Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Three Dolphin Carving

I recently received an e-mail request for a carving with a “Beach Theme” to be given as a Christmas gift.  I have done very few works in that genre, so I needed to pin the idea down a bit and be careful not promise to do something that would be beyond my experience/skill set. After a few e-mails back and forth it was agreed that perhaps one or more “leaping dolphin(s)” would be a good subject.  
I had done a dolphin very early on in my carving career, so that didn’t scare me, but carving with realistic looking ocean waves…that was another matter.  I recalled seeing -- at some point in the dim, dark past -- a dolphin carving with a mother Dolphin and two calves gliding over a rough sea floor .  Now there was a way around that “realistic looking waves thing”. 

In the interest of full disclosure: No, I didn’t know prior to this writing what they call baby dolphins. I first guessed “pups” but after looking it up and I learned that they are called “calves.   Also, up to that moment I thought that both "Dolphin" and "Porpoise" were names for the same animal, but they are not.  Flipper, and all of the TV and performing aquarium critters that you have ever seen, were probably dolphins and not porpoises.  How can you tell?  Well, a dolphin has a pointier nose and is much sleeker...much more photogenic.  The porpoise’s nose is more rounded and it’s body is …well… what can I say… “pudgier”.  Also, dolphins tend to like people and will go out of their way to “play with" humans.  Porpoises are, apparently, much more standoffish.

Now who says the Internet isn’t educational? :-)

I dragged out the dolphin sketch that I had done early in my carving career and drew up three new dolphins that are subtly different from one another in tail position and orientation.  Three is precious little else that differentiates them.  I chose the one that I liked best for “Momma” and used a copier to shrink the other two by about 25%.  I was surprised how much more difficult the babies were to carve (and get right) than Momma was, I guess due to the tighter detailing they require.

I had a piece of a split cherry log in the shop with the beginnings of two small branches protruding from it.  I went at it with a hatchet and split away some more of the log to reveal what looked,  to my eye, like a pretty passable replica of a littered sea bottom, complete with a couple of waterlogged logs sticking out.  A couple of coats of sanding sealer brought out the beautiful color of the cherry, quite a nice contrast to the light-colored basswood dolphins, I think.

I played around with the positioning of the dolphins relative to one another and to the base and then secured each one in place with a 1/16” steel rod.  Like my first dolphin carving, the animals are free to move just a bit and do so with just a "little" floor vibration.  In retrospect, I think that I should have used slightly thinner rods so that they would have been slightly less noticeable, but they couldn’t have been too much thinner.  Because of her greater size and weight, Momma already bounces around quite a bit.

I hope you -- to say nothing of the eventual Christmas present recipient -- like the Three Dolphins.

One for the Bench

I already used this one but it seems strangely apropos to use again here:

“Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.”

‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!

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