Friday, February 25, 2011

A Gnome in Four Pieces Part 1

I have decided to do another version of the gnome I made in January. I'm experimenting with producing some edited videos for this one. Making a video of a project and having it be concise and easy to understand is harder than I thought. Hopefully, I'll improve as I go. Viewer comments would be very helpful and appreciated, so please feel free to leave one. Here's Part 1.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wiz Part 12 - Painting completed

Here's the Wizard after a paint job. I tried to build layers of colors to give him depth and interest. For the hair and beard, a dark brown base, then medium gray and yellow and white highlights dry-brushed. The robe is a dark purple I made from dark blue and crimson then dry brushed cerulean blue for highlights. The trim is painted cadmium yellow then a wash of gold over that. I did the same with the stars on the hat. Too many colors and layers to remember for the face. I just kept painting until he seemed to have an aged and weathered look. I have an interesting, iridescent marble for the orb and a little finding from some old jewelry parts I found for the end of the wand. I hope it will give the impression of a flame or something with magical powers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wiz Part 11- RTP! [ready to paint]

Saturday night I went to bed saying to myself, "Enough already. I'm going to finish the wizard tomorrow. However it looks - it's done!" I completely lost track of the hours on this project and I'll never be able to sell this thing. I might have taken on a project that really took me to the limits of my current abilities. That's a good thing. That's what this blog is all about. But I'm ready to more on to another project. Am I happy with the result? Well, there are things I might have done better - less folds and wrinkles [a chronic problem], a more interesting face, arms that don't break off. But I did some things I'm pretty happy with and the final evaluation will come after he's painted, which I'm looking forward to. If what I have planned works, it's really going to make this figure come to life [fingers crossed]. So here is my wizard, ready to paint.

The arm joint not as tight as I had hoped. You can see the glue line.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Site of the Week - Inspiring Caricatures

Some of you may have come across this site with it's gallery of Caricature Carver winners. If you are interested in caricature carving, you will probably find these photos to your liking. What you may not know, is there are galleries on this site going back to 2002. They Archive page is a little tricky to find. Here's how: scroll to the bottom of the "competitions" page. Click on Site Map and scroll to the bottom of that page and click on The Archives. Sit back and drool! Here's a shortcut link. You might prefer to browse by your favorite carver. There's a list on the Site Map page or the CCA Members page. It's nice to be able to see the carvers' photos and read their bios too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wiz Part 10 - OOPS! ... again


Progress was going just fine. I have a few problem area I have been fussing over. One of them was that I felt the forearms were proportionally too long. I thought the best was to fit that real quick was to carefully take off the extra length with the belt sander. It worked just fine on the first arm. Then on the second... almost ... just take off a little more... SNAP! Not in the same spot I had repaired earlier, but close. This time I will definitely have to reinforce it with a dowel. Before I glue up, I will get to that left underarm area that has been a very difficult spot to work. Here's a photo series to show my fix for the broken arm. Oh yeah, I needed to deepen the hand hole a little to make up for what I sanded off and went through the recently carved fabric folds - ugh! I'll show my fix for that later.

Tiny brad as a center point locator

Snap all but a tiny nib

Carefully line up parts and press gently.

That's all you need.  Remove the brad.

1/4" dowel is plenty. Masking tape as depth gauge.
Try not to drill my hand!

Test the fit ... looks good.

This joint should work. I'll clean up a bit when the glue cures.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wiz Part 9 - The Hands

 The time has finally come for me to face my fear and tackle the hands. Well, I really need the hands to work. They are a focal point of the carving and I haven't done has with separate fingers and I worry they'll break off when I get them down to the right size. With a good sharp knife (the Lyons knife shown below), a good pair of magnifying lens and patience, I should be able to do it. I made the hands as separate parts so I could align the grain with the length of the hand and get the greatest possible strength for the wrist and fingers.

First, a little math. I start by measuring my arms and hands and
figure the ratio. Then I use that number to find a size for the hands
on my carving, based on his forearm. I found some marbles that
might fit the right hand. The blocks are 7/8" X 7/8" X 5/8" with a "wrist" part that will eventually be 3/8" to fit the holes drilled in
the arms.
The hand study photos I made prove invaluable for sketching the hands on the blanks. Super-sharp Lyons knife helps carve delicate fingers. A 3/8" #7 gouge is just right to scoop out the palm for the marble.
Marking fingertips helps carve fingers.

