Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hello Portugal and Spain!

For reasons known only to people who live there, I have recently had an extraordinary number of “hits” from Portugal and Spain…in particular, about my love spoons.

I’m sorry that I speak neither Portuguese nor Spanish but if there is something in particular that you would like to know about my spoons, like patterns or technique, let me know.  I’d be glad to oblige.

‘Til next time…keep makin’ chips!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Lights for the Shop!

OK, I have been busy and not tending to my blogging.  Sorry ‘bout that.  I’ll try to do better.

One of the reasons for the time period between posting is that I have started to do a few things to update and streamline my shop in anticipation of reducing the time I'm spending "workin’ for a livin’ ".  I plan to drop back to only 3 or 4 days a week during the next calendar year to leave more time for workin’ in the shop.

The first improvement was to update the lighting that I installed about 14 years ago.    Apparently, on those rare occasions when the previous owner ventured downstairs to actually do something he must not have need much in the way of lighting because the entire 24’x30’ basement was lit (not counting the light at the bottom of the stairs) with just two, count ‘em, two light bulbs: A 60-watt over the laundry tubs and a second one over the workbench.  This would be “techno genius” had installed -- well, let’s call it “a remote lighting control system” -- so that he could turn on either of the two lights “remotely” from the bottom of the stairs.  He had carefully fished extended pull cords for both lights through a number of strategically positioned screw eyes so that they were accessible from the bottom of the stairs.  My! what a clever Gent! (?).

As you can imagine I didn’t retain his…er…uh…”system” for long after we moved in.  I splurged on four double 4’ fluorescent fixtures and added two new circuits to control them.  That was a big improvement but as time went by, the sawdust accumulated and the bulbs aged -- to say nothing of my eyes – I started to think that I needed to update the lighting again.

A couple of weeks ago I invested in four new fixtures each with FOUR bulbs.  And this time they were “Cool White not the overly dim “Warm White”.  Wow! What a difference!  It is so much easier to see now.  Short of installing a skylight, this is as close to daylight as my shop will ever see.

I did discover a bad ballast in the second  fixture...after installing...of course.  So I had to take that one down again and schlep it back to Home Depot for a replacement.  You can bet that I checked out the remaining fixtures on the floor using a “suicide cord” before going to the trouble of lifting them into place and wiring them in.  They all work now.  Nice!

Unfortunately, though, the improved lighting also makes much easier to see how dirty, rundown and out of date everything has gotten.  So I will be spending time over the next few months trying to update the work surfaces and storage so I can take full advantage of my nifty new lighting.  I have some ideas (some original, others, not so much) for improved tool and supply storage that I hope to highlight here over the next few weeks and months.

I also have a couple of spoons (read: “Christmas presents”) to post.  I’ll do that as soon as they are delivered…you can’t give away any secrets at this time of year.

So until I have more that I can post, have a wonderful Holiday Season and…Keep makin’ chips!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Once again with the Stupid Headlines

Some one of these days I'll have some more stuff to show.  But for today just some more foolishness with Newspaper Headlines...I thought they had people to check these things.

Quarter of a million Chinese live on water – Wait a minute! I thought they were all starving because I wasn’t eating my broccoli.
House passes gas tax onto senate – It’s hard to say, maybe that would actually help the situation.
Iraqi head seeks arms – Maybe he should check into the following story…
Headless body in topless bar – …that might save him some effort.
NJ judge to rule on nude beach – Most judges seem to prefer the courtroom.
Ice cream man has assets frozen – That sounds painful.
Local Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide – You sure can tell they have been watching CSI.
Squad helps dog bite victim – Man! These guys are mean!
Arson Suspect Held in Massachusetts Fire – Talk about a heated interrogation.
Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests – I'm all for Law and Order but these guys are kinda over the top!
Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half – OK! OK! I’ll go back to school.  Just put that machete down!
Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984 – Maybe if we stopped paying them they would stop.
Miners refuse to work after death – I know I would.
Ban on Soliciting Dead in Trotwood – I agree.  It would be just mean to keep bugging them.
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead – Here, I thought that they already were.
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges – Now do you suppose that red duct tape is better than the conventional gray?
Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge – You’d think that he had suffered enough already.
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group – I expect the larger the better.
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks – Yum!
Chef Throws His Heart into Helping Feed Needy – I hope he doesn’t need it anymore.
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors – Are they sorta like the proverbial 10 Foot Pole?

'Til Next time...Keep makin' Chips

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Aviator

The dictionary defines the word Caricature as: “A picture, description or imitation of a person or thing in which certain characteristics are exaggerated to create a comic or grotesque effect.”   By that definition I guess that this is probably my first true “caricature”.  I have done a lot of “characters” before but they tended to be just characters in comical situations but were free of exaggerated physical proportions.  I think I exaggerated things “a bit” here.

