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Friday, June 25, 2010

Gnome tribe gets new member

Just finished whittling Gnome02, the new and improved model has features not found on Gnome01 like cheekbones, shoes, ears and a lower lip. He has trouble getting the point of his hat to stand straight tho.

Like the first he has good points and some not so good ones. I'm happy with him and he can live here as long as he wants. (Gnomish propensity to wander is well documented) He's made from Paulownia, amazingly light weight wood that holds reasonable detail. I'm getting used to the open grain too. I'm happy with all of him except his torso- I whittled the head and cap first and ran out of wood again- I'd have liked him to have broader shoulders and a rounder belly. The next one I'll use a blank the same height but increase the thickness and width, and I may rough saw the head out to get the proportions I'm looking for. One more practice I think and I'll be ready to work on my 'commission', a Gnome bottle stopper

requested by my one of my biggest fans ;)

Block I started with was a little bigger than 1"x1"x3-3/4". In these photos he is unfinished, like all I have done so far he will be finished clear, I'm just not certain what product I'll use yet. Minwax wood hardener is a possibility, as is a mixture of
polyurethane, tung oil and mineral spirits. Its a mixture with a high penetration that offers good protection and leaves a dull finish. I've been reading about vacuum finishing, and thinking I might give it a try. The piece will be immersed in finish, and the container will be subjected to vacuum. The air should be sucked out of the piece, and when the vacuum is released the finish is driven into the surface of the wood to replace the air. I haven't worked out all the details of the vacuum chamber yet. I have a lab grade vacuum pump I have used in veneer work in the past, but would like to come up with a reliable low tech method more easily repeatable by others. I've seen some methods which involve heating the mixture and sealing it in a canning jar, as it cools if forms a vacuum. I'll try that, the key will be to see if the piece bubbles, indicating the air is leaving the wood. The danger is any finish I have ever worked with is flammable, in a closed container maybe explosively so. Before finishing I think i'll set him in the sun and see if he sunburns, I suspect he will turn a shade of grey (rough paulownia is dark grey on the surface)

I'm generally not the kind of guy who likes to whittle mainstream type items like this, I had no intentions of ever doing a gnome. The only i tried one is because I was 'commissioned' to do one. I'm glad I did, thanks for asking me to (you know who you are). I had a little story line in my head about who he is, where he's been, silly crap like that. There are more Gnomes in my future. There's a lesson here for me, I won't be so quick to decide a particular item would not be fun to do.....

Keep you knife sharp and let the chips fall where they will.