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This blog features the current woodcraft, Art and Graphic work of David Stanley.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Progress on Dragon Lovespoon

All of the main areas of the design have been roughed out now and most of the design decisions have also been made. That is, decisions that relate to the various depths in the three dimensional form of the entire carving, where the many elements appear. The refining of the forms, adding of details and then the long and careful preparation for the final finish should be a series of tasks a little less risky so far as breakage is concerned.
But not less risky concerning the final appearance of the finished carving.

There is considerable work to be done with the detailing of the large heart with an overlapping leaf pattern and some design decisions to be made about the back of the large heart.

All the knot work has now been laid in, back and front and after smoothing their form with needle files and scraping where possible. I will then attempt the bevelling of the top faces of the ribbons that make up the knot work as originally intended. The back of the knots will be plain and flattish just a little concave.

The scales on the dragon are also going to require quite a bit of work to complete and will also require some modification along the dragon's tail as I have ditched the round section tail for a more hard edged rhomboid section with better light catching properties. I had originally thought of using pyrography to engrave the scales on the dragon and to texture and darken the dragon in contrast to the rest of the spoon but this bold step will depend on many contingencies, including the nature of this particular timber and how well it responds to the technique, the simple fact that not all parts of the dragon are easily accessible and lastly whether I can convince myself by experiment and practice on scrap that the pyrography will make the appearance of the carving better and not worse. I have seen some striking examples of pyrographed toning on some spoons carved by Mike Davies and I've wanted to try this myself. Whether this is the spoon to try it on will depend on the results of experimentation on some scrap pieces.

Even the intended bevelled edges on the top face of the knot-work will require some careful trialling before I plunge into it and I think I may have to get a bit more depth on the top of the knot-work first.

Where the bevels interact with over-layed flowers and stems may also prove tricky.

The bowl of the spoon needs just a little refining of its shape on the outer surface but quite a bit needs to be removed from inside the bowl and undercutting the two hearts contained within it.

The spoon is starting to get somewhere but there is still some way to go yet.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dragon Lovespoon

Progress has been slow and intermittent so far, with the 'Dragon Lovespoon', due to my other current work commitments. With the carving of the 'Dragon Lovespoon' the most immediate goal that I'm looking forward to, is that point in the carving when all the critical design decisions have been made and the safe, albeit tedious, 'haven' of finely finishing the carving, is reached. Of course right after the initial thrill of finishing some small section to that point where the natural beauty of the timber starts to show and a certain pleasing crispness begins to appear in the forms and shapes, then a restless desire to be designing something new will set in again.

Bearing this in mind it is as well that love spoons have a back and front, so a little variety can be introduced by proceeding to some of the finishing process, with needle files at least, (abrasives are best left until your edge tools are reserved for the next project) and then getting back to carving those parts that will still need some intuitive design work to complete them. I find that I need this variety in a long project, but more especially when I don't have other different work to attend to at the same time.

Engineering a little variety into the work is probably a good idea as long as the discipline of designing well and finishing well isn't interfered with by indolently, only attending to pleasant tasks. However I do have some other work on hand at present and the carving work is something interesting and pleasant to look forward to at various set times. Having good and interesting work to do, is certainly a blessing and a gift from God to mankind, but all work has its tedious side plus its pain and however well it finishes up, there's always something more and something better to look for and look forward to.

The general thickness of this carving, in many places, will be greatly reduced as material is removed from the back of the spoon. This is a time when thought needs to be given to keeping strategic strength in vulnerable parts of the spoon to weather the relatively rough handling of some of the more strenuous passages of carving.

The 'unders' and 'overs' of the Celtic knot work have been set in on the top of the spoon and the depth has been determined for many of the elements. The full three dimensional form of the dragon is still being determined however as carving begins on the back of the spoon.

As the stem of the spoon is 'buried', more or less, in the depth of the carving and only short lengths are accessible to cutting at any one time, the desirable fair curve for the spoon's neck, is going to be a challenge to carve. A lot of guessing and estimation, plus constant checking, will be necessary to establish the long slow and largely imaginary curve of this neck as it traces its 'apparent' path to the bowl of the spoon.