This piece was done in his honor of a friend of mine, who I’ll refer to here as “E”, who just turned 80.  My boss, who actually introduced me to “E” about 10 years ago, asked me a couple of weeks ago if I had given any more thought to what I was going to carve for “E’s” birthday gift. 

If I could get paid for vacant stares, I would be really rolling in the cash right now.  I drew a complete blank at that statement.  I didn’t even remember discussing it.  In fact, I’m not even sure that I knew his birthday was coming up.

Note to self:  I really have start writing this stuff down!

To appreciate the piece, you need to understand a little bit about “E”:  When people refer to a “Renaissance Man” they may not realize it but they are talking about “E”.  An old-school Physicist who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty, there is very little that “E” can’t do or hasn’t done.  He has a wealth of “war stories”; is a great “idea man” to have around and he is also an exceptionally talented machinist.

My boss and I brainstormed for a few minutes and suddenly something that he said just caused this idea to pop into my head…right down to the paint job.  “E” logged many hours as a pilot.  For a time, 30 or so years ago, he moonlighted as a pilot for “The Flying Tigers” Air Freight Company.  He flew all over the world.  So it was not much of a stretch to decide that the carving should include a plane and that it should definitely be “P40-sique” with the traditional Spinach and Sand paint job and shark’s teeth nose art of the American Volunteer Group that served in China during WWII. 

This caricature also has obvious roots in the “Brown Shoe” days of the Army Air Corps and early USAF.  All shoes were black by the time I was in during the 1970s:-)

The story is told that many years ago “E” and his wife moved into a house that had issues with its existing water well.  Most people, myself included, would just groan, dig deep into their pockets and place a call to the local well driller, but not “E”.  He thought about it a bit, scrounged around, found an old VW engine, built a drilling rig around it and just drilled his own well.  Well, doesn’t everybody do that?

Apparently, “E” did have to do some reading on the subject as shown in the photos.  Heck, those overseas flights are long and you gotta stay awake somehow. 

Old time film buffs know that Alfred Hitchcock always made a cameo appearance in all of his movies.  In keeping with that tradition, if you look closely at the back cover you’ll see that apparently, yours truly wrote the book he’s reading:-)  

 I should add that unlike one particular excellent caricature carver (who shall remain nameless here but I will reveal the name if you ask) who can print an entire page of the encyclopedia on a postage stamp-sized object and make it readable, I have to resort to other means to get print that small.  I have discovered that PowerPoint can help out here.  I drew up the book cover at a reasonable size so (I could see what I was doing), grouped it and shrank it down to the correct size.  You have to play around with the font style, size and color but you can produce a pretty good replica of many tiny printed objects.  (All the signs in “Ollie Bord” were done this way.)  While I was at it I copied it a dozen times across the sheet before printing it out.  That way, I figured, if I didn’t have to get it glued on right the first time -- as it turned, I didn’t -- I could just cut out another cover and glued it on.  Sometimes it does pay to think ahead:--)

As a final comment, I turned the base from a chunk of the Wormy Chestnut that “E” gave me back when I got my lathe a few years back.

Happy 80th Birthday “E”!!!!!

One for the Bench:

Going to school and sitting at a desk doesn't make you an intellect any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.

‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wow! 3000 Hits

I am pleased to announce that the blog received its 3000 hit last night 4:00 this morning.  Talk about Night Owls!

This last thousand only took a bit more than 1/2 the time for the previous 1000.

So thanks, everyone.  Keep coming back.  Let me know if there is something in particular that you 'd like to see here.  I am open for ideas.

'Til Next time...Keep makin' chips!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The (mis) Use of English Today , revisited

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * Warning ! Curmudgeon Alert *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

Long time readers know that I find it interesting -- OK... "disturbing" -- how often people don’t really say what they think they are saying, witness a couple of my recent posts regarding the unfortunate wording of newspaper headlines

One of the things that I have noticed lately in everyday speech and, regrettably, in the media as well, is way that people now tend to choose odd – or at least confusing – sentence constructions when making “negative” statements.  When I hear one of these statements I just want to shout out, “No, No, No, that’s not what you mean!”

For example, on the news this morning one of the field reporters made a comment that went something to the effect:

Everyone in the car was not injured.”

For the sake of argument, let’s say that there were 4 people in the car.  That makes this statement true if one, two or even three people actually did receive injuries.  Think about it.  As long as there was at least one person in the car who escaped unscathed, "not everyone was injured" so the statement is still correct.  It is only incorrect if all four occupants were hurt. 

I don’t know for certain but I’m betting that what the reporter really meant to say was:

 “No one in the car was injured.”

It is as if people don’t want to start a sentence with a “negative” word, so they hide it at the end. 

I predict that if you pay attention, you will hear a statement like this at least once during the rest of your day and, more likely, multiple times.

One for the Bench

“The best mind-altering drug is truth.”