 I'm lucky to have an antique drill bit gauge. When the wrists are close to size, I force them into the 3/8" hole to scrape off high spots.
Testing the fit.
Sizing the wrist.
The right hand takes shape.

The same process follows for the left hand, remembering to drill the hole for the staff before carving the hand.
Both hands roughed out.
The last thing to complete in this session is the staff, which is carved to fit the left hand. Now I have the delicate task of getting the hands and fingers thinned down so he doesn't look like a brick layer!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wiz Part 7 - Hand Studies

I still have to start thinking about the hands on my Wiz project. One will be holding an orb of some sort and the other, outstretched holding a staff or wand. I thought maybe a few hand studies would be good, so I had my daughter snap a few pictures of my hands, though my hand aren't really how I want the Wizards hands to look, but it gives me a base to work from. I might even try sculpting them to actual size with some clay I picked up at the art store.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Site of the Week - Two Arts Meet

I've always been in awe of the meeting of the two worlds of woodworking and music. To me, making something beautiful of wood that can then produce a beautiful sound is the highest level of the craft. When the instrument can be made visually beautiful it adds another dimension to it's beauty. The world of electric, solid-body guitars offers an opportunity cor the carver that some other instruments might limit. I have come across a number of photos on the internet of work done by some amazing carvers. Here are a few. I hope these inspire you as they do me.

Custom Carved Guitars by Vinnie Ricotta

Doug Rowell

Blindworm Guitars

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Revisiting the Poor Man's Vise

Some of you may be familiar with the so-called Poor Man's Carving Vise featured in WCI Issue #5. The vise was built by Lynn Diel, based on a 1797 design. I found it also featured in Jerry Hartzell's blog.
The real beauty of the vise is that it is flexible, allowing the user to turn and angle the carving to just about any position. It is also very inexpensive - under $20. But it has a serious achille's heel. The point where the armature (the smaller pipe) passes through the eye bolt is just not enough bearing surface and the carving block will move if you put much force behind a carving tool. This forces you to use one hand to support the block and now you have a very unsafe situation. The taller the carving and the more of a horizontal position it's in, the more it will move. Forget using a mallet behind your tool.

As I said, the vise is flexible and one of the adjustments is the armature post being able to move up and down through the eye bolt. I found that I almost never need to make that adjustment, so I'm willing to give it up for a more secure vise. The solution is fairly apparent - simply weld the pipe to the eye of the bolt.  Reading some of the comments on Jerry's vise reveals others have been successful with that very solution. I even have a friend that would probably do the welding for me at no cost. I'm all about no cost and I felt there might be other solutions. There is! But it took a few failed efforts to get there. 

The solution I came up with is even less expensive than the original. I decided to scrap the pipe and flange that mount to the carving block altogether. In it's place, I cut a scrap of maple to about 1 1/2" X 1 1/2" X 3". In my odds 'n' ends bin, I found a sort of "L" bolt (1/4" X 4") with a fender washer and wing nut. Through the middle of the maple block I drilled a hole and then carved a little mortise for the "L" part. Then I drilled two "pocket holes" for the screws to mount the block to my carving blank. This rig worked about as good as the pipe version - still moves. First failure: the torque I needed to keep the block for moving bent the fender washer. I added two more washers. Second failure: the "L" part of the bolt bent. I realized I would need more than a 1/4". It turned out the "L" bolt was too specialized and I had to find another solution. I decided to try a 3/3" X 6" Carriage Bolt. (The square part of the bolt should hold is it was jammed tight into the maple). Well, that worked better, but still some movement. I filed some radial grooves in the end of the T-pipe, - the problematic bearing surface. I used a large wrench for extra torque and I seem to have solved my problem! Now I can even bang away with a carvers mallet and the block stays secure. I'm still going to get that pipe welded as a backup!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wiz Part 6 - More Roughing and Vice Failure

The part of carving I really enjoy is getting to the level where the final form lives. I really hate roughing out and I tend to look for any way to speed that part up. I also enjoy carving by hand, that is, not owning a Foredom tool, though sometimes I wish I had one. I realized I had some rasp bits I bought years ago and a trim router and a speed control, so, for a small amount of the project, maybe I could use that to speed things up? To my surprise, it worked pretty well. Still have to pay attention to grain, so I couldn't go everywhere with the bit, but it took off a lot of material in some tight spots.