One side of the large heart at the top of the spoon has been carved awaiting the relief carving of the leaf pattern over the surface. I am still deciding how the back of this heart will be carved, whether it will be the same as the front or carved in a more concave manner. A great deal of 'on the fly' design will be needed when the main forms on the back of the spoon are established.

Some continuation of the plant and floral elements on the back of the carving are also going to temper the general alacrity that can be expended on the removal of the large quantities of material on the back as some of this material will be needed for those parts of the continued floral elements situated at the upper layers of the back of the spoon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Carving of the 'Dragon Lovespoon' Commenced

After completion of all the scrollsaw work, from the pattern. I have commenced the actual carving of the design. There is in fact still quite a bit of design work left to be done, because after the initial plan view drawing of the spoon design, and perhaps a few sketched lines on the edge of the timber block, everything else 'inside' the carving, is beyond my visualisation ability and I am forced to proceed intuitively into the rest of the carving work.

When I say 'forced' into an intuitive mode of working, I don't mean to say that this aspect of the work is not an exciting one and also an enjoyable one, as possibilities suggest themselves for inclusion in the design at many points, in a way enhancing to the work. Things that I might never have thought of with pencil and paper alone. Things for which I can take no credit, just recognise and accept what has been provided.

There are perplexing points as well, as sometimes no clear way ahead appears and mishaps and obstacles pop up instead. All this is part of the story that goes into the carving of a lovespoon however, and whether it is to be known or not, it's good to think that this hidden narrative will somehow add to the enjoyment the recipient will acquire through receipt of this kind of gift.

Perhaps they will be moved, by an albeit, hardly articulate sense, of what has gone into the whole carving, designing and making process. Moved to something like gratitude, not so much to the designer/carver as for the carver, to the maker of that carver – and also maker of the material used – and also maker of their very selves. Selves that have been given their own skills, abilities, even perplexities of life, in which they are sustained in their being.

It must have been easier in a less technological age, even more perhaps in a less industrial age when the human hand was more evident in just about every household artefact, to be confronted with the connection of human lives that had participated in the things we use and have. Many zeros and ones, company profits, corporate identities and shareholders stand between us and this connection now.

You don't have to own a hand-crafted object (most artist/craftspersons would like you to consider it), but have a look around at that part of creation that consists of things made lovingly by human hand, learn an art or craft yourself if you feel inclined, but consider the creator behind every creation and its human connection. And consider that, that creator connected with humanity by becoming human. Lived, suffered and died guiltless and rose again in eternal supremacy. And consider at last that connection with him which is by his invitation, a connection, when you receive it, for which you can take no credit but just recognise and accept what has been provided.

In consideration now of this particular carving, for better or worse, I'm finding the relative softness of the timber requires careful cutting with very sharp tools. But still, the fiddly cutting in close quarters, that I'm having to do in some areas, is resulting in whispy residues of that cutting and tiny tear-outs that will all have to be removed with careful fine sanding at a later stage, probably lots of fine sanding and somehow that needs doing without removing the crisp edges that will need to persist to the finish.

Normally I would use the penciled-in profile of the spoon, on the edge of the block, (temporarily re-assembled after scrollsawing the pattern) as a guide to removing a substantial portion of the waste with the bandsaw however in this case because the design is so dense and layered throughout most of its length, it's not possible to do this with much certainty of not removing too much. So I'm relying on the timber's softness to allow a gradual removal of waste 'on the fly' at those times during the carving process when I actually know what I'm doing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dragon Lovespoon

The Outline of the spoon has been cut and the side offcuts kept for the re-assembly of the block prior to cutting the profile. As with my previous spoon, the design, as seen from the top, will lay on many different levels not yet determined, consequently not much can be removed from the profile without diminishing design options.

I have left the inside cuts un-cut as yet and have proceeded to carve out the chain link and swivel, just in case the swivel was not possible to free. I had to use my hand-made bent (heavily bent) chisels, made from piano wire, to get access to the area deep in the cleft of the large heart.