‘Til next time…keep makin’ chips and protecting the “King’s English” :-)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Frank, a VERY troubled soul

Frank N. Stein
Frank was brought into existence about 5 years ago out of a bunch of Basswood spare parts, just in time for Halloween.  

He generally spends the entire month of October standing guard at the corner of my cubical at work to protect me from all of the undesirable Halloween “goblins, haunts and spooks” that might approach to do me harm.  I appreciate his efforts and so I try very hard not to comment on his personal hygiene, shabby clothes or his "way-over-the-top" body piercings -- Man, that one in the throat has got to hurt! 

When the first of November arrives, he returns to the comfort of the third shelf of curio cabinet in the living room for 11 months of well-deserved rest and relaxation. 

Last year, as I took him home, he confided that the rigors of his yearly, hazardous, seasonal responsibilities are beginning to wear on him.  He really didn’t know how much longer he could handle the stress. 

You might find this as hard to believe as I do, judging by his otherwise cheerful countenance, but spending the entire month of October on alert has subjected him to bouts of severe depression and anxiety.  He says can’t help but feel that he is not quite himself and even claims that it often feels like he is living with someone else’s brain inside this head. I’m sure that he is just exaggerating, but on the way in this morning he even complained about being wracked with repeated “out of body” experiences. 

To his credit and without being asked, Wrigley Gumshoe has generously offered to shoulder part of the responsibility and stand guard with Frank.  When I informed Frank of Wrigley’s most generous offer, I think I saw him smile ever so briefly.

‘Til next time…Keep Makin’ Chips!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wrigley Gumshoe, Private Eye

It was a dark and stormy night…CRASH!… RUMBLE…RUMBLE, RUMBLE…

A woman screamed…SHREEK!…

A shot rang out…KA-POW!…sound of a body slumping to the ground

Good Evening and Welcome to another exciting episode in the continuing saga of “Wrigley Gumshoe, Private eye.

Tonight’s presentation is brought to you by SCUFF-NO-MOR, the miracle product of the space age guaranteed to protect your children from noxious growths and lizards indigenous to the area *.

Wrigley Gumshoe, Private Eye
I don’t know if you ever experience flashbacks to those halcyon days of long ago when radio dramas were king.  But I do every time I look at my latest figure.

Unlike most of my work, Wrigley is almost a carbon copy (I omitted his cigarette and changed the name) of the caricature carved by Dennis Thornton and featured in the Fall 2010 issue of Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine.  I have been wanting to work my “face-carving” skills and when I found this guy and his marvelously “chiseled” features -- Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one :-) -- I figured that he would make a good study piece. 

Dennis made a comment in the article about having to work at getting the face carved underneath the brim of the hat.  Well, he wasn’t kidding.  This guy has gone through a total of four hats!

Hat Number 1 was part of the overall rough-out block.  When I started to do the area around the eyes I managed to break off a piece of the brim (weak cross-grain).  “Oh well”, I thought, “No big deal.  I’ll just have to carve another hat separately.”  I just waltzed ol’ Wrigley downstairs to the band saw whacked off his hat and went on the rest of the carving.  Without the hat to interfere, the face carving went pretty smoothly.  I think I’m getting better, but I still need to work on the eyes.  I don’t think that I sink them far enough back into the face and they almost always seem a bit too open and zombie-like.

I used Lynn Doughty’s blue wash technique (I don’t have a direct link but check back through his early videos for the first one on painting, you’ll find it) to give Wrigley that gritty, Humphrey Bogart, 5 o’clock shadow look.  You might not be able to notice it in the photos but it DOES work.

Hat Number 2 - I roughed out another hat and decided that I would try to make my job a little easier. I used a Forstner bit to make remove the majority of the material on the inside of the hat.  I knew that I was going to have to open up the hole a bit more to allow for ol’ Wrigley’s slightly oval head.  But, as one of the many corollaries to Murphy’s Law states, “The larger the hole the more likely it is to be put in the wrong place.”  In lengthening the opening I managed to punch through the back of the hat…NUTS!!!!

Hat Number 3 – This time I was much more careful about the placement of the hole and was able to successfully enlarge it to comfortably accept Wrigley’s head, but in shaping the front part of the crown, I pushed too hard and – you guessed it – snapped off the brim…again!  …DOUBLE NUTS!!!!

Hat Number 4 – OK, this time I got the hole right and managed to shape the brim without breaking it off.  The only problem that remains is that when viewed from the side, the crown of the hat seems a little too big from front to back.  That is the downside with adding the hat later and allowing the head to sit up into the hat to hide the joint.  On a real head the hat is only as thick as the material it is made from, but on a carving you can’t get it that thin.  The choices are two:

1  Carve the hat and head with sufficient precision that the hat fits flat on the head without a noticeable seam between them or
2   Live with a slightly over-sized hat

The result here looks pretty good as viewed from straight or at a ¾ front view.  In any case, by this time, I was really tired of carving hats, so Hat Number 4 stays!

