Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thinking Outside The Bark.

Carved Cottonwood Bark with added detail
One of my reference sources for carving cottonwood bark has been videos by Ron Adamson.  If you look at photos of Ron's bark carvings, you will see that certain details often appear outside of the original dimensions of the bark!  I had to try this...

So yesterday I carved Indian face number six and the shape of the bark made it feel vertically unbalanced.  "Fixing" this problem with an add-on seemed like as good a place as any to start thinking outside of the bark.

Working according to one of Ron's videos, I carved a short feather and attached it where it would appear to come from the hair at the back of his head.  The addition is surprisingly steady and I love the look :)

All four of Ron Adamson's videos are available here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Building Rustic Benches

Milling the cottonwood round.
This morning I had every intention of nursing a wrist injury by taking  the day off from carving.  That didn't work out so well for me...

The studio area was cluttered with huge hunks of cottonwood from the bark gathering adventure.  Something had to be done!  When there is big wood to be used, there are benches to be made :)   The wrist can heal tomorrow.

Having had a very good response from the rustic bench I built for Abacus Winery's tasting room in Dayton, WA, I went with that design.  It's simple, quick, renders a very sturdy project and best of all, I get to use my WoodMizer Sawmill :)
Seat pockets carved into rounds.

The first step is to mill a large flat on 2 log rounds for the base of my bench.  Each of these rounds will receive a pocket sawn in using a chainsaw.  Accuracy is necessary to create a bench seat which is both level and at a comfortable height.  When the pockets are complete, the rounds can be set into place ready to accept a slab.

My slab came from the same tree as the rounds.  To get it, I used and Alaskan Sawmill {chainsaw mill} to cut an enormous slab from the cottonwood log {29" x 6" x 5' 11"}.  Once back at the studio, I milled the giant slab into two smaller slabs {20" x 2.5" x 5' 11"} for my bench seats.
Bench assembled and ready for finish work.

Now assembled, the bench is very sturdy even without connecting hardware.   Next session will find me trimming the seat, sanding all surfaces and sealing the wood.

Rustic Benches - $400 each

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wizard Walking Stick

I talked to one of my brothers yesterday and he is in need of a stick to support himself due to a medical problem.  I'll be shipping two, one of which I carved today.  These photos show a little segment of the process.

I start carving any face by defining the hairline and removing wood down to the forehead.  The deeper I make this, the more wood I have for carving facial features.  Next I start creating the brow ridge, tapering the nose and cutting the recess for the eyes.  When I'm happy with the proportions, I remove wood under the nose and define it's length. 

At this point, I start forming the mustache, hair and removing wood from the temples.  This particular stick has been standing in the corner of my garage for 3 years so the wood has become hard and care must be taken to avoid splintering.

As the face comes closer to being finished, greater care is take to make all cuts cleanly and precisely.

The texture of this piece of wood made it difficult to carve the iris of the eye or to even make it's corners round.  I solved this with a ball ended tool in a high speed grinder similar to a dental grinder.  A fortunate side affect was that in carving the recess in the eye, the tool burned the wood making the eye stand out.  I like it :)

I sealed the carved portion of my stick with Deft polyurethane.  A leather thong has been attached thanks to a 1/4" hole drilled through above the carving.  I whittled the bottom inch of the stick to make it fit in a rubber crutch tip and glued the tip on.

Jeff, your stick is on it's way :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bringing Home the Bark!

I put an ad on Craigslist saying "Chainsaw Artist needs free logs for bench project."  A week later a guy sent a message saying he had felled a 150 year old cottonwood tree and offered the logs to me.

From a chainsaw carving point of view, cottonwood isn't desirable AND it stinks when you cut it.  It's not good firewood either because it produces more ash than heat. Naturally I wasn't very interested.

Two days later it dawned on me, "Cottonwood logs have cottonwood bark!"  LOL.  So I phoned Niel, whom I'd gotten my first bark from, and we headed to the pasture with the logs.

As you can see, we found plenty of very good bark.  This stack is the first of two loads we collected :)

Broken Cottonwood

After the un-named white guy carving, I went back to working on Native American faces.  Or at least I planned to.  I selected a small piece of bark and as I started cutting the relief above the hair, the bark broke in half!   Bummer.  My nice piece of carving bark was now 2 tiny pieces.  What to do?  Make lemonade?

As I twisted the busted hunk around, one edge of it looked like feathering to me so I started an eagle.  I had to be careful with the sharp point on his beak but it came out looking like an eagle.

Disaster averted!

I've started to carve cottonwood bark.

Bark Carvings #1 and #2
My hand carving tools had lain idle for a couple of years while I carved logs with chainsaws.  Then I got my hands on a nice piece of cottonwood bark...

Not wanting to ruin my new piece of bark, I reviewed my notes from the class I had taken on Carving the Native American Bust.  Also scanned over Jeff Phares' book on the same topic.  Then the weather got too nasty to carve in my open air studio so  I was forced to get started. My first bark carving was and Indian face with beaded necklace and a hair ornament.

The second 'bust' was just with straight hair and a rather somber look on his face.

It's always bothered me that carvings of American Natives are always sad or angry but never happy.  What's that about any way? I KNOW they laugh, party and enjoy life so I wanted to try a smiling Indian for my next carving.  It just so happens I had a longer piece of bark for this third attempt.

Smiling Indian w/Bear
I've not been successful at carving emotions before so was pleased with at least getting the mouth correct on this piece.  Eyebrows could have been more exaggerated and the cheeks larger but overall, I was pleased.

I was sure that adding the bear would be easy since I'd carved many bears with my chainsaws.  It wasn't really difficult but it was not easy!

The arrowhead and bear tracks were added as space fillers before sealing with thinned linseed oil.  It's now ready to sell. Ebay here I come :-)

Birdhouse Man and Friend
I haven't tried the all too common Gnome Home in cottonwood bark but did make a small Birdhouse Man.  This fellow has a shake shingle roof over his head and crossed mustache.  This design is absolutely easier to carve with a chainsaw than with gouges and knives!

Birdhouse Man's buddy started out to be Abe Lincoln but he ended up with his face too wide for Abe.  I guess he's just an un-named white guy with a mustache-less beard.