White beech is the softest timber I have carved so far and I'm finding that this softness presents its own problems. To begin with it is much 'easier' to carve, requiring less strength but even greater care is necessary because; cuts can go deeper, a slip can leave a damaging gash, non cutting parts of tools can leave dents, files have to be used carefully and without undue pressure or they will compress and burnish the timber surface rather than cutting and a little more 'on-the-fly' planning has to employed in general as you carve.

I am more used to the quiet violence of imposing form on the valiant resistance of hard timbers than the easy surrender to every errant cut that the softer wood continually threatens. I'm sure this experience will be valuable but I'm also hoping that the entire design will hold up in this timber.

At the bottom of the right hand corner of the design is a knot that I had hoped did not go all the way through or at least became solid toward the centre of the timber block.

Unfortunately it does go all the way in a raggedly open form and so this portion will have to be removed changing the design.The change will only be minimal however, just a small part of the smoke cloud from the dragon's breath.

The next task will be to cut the inside cuts on the scroll saw. Then I can proceed to carve and re-draw, carve and re-draw again and again until each element reaches its level in the multi-layered design.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dragon Lovespoon

This 'Dragon Lovespoon' design is my next intended carving piece and will be worked on at nights mostly, and will also give me something to do at woodcraft meetings. I have some illustration work to attend to on week days and as good as it is to have that work, it will be a welcome respite to have something a bit different, like carving to look forward to and enjoy doing at the end of most days.

The challenges of this new work however will undoubtably bring about their own toil and struggle as I enjoy the work and the means to do it, by the sweat of my brow.

The meaning behind the symbolic elements in this design is generally intended to represent a couple being sustained and protected through both the pleasant times and the trials, that accompany life, in this 'present evil age'. Not much more ought to be read into the design however as the particular meanings of the elements have more to do with such simple things as, simply wanting to include a celtic style dragon and some knot-work partially entwined with floral elements.

The dragon is, in this case, implicated in the trials part of the story, instead of being a protector and this in turn is in order to make something of a turbulent section of figured grain in the timber I'm intending to use for this carving. The timber is white beech, an Australian native timber that is valued as a carving timber.

It will be the first lovespoon that I have carved in a timber native to my country, but I am eager to try a few such timbers for this kind of work. It will also be the softest timber I have carved so far and I'm hoping that it will be strong enough to stand up to some heavy carving. This particular piece of white beech also seems a little bit on the waxy side so I'm also hoping that this will not interfere with the finish. Since finishing the 'Cariad Spoon' I have purchased some palm handled tools, which seem to be more suited to the smaller scale carving encountered in lovespoons and I'm eager to try them out on a real carving.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

'Cariad' Welsh Lovespoon Finished

The 'cariad' Spoon is now finished. I changed my mind about trying to fill the grain of the walnut and decided a flattish, subtle sheen would look best in this dark wood. Smooth and inviting to the touch but without the myriad of specular highlights that might confusingly emanate from – all the ridges, of all the components, at all their various levels, all at once – if a high gloss finish was used.

There are times when a much higher gloss would be appropriate but with the elements of visual interest being at so many different levels in the carving, a finish that allows the light to gradually and softly reflect from the surfaces each in their own turn is the best way, in this case, for the carving to tell its story. The slight openness of grain in the walnut still remains as I have used a penetrating finishing oil consisting mostly of true tung oil and other organic oils. This allows the woodiness of the walnut to remain un-submerged but simply modified in a way natural to the timber.

Daylight and indoor lighting bring out some different colour moods from the dark walnut.

The grain pattern of the walnut by way of 'happy accident' provided the banded patterning on the foremost canadian goose in a very useful way helping to establish its identity at least a little, where shape alone was all that the dark timber could be hoped to provide.

The back of the spoon shows the re-growing tree stump, the heart motif and the merging of the rocks, celtic knots and gear fragments. With the bowl of the spoon joining up through the connecting rod to the rocks.