Wrigley ended up being a little top heavy (heavy hat and outstretched arm and gun) and needed some stabilization, so I turned a nice maple disk for him to stand on.  The maple is so light in color that he and his dark clothes and shoes show up very nicely.

One for the Bench:

I have read that dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the edge of the pool and throw them fish.

‘Til next time…keep Makin’ Chips

*       With credit for the memorable but totally fictitious commercial line going to Willard Scott and Ed Walker “The Joy Boys of Radio” on WRC-AM in Washington, DC during the late 1960s.

Click here to sing along with their theme song!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Social Networks

I guess I'm getting old and cranky but the whole Social Networking thing has me just a little bewildered.  I'm not sure I will ever "get it".

Getting on Facebook is sorta like sending out an invitation to everyone you know saying, in effect:

        "Please send me meaningless e-mails every single day and, while you're at it,
         please have all of your friends also send me e-mails to ask if I would also like
         to have them send me meaningless e-mails everyday, so that I can spend the
         best part of my day shifting through them all looking -- generally in vain -- for 
         the one piece of e-mail that I "might" find interesting."

I will admit that I have received a  few pictures and comments that I have found interesting but they hardly seem worth the effort to locate them.

Is it possible that I am just missing the true meaning of life in the 21st Century?

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Man Called “Blake”

It was 1808.  John Henderson Blake had been the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark expedition when the epic journey began and barely more than a teenager when he caught his first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.  The 4 years that he spent out west had made a deep impression on him.  And even though he was only 5’2”, “Short Blake” as he was now known, was as tough as nails, a true “Mountain Man” with all of the strength and skills required to face the rigors of the west. 

He had been restlessly knocking around in St. Louis ever since his return just 2 years earlier unable to readapt to the ways of civilized life.  He looked forward to the day when he could return to the west that he loved. 

His chance came when he encountered a small group of fur traders headed west.  They had been looking for an experienced guide to help them locate the best beaver trapping regions.  “Short Blake” seemed like the best choice.  After packing all of the required supplies onto the backs of their pack animals, the group set off for the west with John Henderson Blake in the lead.  Blake’s in-depth knowledge of the terrain and many indigenous native tribes was invaluable in protecting their lives.

Months passed and after the group had successfully harvested more than enough furs to pay for their trip, they discussed returning to St. Lewis.  Blake, who by now had located an attractive young Pawnee wife, decided to stay right where he was and “put down roots”.  The rest of the group packed up to leave but promised to return with Blake’s share of the profits the following spring.

As they had promised, when warm weather returned, the trappers returned with 2 pack mules of blankets and other trade goods for Blake.  But when they arrived they were greeted not by Blake, as they expected, but by his wife.  As it turns out, the winter had been particularly harsh in the mountains and, regrettably, Blake had become very sick.  Her English was not very good but she did manage to explain what had happened. 

She said, “Squaw bury Short Blake.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Funny Remarks

I just noticed that yesterday, September 21st, was National Alzheimer's Day.  I understand that it is a serious medical condition, but being the jokester that I am I sent an e-mail to a select few that said:  

     "I forgot to tell you, but yesterday was National Alzheimer's Day.  Did you 
      remember to celebrate it?"

I got back a bunch of e-mails with the expected: 

     "Nope, I forgot."  

But one guy came back with the best response of all:

     "Alzheimer... wasn't he one of the guys who worked on the Manhattan Project?  
      They gave him his own national holiday?!?"
Now that was funny!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Don't Just Carve Wood...

I've been interested in and building electronics goodies for about 54 of my 64 years and ended up spending my working career as an Electrical Engineer.

About 12 or 13 years ago I decided to use what I had learned in that time to do something completely frivolous.  I built an animated, Microprocessor-controlled LED Jack O'Lantern, what else?

I don't remember why, but haven't had him out for a the last couple of years years.   This year, as the bewitching holiday  approaches, I  dragged Ol' Jack out from his lair under the cellar steps and put him back to work chasing the spooks away from our upstairs bedroom window.

As it turns out, if I had just waited a few more years I could probably have found one made in China for sale at some big box store for $49.95
.  But, like carving, it felt good to design him, scrounge up the parts and build him myself.


For those who are interested in the details, Jack is measures about 20" across.  He is based on the 8051 microprocessor and the code was written in assembly language (I didn't -- and still don't -- have one of these slick "C" compilers that are readily available these days).

The eyes, nose and mouth are made of 8 x 8 arrays of individually hand-wired LEDs. 
I designed most of the faces myself, but before turning him on for the second Halloween season, I gave each of the kids in the neighborhood a paper with the LED positions noted so that they could design their own "face".  I had quite a few designs submitted and included them all in what you see here.

If anyone is really interested in more details, I'd be glad to discuss the nitty-gritty at length.  Just drop me a line.

