Carving a Large Sign

A few months ago I was commissioned to carve a large 4 foot diameter circular sign for the Coulter Berry building in Fort Langley, British Columbia.

I seriously considered carving it in Ultra High Density Urethane Foam sign board because I would only have to cut out the circle and start carving.

However, the developer, Eric Woodward, and the local contractor built the building with the goal of gaining the LEED Gold certification for environmentally friendly construction. As a result, I decided to carve the sign celebrating environmental construction out of certified sustainably harvested Aspen wood.

Making the sign in wood meant a lot more work cutting the wood to length, jointing, planing, gluing, clamping, cutting the circle and sanding before carving the letters and design. But it is in keeping with the purpose of the sign, so I felt it was worth it.

After some adventures with the design (bonus prize if you can find it in the picture below), I worked with a good friend who is an old pro at sign painting who helped me with the lettering and layout.

Then I talked with Michelle, the manager of the North Langley Paint & Decorating Benjamin Moore store in Walnut Grove, who made some great suggestions about what sort of finishes to use with the colours I was given by the designer. As you can see below, it turned out very nicely.

Torch Sculpture Installed 

The TWU Torch sculpture was installed by the Township of Langley this morning at about 10:00 am. My friend Dale asked me, “Grant, what is the history behind this? Why is there a TWU insignia up in Fort Langley?” 

Trinity Western University has obtained a lease for a building in Fort Langley and opened it up to students and community members as a place to hang out, get some great coffee (thanks Republica Roasters), free wifi, and free nightly entertainment. Fort Langley is a favourite place for students, and it seemed like a natural fit to open up what is essentially a collegium there. 

The Facebook page for Trinity Western House says, “We are a place for TWU students, staff, faculty, alumni, and the public to study, work, and hang out in the heart of beautiful Fort Langley.” Here is a short video showing the space. Inside Trinity Western House

Torch Sculpture Complete 

The Torch sculpture is finally complete. I have a meeting on Wednesday with a few people on location in Fort Langley to discuss the installation. This is going on the outside of Trinity Western House, a new collegium for students and the general public in Fort Langley in the old Bedford House Restaurant on Glover Road, across from the Fort Pub. The wood is Western Red Cedar, the frame is steel, painted to match the siding of the building. In spite of its size (the cedar is 3 inches thick!) as you can see by my lack of grimace or bulging veins, this is surprisingly light. 

Huge thanks go out to the fine people in the TWU Maintenance department. They volunteered to print the design, provide the steel, weld it up, and provide working space as well as tools and supplie. Paul Johnston and his great staff, people like Matt, Brad, Jan, Brenda, Maureen, Graham and others all helped me in some way. I kinda invaded their space and they made me feel welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them and they made this project possible! 

Art of the Carver Show & Sale

My friends and loyal readers, please accept my invitation to an art show this weekend in Abbotsford. The Central Fraser Valley Woodcarvers club is hosting our annual Art of the Carver show and sale at the Matsqui Community Hall on Saturday, October 22, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Admission is by donation of $3.

There will be carving demonstrations by our club members all day. I will be demonstrating how to carve with a mallet and full size gouges on two different carvings. I will demonstrate a beginner’s relief carving of an acanthus leaf, and I will also work on an advanced carving which incorporates a more complex version of the acanthus leaf. Other members will demonstrate different styles of carving. It’s a very relaxed and casual atmosphere in a very nice space.

Please come – there will be some excellent carvings on display, and who knows but you may be able to pick up a unique Christmas gift or a piece of fine art for your own home.


A Large Torch Carving

My next carving project is one that came on short notice, with a short deadline. It’s one that’s extra cool for me because it blends my two worlds of University Registrar and wood sculptor. I’ve been asked to carve a large version of the Torch portion of TWU’s logo.

I’ve got the measurements and the very kind folks in the Facilities and Maintenance department ordered me a full size drawing. I’m now in the process of getting the measurements for a metal frame which will have to be welded in the next day or so.

I plan to carve it in cedar, with a light semitransparent stain. It will be mounted to the metal frame and then the whole thing will be mounted to the second story facade of a building in Fort Langley.

Here’s the full size version, stuck onto my window so I can see through the paper and draw the metal frame and take measurements off of it.

A TV Interview with Grant McMillan

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would be featured in an interview for Shaw TV’s Go! West Coast. It is now live, and you can watch it on Shaw TV’s channel 4. If you are not a Shaw subscriber (as I am not), you can view it on YouTube: Langley Carver. It’s a 2 minute and 7 second video, so it won’t take long.

I misspoke near the beginning of the interview when I said my dad was a carver and my grandpa was a woodworker. I don’t recall saying my dad was a carver – he was a woodworker. But somehow I slipped up on that. Oh well!

I know I’m probably being too self-critical, but near the end of the video I appear to be rather over-animated and a bit wild-eyed… Again, oh well!

The man behind the camera (Jim Price) did a fine job, and distilled about 2 hours down to 2 minutes. It was fun and I hope you enjoy watching it.

My 15 Minutes of Fame

With the advent of the phrase, “It’s gone viral!” I think we may need to revise the phrase about fifteen minutes of fame and call it the “fifteen seconds of fame.”

In about three weeks time you’ll be able to determine if I’m ready for a life of fame. On Wednesday I was interviewed in my garage/home/studio by a producer and cameraman from Shaw TV for the lifestyle show called “Go! Vancouver” or “Go! Westcoast” that airs (here in BC) on Shaw Channel 4 at 5 pm and 9 pm daily. If you are a subscriber, watch for the story about my carving work that should air in approximately 3 weeks time. If you’re not a Shaw subscriber, you can pick it up from Shaw’s Go! page or their Shaw TV Go! Westcoast YouTube channel.

You’ll be able to see me working on two carving projects as well as some of my recent relief carvings and sculptures. I share a little about my background and how I got into carving, as well as why I do what I do and what I hope you get out of it.

What you won’t see in the video is the mad scramble that happened a few days before the interview. My entire family, including my daughter-in-law, worked to clear out the garage/carving studio from all the stuff and detritus that accumulated over the years. They worked hard and made some tough decisions about throwing things out, including my son & daughter-in-law’s wedding cake. Hey, as the interviewer said to me, “I hope I’m not bursting your bubble when I say that reality TV isn’t always real.” Nope, no surprise there!

One thing I didn’t know (or maybe forgot) is that my lineage in wood work extends even further back than I thought. While on the phone bragging about my new found fame to my Mom this week, she informed me that not only was my father into wood working and my grandfather a sawyer, but my great-grandfather owned a sawmill in Ontario. That further convinced me that sawdust has found its way into my gene pool and altered my family line.

After going through a few old photos in preparation for the interview, I see that I should revise the timeline of how long I have been working in wood. I usually tell people that I started carving in 1989 or somewhere around there. In actual fact, I was helping my dad build our home while I was still in diapers! You say, “Pics or it didn’t happen!” Well, here’s proof:

Vic & baby Grant Building Skirting

As you can see, I was very good at holding down pieces of wood from floating off in the breeze.

And here I am screwing a board down with my bare hand!

Vic & Young Grant Woodworking

All that and I’m wearing a plaid shirt that would make Red Green jealous.

Anyhow, don’t forget to tune into Shaw TV in about 3 weeks and look for a red-faced, stammering guy who looks like me waving sharp tools at the camera. If you live in BC, it’s channel 4, airing daily at 5 pm and 9 pm.

P.S., If my old buddy Paul Corbett of Cutting Edge Lawn Care is reading this, I think I might have you and Steve beat for photo evidence of years of experience (haha!).