Resting just above the bowl of the spoon is the captured ring representing the 'Iron Ring' worn by Canadian engineers.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cariad Lovespoon, finishing begun

The 'Cariad' Welsh Lovespoon has now been completely carved and the sanding and finishing process has begun.
Any further work with edge tools, which should only be a little tidying up here and there, will be done with small 'disposable' blades (of course even these can be re-honed to acceptable sharpness again) so that the abrasive particles left on the timber will not dull my carving tools. If I do need to do any more carving work with my usual tools then I will first scrape the area with a trimming knife blade to remove any remaining abrasive particles.

To begin the finishing I will commence with 240 grit paper and move up to 1200 in stages. This might seem excessively fine but I believe it helps to achieve the kind of finish I'm after.

I will be using a tung oil based Danish Oil finish applied with a small brush and worked with wet and dry abrasive at the 400 grit stage to fill the grain prior to the final coat. The final finish will be a wax polish to bring up just the right sheen.

When the work has been finished to the right level, then the play of light on the surface should bring out the details in the carving and the beauty of the timber, much more so than can be seen at this stage.

Some types of carving are best not sanded, letting the tool marks show and bear witness to the carver's interaction with the tools and the wood. In this case and possibly with love spoons in general I think a fine finish looks best. I can't articulate why this seems to be the case, perhaps it is the scale of the work, how close a scrutiny it invites or how much it asks to be felt in the hands. It all depends on what achieves the most pleasing result and suits the work best.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cariad Lovespoon Back on Track

Most of the main details of the 'Cariad ' Welsh lovespoon have been roughed out now, including the reverse side of the spoon. Each element has been established on its level in the multi-layered design. Some teeth still need to be added to the gearwheel and pinion, the 'iron ring' needs to be carved and separated from the lower neck of the spoon and the bowl of the spoon needs to be fully roughed out.

Then remains the long and important task of refining all the shapes, first with edged carving tools, then with fine rifflers and needle files, before final finishing is done with a series of finer and finer grit, wet and dry abrasive papers, until a silky gloss is obtained. Then at last the final finishing with danish oil and polishing with wax.

You will probably have noticed the change in colour of the spoon at this stage. The cherry 'Cariad' spoon now known as the 'learning experience spoon' has been replaced with the walnut version of the 'Cariad' spoon. The Cherry spoon, due to some earlier problems in planning a workable procedure, had started to deviate from the original design in ways that I was not happy with. The top area of the spoon with the links and sun motif had been very cramped and ultimately led to a reshaping of the rays that basically spoilt that part of the spoon. I had no choice but to start over, and as I could not get hold of another piece of cherry quickly, went back to a nice piece of walnut I already had and to a new spoon, slightly scaled up in size and more closely following the original design.

The walnut has not proved to be so much a problem for holding fine detail, as I had first thought and the darker colour seems also to work well with this design.

There is a little more detail work to be done on the Geese, mountain and the gate at this stage and then the finer finishing. It's difficult to see here but the grain in the walnut has shown a fortunate presence of figure on the side of the front Goose, closely resembling the banding on its wings and body. When final polishing is done the figure in this timber will be clearly seen and its present drab appearance will be replaced by the sheen of polished walnut.

Some work has now also been done on the back of the spoon with motifs added to make use of the reversed shapes that are made by the lettering and the goose wings intersecting the sun's rays on the other side.

The back of the spoon has been roughed out and features some different motifs presented in a slightly more abstract way. The sun with its rays, now tops a regrowing tree stump, the roots of which blend into a looser montage of knot pieces, gear fragments and rocks with the connecting rod merging into the neck of the spoon bowl.

The re-growing tree stump is a favourite motif of mine and I have used it as the signature piece in hand-crafted wooden jigsaw puzzles that I have made in the past. Apart from the obvious meaning a re-growing tree stump conveys, like renewal and vital continuation, it symbolises, in the book of Jeremiah and other places in scripture, the promised Messiah Jesus, and the final establishment of his eternal kingdom at the end of this age. A kingdom into which all people are now invited at his expense and as his cherished possession.