'Til next time...Keep makin' (wooden) Chips and soldering (micro) Chips!  

Friday, September 2, 2011

More Strange Newspaper Headlines with Comments

Woman Vanishes After She Drops Off Kids – Now, do you suppose it happened immediately or do you think she remained visible until sometime after the kids got into the school?

Feds: Man Made Child Porn - As opposed to natural child porn, I presume.

Autos killing 110 a Day; Let's Resolve to do Better – Heck, you’d think that we really tried we could at least double that number.

Blind Woman Gets New Kidney from Dad she Hasn't Seen in Years – I don’t even have a come back for this one.

British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands – Islanders are delighted that they left cases of Maple Syrup, too.

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures – This headline certainly leaves me cold!

Dealers will Hear Car Talk at Noon – I wouldn’t mind hearing that myself.

Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Ax – Normally, as I understand it, they just trample you.

Farmer Bill Dies in House – Friends will be received out on the front porch.

Grandmother of Eight Makes Hole in One – Oh, I hope she picked the one she didn’t like.

If Strike isn't Settled Quickly it May Last a While – That would follow.

Kicking Baby Considered To Be Healthy – I realize there are times we are all tempted, but is that really considered “healthy” behavior.

Teacher Strikes Idle Kids – Ibid.

Killer Sentenced to Die for Second Time in 10 Years – I guess the first time didn’t take.

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers – So, what ever you do, stay in the crosswalk.  You’ve been warned!

Quarter of a Million Chinese Live on Water – So, that’s why there were always so many starving children in China when I was a kid.

Queen Mary Having Bottom Scraped – Ouch! That sounds painful!

Robber Holds Up Albert's Hosiery - With a good job like that you wouldn’t think he’d have to rob anybody.

Smokers are Productive, but Death Cuts Efficiency – I’ve heard that death tends to reduce most things that people do.

Rescue Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim – As if the dog wasn’t bad enough.

Stiff Opposition Expected to Casketless Funeral Plan - Those “Stiffs” are often hard to please.

Two Convicts Evade Noose, Jury Hung - That gives a whole new meaning to the idea of Frontier Justice.

Two Soviet Ships Collide - One Dies – Now does a ship get buried at sea?

William Kelly was Fed Secretary – That will teach her to get out of line!

I guess that is enough of that!

'Til next time...Keep makin' chips

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The "N J H" Lovespoon

A number of months ago, I donated three custom, “to-be-carved-to-customer’s-specification” lovespoons to a church charity auction.  One couple, “N” and “J”, -- Huh, look at that, yet another “Mr. J” -- purchased two of the three.  With one thing or another we hadn’t gotten together to decide what they should look like until a couple of weeks ago.  There was a lot of discussion but they made their decision.

One spoon is to be a gift, so I’ll be talking about that one some other time. But they wanted the other spoon, their own personal Lovespoon, to be something completely different from anything that I had done before.  They wanted a spoon with “simple elegance” (their words).  They also wanted it to be a lettered spoon but they wanted an element of “Where’s Waldo” in it.  They didn’t want the letters to be obvious.  They wanted them hidden in plain sigh.  Things that make you say "Hmmmmm…"

They liked a “vine-like” spoon that my wife has hanging over the stove.  They could imagine some parts of the vine making an “N” and other parts of the vine making a “J” and suggested that I use that spoon as a starting place.  I don’t know if they will like how I hid the letters…the “J” really does take a bit of imagination to see.

When it was done and before they had a chance to see it, I showed the spoon to a mutual friend and asked if he could find their initials.  He said, “Well, I see the ‘N’ and I see the ‘J’ and I also see the ‘H’ that you included for their last name“.   I was a bit stupefied by this comment because I had designed in the ‘N’ and the ‘J’ but not an ‘H’.  But he was right.  Once he pointed it out, it was obvious.  There it was as clear as day. Man, am I good or what??? :-)  

Here is the proof:  
All in all, I really like this design.  It is much more delicate than most my previous spoons, particularly the lettered spoons.  I don’t know if it has the “simple elegance” they were looking for and I don’t know if the letters are subtle enough, but I do think this is probably my favorite spoon to date.

One for the Bench:

See everything.  Overlook a great deal.  Correct a little. - Pope John XXIII

‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!

Yet Another “LJ” Spoon

 Maybe it is just because they are very common first initials, or maybe there are just a lot of “Miss L’s” who manage to find the right “Mr. J”, but I find it interesting that this is the 3 or 4th “LJ” spoon that I have carved to date.  No other letter combination comes close.

I always attempt to do something unique with each of my Lovespoons and having yet another spoon with the same initials meant that I had to scratch around a bit to come up with a design that was both new and one that I liked. 

Aside from specifying the initials (“L” and “J”, the initials of “his” parents), that there should be a heart at the top and a heart shaped bowl, the couple that requested the spoon gave me a free hand on the design.

