The past few evenings have been spent finishing this carving. In my last post, I had glued up the cherry boards. Since then, I cut out the circle with my bandsaw circle-cutting jig that my father (the jig-master) made me decades ago.
Then I hand planed the surface.
Once the circle was flattened I fell in love with the piece of wood. The lines, the tiny pin knots, and the range of rich colours that were showing up made my heart pitter-patter.
Next I laid out the letters, which always takes longer than expected when working around a circle. The letters have to be sloped just so, spaced just so, and just a little narrower towards the inside of the circle. Then I got down to business cutting the letters.
After the letters were all incised, I redrew the inside circle. Then I got after the ‘bowl’ carving.
Then I flipped the plate to carve the back.
I’ve learned from the native carvers from the west coast about the value of a simple file in wood carving. I put my file to use trueing the outside rim of the plate.
Then after a little cleaning and final touch ups under a bright light and magnifying lense, all that was left was to put the finish on.
After posting a picture of it on Instagram, it lasted all of a half-hour before it was snapped up by someone. I delivered it this evening in this package :
- The wood is black cherry
- The dimensions are 14″ in diameter by just over 1″ thick
- The finish is linseed oil and beeswax
- It is sold.
This nativity set comes with a story. I started carving it in 2007, as a personal project. It was personal because the piece of cherry wood I carved it out of was a gift from my father. He brought the wood to me the last time he came for a visit. He had cut a large limb that he got while trimming a tree for a friend in the town of Hope. Unfortunately, in the process of drying, it developed a split that meant it wasn’t useful for making furniture, and he hoped I might be able to do something with it.
It sat for a while as I considered what would be a suitable carving. In the meantime, my father passed away from cancer, which somehow made the importance of what I carved with that piece all the greater. My father, Victor McMillan, was a committed Christian and someone who made a significant difference in the lives of many people. This was evident at his funeral which saw well over 500 people in attendance. That Christmas season, as we unpacked a nativity set that he had made for our family, I knew exactly what I would carve: a nativity.
It suits my father because it is representative of his Christian faith and the difference that following the Baby Jesus can make in anyone’s life. That old cherry tree limb found new life too – in this carving!
It is sold now, to a family that knew and were influenced by my dad. How appropriate! Approximate size of the largest character is 3″. The wood is cherry, finished in many coats of natural tung oil, hand rubbed between coats. This is a one-of-a-kind carving from a unique piece of wood, carved in memory of a unique man.