife did. 
She informed me of the connection soon after I decided to do a somewhat stylized carving of the Saint based, of all things, on a picture of a lawn ornament that I found in a magazine… sometimes inspiration comes from the *strangest* places. 

The carving is from Basswood (what else?) and is about 11” tall.  It sits on a small base that I turned from some kind of maple that I found in my scrap wood pipe.  The photos don’t begin to do the wood grain justice.  It might be “Ambrosia” Maple, but that is purely a guess based on the look of the grain in a bowl that I turned a few years ago.  The major reason for the base is that the figure is tall (~11”) and slender and more than a bit “tippy” because the bowl hangs out so far.  The birds were carved separately and glued on with little pieces of dowel rod.

In scratching around to find some background to add to the posting, I found this bit in Wikipedia:

“Perhaps the most famous incident that illustrates the Saint's humility towards nature is recounted in the "Fioretti" ("Little Flowers") a collection of legends and folklore that sprang up after the Saint's death. It is said that, one day, while Francis was traveling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds" The birds surrounded him, drawn by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. Francis spoke to them:

My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you... you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore... always seek to praise God."

I also learned from my son that during the Christmas celebrations in the Italian town of Greccio in 1220, St. Francis began the Christian tradition of the crèche or Nativity scene by placing an empty manger between a real ox and donkey.

These seemed like nice thoughts for the day.

“Til next time…Keep makin’ chips.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Snowman Plate - a Bad Omen???

I found this pattern in a carving magazine (Woodcarving Illustrated??) last year and decided to make one for my wife this past fall. 

I first turned the plate out of Basswood (about 8" across) and then carved the snowman.  It is done in relief but not in quite the same way as the one in the article.  The snowman's nose is a small piece of dowel rod inserted into the plate.  In the original, the nose was also done in relief and just didn't do a thing for me.  It looked fine, as viewed from the left, but looked terribly distorted, as viewed from the right.

The dots on the scarf were inspired by Lynn Doughty.  The scarf looked very flat and *blaah* without them. It is amazing how such a simple trick makes all the difference.  BTW, he has some *outstanding* how-to-videos that I hardily recommend if you are into *any* sort of carving. (see

We hung it to the right of the front door for Christmas. But, in retrospect, maybe that wasn't such a good idea...

I'm not saying that I am superstitious, but we got to wondering if hanging a snowman (a la Frosty) somehow invoked the 48" of snow that we received in February (the worst on record here in Pittsburgh).  The "Snowpacalypse" ended soon after we unceremoniously removed it.  ....hmmmmm, I'm not sure he's going back up next year!  :-)

This is me clearing the first 18".  By the time the month ended the poor old snow blower (to say nothing of the poor smuck pushing it) just couldn't throw it high enough to get over the mounds on either side of the driveway.

'Til next time...keep making chips!