I decided that I wanted to do something that had a lot of negative space in it – perhaps years from now historians all over the world will refer to this as my “Negative Space Period”.  However, add too much “negative space” and there isn’t much to hold the whole thing together.  This is particularly important to me because it is considered bad form to have one’s handcarved spoon fall apart soon after delivery:--) 

The “L” and the “J” demand some sort of outside” structure.  I finally settled on the two twisted side supports.  As I understand it, this “rope” motif was used a lot in lovespoons carved by sailors in days gone by.  I guess this was because rope was a big part of their lives aboard ship and because its interlocked fibers symbolize “togetherness” and that “two together are stronger than one alone”.

To Smooth or Not to Smooth, that is the Question.

Here’s a topic that I am constantly arguing with myself: “On a lovespoon, should the carving marks show or should they be removed?”  I usually end up sanding them all out.  But I often wonder if that detracts from the “correct” look.  After all, shouldn’t a carved spoon look like it was…well…”carved”? 

So, I’m looking for opinions: 

(a) Should the sanding be limited to just smoothing so that the “facets” still remain?


(b) Should the spoon be sanded until it is completely free of carving marks? 

The winning opinion will be chosen at random from all of the opinions received and will win my undying appreciation:--)

One for the Bench:

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. - Robert Louis Stevenson.

‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Flowered Spoon

I recently gave this spoon to very nice young lady that I just met (I’ll call her “G”)...Yes, my wife knows all about her, so you needn't worry.  I have her permission to meet with “G” :-)

When I gave “G” the spoon, I explained that whenever I give someone a spoon, or any other carving, the recipient owes me a photo of the item on display. 

So, today she sent me the picture and asked that I post it.  So here is it.

Outstanding Bill:


I am very pleased that you like the spoon, "G".

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

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ollie Bord – Railroad Conductor

FINALLY, I can post the pictures of this piece!  (See here for more shots).

This is the last of the 3 carvings that I have sitting on just waiting for the day when I could post them.  I was about ready to burst.  I understand that it was just presented, so now I am free to talk about it.

Late last year the wife (I’ll call her, “M”) of one of my co-workers (I’ll call him, “R”) requested that I create a “railroad related” birthday present for him.  She had seen some of my pieces and suggested that “maybe it should be a railroad conductor” similar to a caricature I had done about 5 years ago.  The carving was, as is often the case, to be a surprise. 

I was pretty booked up at the time and kept putting it off.  Then in way back in April I suddenly got a bit panicky.  I realized that if she had told me when she needed/wanted it – and she probably had -- I couldn’t remember what she had said. 

Note to Self:  Start writing stuff like that down!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t call “M” at home during the evening to check the date because “R” would most likely be there.  And I had to be careful calling “M” from work because “R’s” cubical is within easy earshot of mine.  So instead of attempting to confirm the required completion date and risk blowing the secret, I just got started and resolved to finish it as soon as possible.  As I thought about doing a caricature of a railroad conductor the name “Ollie Bord” just came to me. 

When I was almost done, I looked at “Ollie” (just the figure itself) and thought to myself, “You know, Tom, this guy is really pretty boring!”  My wife must of have gotten similar vibes because she said almost the same thing just a day or two later.

So, I first decided to put him on a platform, but then that didn’t seem to be much of an improvement so I decided to add the facade of an old wooden station.  (This was an easy decision to make because I had wanted to do this for some time since I have an idea for another piece that has an old-fashioned train station in it.) 

One thing led to anther and suddenly one day I realized that Ollie was standing in front of a full size station with a bay window and blinds.  I added signs and other items that would be meaningful (and hopefully humorous) to “R”.  I’d love to let everyone in on all of the inside humor but this being the Internet and all and privacy being what it is and all, I really can’t/shouldn’t.  Suffice it say, the significance of the “Pittsburgh, Homestead and Wilmerding Railroad” and the “Snacks-R-Us” and East Pittsburgh signs will not be lost on his friends or anyone from work who would happen to see Ollie.

Well, according to his watch and the chalkboard behind him, it is about time to make that first boarding call, so “Ollie Booooooooooord!!!”

One for the Bench:

Some people are like Slinkies.  They’re not much good for anything, and you can't help smiling when you imagine one of them tumbling down the stairs:--)….Am I perhaps getting a little too cranky?

‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 19th is National Brown Cow Day

I don't normally post things like this but when I found out that Friday August 19th is National Brown Cow/Root Beer Float Day, I felt compelled to announce it publicly, because with all of the uncertainty in the world it would seem a shame not to celebrate such a noteworthy day with gusto! 
There are still 4 shopping days until the big day so you can get out there and make your holiday preparations.

