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