Spooning With Style

It’s not always about the big, complicated, detailed, historical carvings around here. Sometimes when I’m between projects, I pull out a scrap of wood and carve something that I can finish in an hour or so. Last night was a good example. All the projects that I’m either working on or about to start are quite large. One requires more research. One requires cutting and laminating together a bunch of yellow cedar. One requires a consultation with the client. At about 9 pm, I wasn’t about to start on any of these. But I didn’t want to waste an hour, either. So I grabbed a 6″ x 1 3/4″ x 3/4″ piece of walnut out of the off-cut bin and started carving a spoon.

First, I found the middle of the board, and drew a line down its length. I used a compass to scribe a circle with an inside and outside edge, which would form the bowl of the spoon. After that, I clamped the board in my vise, took out my #7 – 14 mm wide gouge and started carving the bowl. Once I had the bowl scooped out, I switched to a 5a – 7 mm spoon gouge to clean up the bottom of the bowl. Then I drew the handle and cut the outside shape on my bandsaw.

After the shape was cut out, I cut a strip of double-sided carpet tape, flipped the spoon bowl-side down and stuck it to the tape on a piece of scrap wood which I clamped in my vise. Double-sided carpet tape makes a wonderful “vise” for things that are difficult to clamp due to their shape. I took my #3 – 25mm gouge and shaped the outside of the spoon bowl. A quick switch to a #7 – 14 mm gouge, flipped over so I was primarily carving with the inside edge of the gouge, helped me shape the handle in a few strokes. Once all that was done, I worked it free from the double-sided tape, made a few passes with my round rasp and smoothed it with a large double-cut file before sanding it with several grits of sand paper. It requires a little more sanding as you can see from the photo, and them some foodsafe oil to finish it.

I really like the shape, and it fits very nicely into my hand. It will make a nice coffee scoop or something similar.

I’m trying to decide whether to put my maker’s mark on it or just leave it smooth. Got any recommendations for me on that? Leave a comment and I’ll consider it!

A Wormy Pear

Remember the pear I carved for the theatre company a few months ago? That garnered a surprising amount of attention and requests from others for more carved pears. It appears that pears are a favourite among many of you!

Wormy Pear

I call it a wormy pear because the wood (mahogany) is from a log that has been eaten through and through by the tiniest of worms. The holes they left in the wood are black around the edges. It reminds me of the pear tree that grew outside my bedroom window when I was growing up. It had the most delicious pears in the world – I’ve never had another pear that was nearly as good – but they were rough on the outside and often had worms, so eating them required paring with a knife (see what I did there?). Those pears would never sell in a grocery store because of the imperfections. Learning to see the beauty in imperfections can help us discover some of the best that life has to offer.

This one is carved in mahogany and finished with linseed oil and beeswax. It is approximately 7 inches tall.

An Ear Selfie

Ear
Ear Selfie in progress
One of our faculty members, Erica Grimm, in the School of Arts, Media + Culture at Trinity Western University (my day-job) had a solo show called Salt Water Skin Boats in which she presented a sculpture of an ear, done in wax and a few other interesting materials. It inspired me to sculpt a response out of wood.

My response to her concern is related to the title I’ve given my sculpture. I believe we in North America live in a narcissistic age where it can sometimes seem that we are preoccupied with capturing the perfect selfie. Learning to listen, bending to hear, lending an ear to someone or something other than ourselves becomes difficult when we’re most concerned about our own image.

Rough Ear
Ear Selfie roughed in

Fruity Carving…

A carved pear
A carved pear

Carving fruit is an old tradition. I don’t mean cutting up watermelon or an apple to munch on. I mean carving wood to look like fruit. People have been doing it for centuries, even millennia! Fruity carving is another thing altogether that I am not getting into…

I was contacted last week by the director of an upcoming theatre production who asked if I could carve a prop for a play called The Woodcarver. She needed a pear to be used in the play. I have carved fruit in high relief and low relief, but never in-the-round, so this would be a learning project for me too.

Mahogany Fruit Bowl
Mahogany Fruit Bowl

I grabbed a board that was three and a half inches square and quite long, and lopped a piece off with my saw. I cut it a bit longer than necessary so as to leave enough to hold in the vise as per the picture below. Then I ran off to the Central Fraser Valley Woodcarvers club meeting on Wednesday night and started by roughing it out with my largest gouges.

Photo 2016-01-06, 7 15 44 PM
Roughing out the Pear (upside-down)

I made quite the mess in the couple of hours that the club met but had some fun discussing whether or not I was making those dangly-bits of bulls you see swinging from the bumpers of over-sized pick-up trucks in Abbotsford (but not in classy Langley). Several members wondered why I wasn’t making this on a lathe. A lathe can only make things perfectly round and there aren’t any perfectly round pears out there in the wild. I wanted a little more artistic license than that.

After a few back-and-forths by email with the client, I was able to confirm the appropriate size and smoothness of the carving.

Photo 2016-01-09, 11 29 14 AM
Still too large pear

After sanding the pear and shaping the stem, I gave it a light coating of oil to bring out the natural colour and grain of the wood. This went so well I will definitely carve more.

A carved pear
A carved & oiled pear

If you want some wood carved fruit, feel free to contact me about options for something unique to you. In the meantime, I hear my wife asking if her fruit is finished yet. Back to the carving bench I go!

Nativity Carving Joseph

Each year, I carve a figure from the Christian nativity scene for a family member. Last year it was Mary, the mother of Jesus. This year it was Joseph.

Joseph IP
Joseph in progress, from the rear

I had a lovely piece of mahogany given to me by a client and friend, which was straight grained, relatively soft and of a warm reddish-brown colour. I cut out the basic shape on my band saw and went to work with the carving gouges. Joseph is intended to be a figurative sculpture, hence there is little detail. The idea is that you can see yourself in him and imagine what it would have been like to be at the birth of Jesus in that manger in Bethlehem. Joseph’s body language is a mixture of awe and pride, welcoming you to the scene and showing off the baby.

Joseph is approximately 6 inches tall, and is finished with a blend of linseed oil and beeswax.

Joseph
Joseph, complete, from the front

Horse Bust Completed

The horse bust is completely finished!


This sculpture captures the past and the present of horses in Langley. It is sculpted out of an old material (wood) remade into something new with modern technology (parallam). Originally used as working animals in lumber, ranching and farming industries, horses have been repurposed for modern industries of equestrian therapeutic riding for the disabled and people with special needs, as well as the competitive world of show horses, with hunter jumper, vaulting, western and English shows. The material is a mass of shredded strips of wood fibers pressed and conformed into a modern, man-made product. The sculpture captures the wild history and the new, tightly controlled structure of the modern horse.

This sculpture is not for sale. It is 23″ tall by 21″ wide on a base of steel custom made by my friend Steve Bennett.

Horse Sculpture

  
i have completed the carving stage of the horse head sculpture. This included a few last minute adjustments to the eyes, mouth and mane. Then I determined the way it would stand before cutting the base of the neck at the proper angle.

The next steps are to put a finish on it and make a stand. Does anyone know where I can find some plate steel, something at least 1/4″ thick onto which I can weld a post? 

Thank you to my lovely daughter Miriah for the photos.