This is a carving that has been in the works for over a year. Kirk has had a most interesting and storied career, or should I say several careers? One career was as a Fire Fighter in Greensboro, in the US. He retired from that profession several years ago and talked to me about his dream of having a carved fire helmet to be a memento of his years in the Fire Service. But it was after this most recent change in jobs that his wife approached me and said they were ready to start and gave me Kirk’s helmet for reference.
Initially, we thought I would carve a helmet “in the round,” or as the kids say: “3-D.” But then it occurred to me that he already has the helmet and does not need two of them. Plus, helmets are large! I was surprised at how large and how heavy the real thing is. Instead of a full 3-D carving, I suggested a carving in relief that could be hung on a wall as an art piece. It would take up less room, be just as dramatic, and be less prone to damage. They agreed and I started working on a design.
It started with joining two pieces of 2 inch thick slabs of yellow cedar that I got from my friend and fellow carver Ken Smorang.
Then I took about 100 photos of Kirk’s helmet from a variety of angles and with a number of different lighting angles. The hardest part was choosing the best one to work from, but I did finally choose.
Next, I laid out several options with paper on the slab of wood, and sending pictures back and forth with Kirk’s wife (she’s also a graphic designer). After landing on the preferred option, I started carving. I began with my typical approach of using a plunge router to establish the exact depths all over the slab, but as I started routing, I soon realized just how much dust and tiny wood chips were being created and thrown around the studio. I wasn’t happy with that. I have safety concerns about cedar dust and there was no efficient method of containing it with my Bosch router. So I switched to using my largest 2″ wide carving gouge.
Once the background was lowered down to the correct depth, it was time to start on the helmet itself.
Now and then, I like to stop and get out the dividers to check distances between the elements of the carving.
Relief carvings really come alive when you work on the little details. For example, the way the letters on the badge wrap around the curve and give the impression of depth. It is a small thing, but the stitching around the edges of the leather badge has to demonstrate perspective. This means that the farther away it is supposed to look, the smaller it gets. So, I made each stitch that wraps around the badge slightly smaller as it drops to the background.
And the best part was the voice mail from Kirk! Apparently I made his day 😃
If I can make your day with something special like this, contact me.