My recommended recipe is:
1) Add copious quantities of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (that plain vanilla stuff just doesn't cut it) into a tall glass.
2) Pour CHILLED (very important, you don't want the ice cream to melt too quickly) Hires Root Beer (It's still the best one, but ANY Root Beer is better than NO Root Beer at all) over the ice cream until the glass is full.
3) Remove excess foam by whatever means is deemed suitable.  The foam may actually be the best part so don't waste it.
4) Add additional root beer to bring the level back up to the top
5) Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the glass is as full as you can possible make it.
6) Sit back and enjoy.   
Properly prepared the treat won't pass through a straw very easily.  So, personally, I prefer to eat the concoction with a long iced tea spoon. 
While this treat is widely known and appreciated by the younger crowd, kids as old as I am have been know to enjoy it as well!
One from the Bench:
             One does not live by carving alone -- Carvin' Tom

'Til next time...keep makin' chips and sucking down those Brown Cows!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Spoon Drilling Jig

I don’t have a good camera or camera crew for filming “How-To” videos and besides this idea hardly requires that level of sophistication.  So, I’m just going to show you a couple of photos and explain why you might want to make one of these Spoon Drilling Jigs.

I threw this one together some time ago in just a few minutes to help get some consistency in the mounting holes that I drill in Lovespoons.  I was using it last night and thought that others might find it useful. So I thought I would post it. 

Here goes…

Drilling a mounting hole in the back of a wooden spoon is hardly rocket science, but you do want to get it right.  If the hole is drilled at too “flat” an angle, the spoon will hang but can be easily brushed off.  Generally, it is considered bad form to have a nicely carved spoon slide off the wall and hit the floor so you want the hole to be angled upward slightly to ensure that gravity keeps the spoon seated on the nail. 

Prior to building this jig, I would just pull a wood scrap from the bin and prop up the bowl end of the spoon a bit and drill the hole.  But, if you are like me, you probably have already carved, sanded and finished your spoon before you even think about drilling the mounting hole.  Under these circumstances, holding the scrap block, adjusting the position and balancing the spoon and pulling the handle of the drill press and watching to make sure that you don’t “punch thru” can be just a bit nerve-rattling.

The jig is just a couple of pieces of scrap lumber about the typical length of the spoons you like to carve.  Cut a small spacer so that you establish a slope of about 10 degrees.  The “true craftsman” can take the time to miter and slope the spacer, I didn’t bother.

I recommend installing some sort of stop block at the bottom to keep the spoon from shifting while you are drilling.  You could make it straight across but I made my stop “V” shaped to help center the spoon as well. 

To use the jig, just place it on the drill press table and adjust the table so that when the drill is all the way down it stops about an 1/8” or so short of the jig.  This way you can go all the way to the stop and not punch through the front of the handle. Slap the spoon is place and you’ve got a nicely angled hole.

That’s it.  I keep it right next to the drill press.  I’ve used to a couple of dozen times so far and I’m glad I took the few minutes to built it.

By the way, I have been trying to remember to tell my customers that since Lovespoons are so light that a good healthy straight pin in the wall is plenty to hold them up.  You can easily push the pin into drywall and hang the spoon.  If you move or just decide to move the spoon, the tiny hole left behind seldom requires any patching.

One from the Bench:

God gave men two ends - one to sit on and one to think with.  Ever since then a man's success or failure has been dependent on the one he used most. - George R. Kirkpatrick
‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Car Talk Boys

These pieces are hardly new, in fact they date back to early 2005.  In looking back at these I guess that I actually have improved some over the past 6 years.

Saturday evening a very nice young woman was looking at these pieces in the curio cabinet and she said that she thought that I should add the Car Talk Gang to my blog.  Since I currently have several pieces under construction but nothing complete that I can talk about, I am going to do just she suggested.

If you are not familiar with the NPR program “Car Talk” that airs at 10 AM on Saturdays (at least in Pittsburgh), you really need to “squander a perfectly good hour” -- their words, not mine -- and tune in at least once.

Car Talk is, ostensibly, a car problem call-in show.  But the hosts, Ray and Tommy, manage to make what might otherwise be a very dry, boring discussion into 60 minutes of jokes, puns, snide comments and say nothing of good advice and information.  Their infectious laughter always puts a smile on my face.

Ray and Tommy

 Ray is the one holding the card and Tommy is sitting back enjoying his coffee.  I think that NPR really needs to get them a better table.  That jack stand looks a little wobbly to me.

But for me, an official, card-carrying punster, the funniest thing on the show is their closing credits where they read part of their list of official staff members. For example:

      Lois Steam - the Car Talk Assertiveness Training Coach        
      Bud Tuggli - Chief Makeup Artist                           
      Marge Innovera - Chief Statistician                   

I was so taken by the clever names that at one point, I chose to carve a bunch of characters to match these wacky names.  Check out these guys in the Picasa Gallery:

1.       Picov Andropov, the Russian Chauffer.  He seems to have some past experience with the KGB as well as Vodka.

2.       Joaquin Matilda, the Australian Tour Guide

3.       Moe DeLawn, Head of Buildings and Grounds The poor boy is obviously, not the sharpest pencil in the box.

4.       Yessir Itsaflat, the Chief of Tire Technology

5.       Euripides Imendes, Proprietor of the Car Talk Clothing Store 

'Til Next time...keep makin' chips

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yet Another Lovespoon…well, no…I guess it isn’t.