Now it's time to take this guy off the carving vise. I'm having some trouble with the vise anyway. There seems to be a problem getting the clamp tight enough to keep the main armature from moving. This forces me to have one hand on the carving to support it, which defeats the purpose of the vise and feels very unsafe. I kept trying to tighten the nut on the eye bolt to the point of it bending. I think some welding will be in order if this vise is ever going to work for me. That will limit up/down movement of the armature, but that's an adjustment I'm willing to give up.

After taking the carving off the vise, I'm using a bench knife and some palm gouges to continue working on the carving. As I mentioned before, this carving has a number of delicate areas, so I will proceed cautiously.  Final shaping of the sleeves, for example will be put off for a while, but now is the time to drill out for the wrist sections of the hands. Then I can hollow out the inner sleeves before carving down to final size on the outside of them. I used a 3/8" brad point bit for this and drill in about 1/2" deep. This should be plenty to glue in the arms. The brad point bit gives me a center to align a smaller bit, which I will use to drill into the arm as deep as possible and insert a hidden dowel. This will hopefully strengthen the cross grain of the arms so I don't have another catastrophe. The bottom of the robe is also extremely fragile. Very short grain there. I think this piece will need a base to support that. I'll think about that later...

I have started to add some pencil lines to where I want the hair, beard and hat to be. I think this is the next logical place to proceed. The shape of the robe will also be established at this stage. I have drawn a outline on the bottom - the easiest way I have found to do the robe shape. I found drawing the curves in the fold based on sizes of gouges I have is the best way to go.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wiz Part 5 - Early Progress

The second stage of roughing out is nearly complete. The glue joint on the arm seems to be holding. I have to say, this carving is going to be one of the more difficult ones I have tried. The location of limbs against the direction of the grain has already posed problems for me. I will soon have to take him off the carving vise and work on my lap. There are just too many tricky angle to work against. Now I see why a lot of cavers use power carvers. I'm not complaining. The challenge is what I'm after and I have high hopes for a pleasant outcome.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wiz Part 4 - Roughing Out

Work begins on the wizard, but not without some minor disaster right off the bat. Let's just say there's a lot of short grain in this piece and I'm going to have to be very careful with certain parts. The arms are of great concern. I managed to break one off. The add-on pieces near the bottom are also very delicate.

I roughed out as much as I could with the band saw, but as you can see by all the shaded areas, there's a lot left that I have to get rid of some other way.

 With the blank screwed to my shop-made vice and started hogging off big chunks of wood. Novice mistake! Before I knew it, the left arm was lying on the floor. I let a few expletives fly, took a deep breath and decided to make the most of the situation. It was a clean break and a fairly large area, maybe 1" square, so I know I can get a good glue joint. I have to drill that sleeve for the hand anyway, so I can reinforce the arm with a dowel which will never be seen. I realized I could get at some areas more easily while the arm is off, so I worked on it in those areas before gluing the arm back. This would have been a tricky joint to clamp, but a strip of old bike tire made the task simple, fast and safe [no clamp dents].

Lesson learned though. I will have to take my time if I don't want to be gluing up broken pieces for the rest of this carving. Why didn't I make the arms separate and glue them on after? I thought about it, but then I looked at those long, pointed sleeves and realized they needed to have the grain running up and down. I know the thin wrists are going to be be a problem if they are cross-grained, so they will be made and glued on separately. Now I have to go take off that inner tube and see how my glue job came out ...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wiz Part 3b - Final Pattern

For the final patter sketch I chose to freehand some adjustments and corrects to what I got from the photo of my mannequin. The final pattern will be a little larger than my 3X6X12 block of basswood, so I may have to glue up some parts of the blank. I'm not sure if the process I used was worth it all, but it was something I had thought about for a while and wanted to try out. There are probably better [easier] ways to get where I ended up, but the process helped me to make certain decisions. Multiple freehand sketches would have gotten me to the same place, I suppose, but I did enjoy being able to change poses with the mannequin until I got a pose I liked. Now it's time to rough out a blank and get started carving.