The Luther Rose
I guess this is actually a whole new “thing”, not really a Lovespoon and yet not really a “non-Lovespoon” either.  It resides in the netherworld in between. 

Some friends of ours were over a month or so ago looking at Lovespoons.  Their son and brand new daughter-in-law were the recipients of ‘the “R” and “X” Lovespoon’ that I posted recently.  “K” said that she admired the dark wood spoon that I did about a year ago. “S” said that he liked the heart with the inset cross of another spoon that he saw.  Being a Pastor, he said that it was like the “Luther Rose”, an icon of the Lutheran Church.

I put their comments -- along with the idea of inlaying one color of wood into/onto another in a Lovespoon that I had just seen someplace online -- into the mental blender and a day or so later this idea emerged.  

I carved the rose from Basswood.  As simple as the rose looks, it still took two tries.  It has a lot of very subtle curves and undercutting.  It also ended up being a bit larger than I had originally intended.  So I had to increase the overall size of the Celtic knot and the width of the handle to keep the slightly larger rose from overpowering the piece.  Originally, it was also going to have a “framing” disk behind it but that would have made it look even larger and there was an upper limit to just how big I was willing to go :-)

Both the handle of this piece and the aforementioned spoon were carved from cherry and stained dark.  I power-carved the previous spoon but this time I used a coping saw to cut out the openings and then I hand-carved it.  After it was all said and done, it turned out to require about the same amount of effort.  Sure, power carving is much quicker and easier, but this one required much less sanding because the blade-fashioned surface was not left “chewed up” by the rapidly rotating burr.

A secondary benefit of the hand-carved finish was that there were far fewer of those raw "mechanically" ripped open fibers to suck up excess stain.  That greatly minimized the dreadful blotching that I experienced the first time.

Not much else to say except that I hope you like it.

One from the Bench:

If you don't like how things are, change them!  You're not a tree. - Jim Rohn

‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wow! Number 2000!

I just looked at the hit counter and saw that the blog has now been looked at 2000 times.  Wow!.  It took 2 years and 2 months to accumulate the first 1000 but only a little over 5 months to pick up the second 1000.

I guess people are starting to find my blog.  So my question to all of you is what have you liked?  What do you wish I had left out?  What would you like to see more of?  Less of?

Let me know.  And thanks for your interest.

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

In Honor of National Sports Cliché Week

Here are my particular favorites...

Baseball is won between the lines. – Yeah, on the field as opposed to in the parking lot.
He's pitching lights out. – I wasn’t aware that some pitchers pitched with their lights on.
You can't steal first base. – Any other rules you want to read to us?
Three up, three down. – You mean like the inning is now over?
That ball should be playable. – I thought that they were all supposed to be.
The tying run is 90 feet away. – Do you mean like “there is a runner on third base”?
He has to wait for his pitch. – Don’t batters always have to wait?
He's seeing the ball well. – I would hope that most batters do.
He hit that ball squarely. – Ok, so just how squarely can you hit a round ball with a round bat?
He hit that one right on the screws. – I’m confused.  Are the screws in the ball or the bat?
He hit a towering line drive. – If a line drive flies parallel to the ground, how can it be towering?
In any other ballpark, that's a homerun. – That may be true, but sort of irrelevant, don’t you think?
He tatooed that one. – That is just plain dumb!
They're making a lot of un-forced errors. – As opposed to the errors they might be forced to make.
They have a tough road to hoe. -- Correctly stated, the original cliche is “They have a tough row to hoe”...a farming reference.  OK, Mr. Color Commentator, just how does one “hoe a road” anyway?
They have to circle the wagons. – I thought they were playing baseball.
They don't have their heads in the game. – Probably not their hands, arms, backs and legs either.
It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings. – Just who is this fat lady they keep talking about?  I have yet to hear her sing.  And believe me, I have been waiting and waiting and waiting!
He's going to have to get on his horse to catch that one. – I’ll be the grounds keeper would have something to say about that!
He uncorked a wild pitch. – As opposed to uncorking a bottle of Jack Daniels.
They're not playing to win, they're playing not to lose. – Is there really a difference?
They have to manufacture some runs. – Again, isn’t that the point?

I guess right after “the last nail was placed in the coffin”, “the roof just caved in”, causing them to “run into a buzz saw” so that “their wheels just fell off” so “a lot of the faithful are heading for the exits” where “They got an old-fashioned woodshed whooppin' ”.  So “This could get ugly” say nothing of stupid!

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