Tuesday, November 22, 2011
You can view the entire article including photos here:
Wood and Ducks Merge in Kerper’s Art
NEW VIENNA IA — Steve Kerper’s passions for waterfowl and trees find expression in hand-carved wooden ducks that he calls decoys but which are actually objects of art.
“I’m a duck nut and a tree nut,” said Kerper, 61, who has hand-carved more than 2,300 ducks — from more than 100 different tree species — since he began teaching himself how to do it in 1986.
“I accidentally got pretty good at it,” said Kerper, whose artistry has been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and by collectors in 48 states and 32 foreign countries.
While in Washington in 1996, representing Iowa at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folk Life, Kerper delivered a duck to the White House and received a thank-you note from then President Bill Clinton, a collector of carved wooden decoys.
Each decoy is dated, signed and numbered, and no two are alike.
Kerper started out painting his decoys to enhance their realism but soon found his works appealed only to duck hunters and other types of duck nuts.
Although, as he says, “paint covers a multitude of carving sins,” he stopped painting them when he realized that “everybody loves the grain of wood.”
Unlike some duck decoy artists, Kerper does not carve intricate feather patterns. “I like to let the grain of the wood speak for itself,” he said.
That predilection at least partially explains why he prefers the unique coloration and grain patterns of wood distressed by such afflictions as spalting, which occurs when a fungus colonizes the wood.
It also explains why he does not mind working with hard-to-carve woods like red cedar and sumac.
Much of the wood comes from his own timber, in which Kerper has planted 65 species of trees since 1974. He also collects wood during hunting trips to many other Clayton County woodlands.
With a glove on his left hand and tape protecting the fingers of his right hand, Kerper grinds away on his projects while awaiting customers at Kerper’s Country Store, a business founded by his ancestors in 1862.
After cutting out the basic shape with a band or coping saw, he refines the shape with a hatchet, then “cuts away everything that doesn’t look like a duck” with an Exacto knife.
“A half hour with the hatchet saves 15 hours with the knife,” he said.
After hand-sanding them to a satin finish, he rubs in as many as 50 coats of tung oil to preserve and enhance the wood’s luster.
“How long does each one take? That’s my most frequently asked question, and I don’t keep track,” he said.
Kerper often donates ducks for auctions that benefit such worthy causes as conservation, education and religion.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
I'm getting a little more comfortable with calling myself an artist, the artist ego coming to the fore I guess.
If you've viewed the rest of my blog, you'll notice these are my first relief type whittlings, and yes they are still whittling- one knife only, start to finish. Well, there was the bandsaw, and the table saw, and the planer, and the drill press with the router bit, but after that it was all done with just one knife.... Technically they are probably High Relief due to the undercuts on some parts. Like everything else, they were fun.
They were also educational. I've heard of using tea as an antiquing stain, I'm not sure what I've heard about using it on wood but I definitely remember hearing about using it to make linens look older. I gave it a try here and LOVE the results. 16 oz hot water, throw in the teabag and leave it til the water cools. I applied it liberally to dry wood (I tried applying it to wet wood on a scrap, it added no color at all). While the endgrain sucked up more than the long grain areas, the color from the tea is subtle enough to NOT cause the blotchy dark cloud you can get with spirit based stains. Let it dry, don't be disappointed if the dry piece looks like it has no color, your clear coats will bring it back. It worked well on plain wood, I'm pretty certain it will not work to antique a painted piece. I'm afraid my photos don't do the finish justice, as is the way with my photos sometimes. Probably the best way for you to see the results is to
GO WHITTLE SOMETHING AND TRY IT YOURSELF.
Happy whittling- I have a cold and am going to bed now.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The pic is of the unfinished square, block was 1" thick, so the high part of the palm stands a little less than half an inch above the background. I undercut the leaves and top of the trunk to try and enhance the 3rd dimension- the shadows work, I think. I took some liberties with the shapes, curved the edges, rounded over a corner or two- and one triangle got severely modified when I wasn't looking.
The second square- still a Work in Progress. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
New pics and progress on the XBox controller, the redwood is pretty easy to carve except for the curly grain. Grain direction changes every 3/4" in places, makes it a challenge to use a knife.
I've had to expand my list of tools on this one, a knife was not going to do the job. Bandsaw and handsaw for roughing, router bit in the drill press for the flats, gouges rasps and files for the rest.
The rough shaping is pretty much done, the battery box needs a little more work, as do the bumps for the joysticks and buttons. Sanding and some wire brush work still to go. I've started to work on the add ons, joysticks and buttons will be of different woods for contrast and interest. Purpleheart and Zebrawood are definitely on the list, I'll have to dump my box of extics and other interesting woods for them.
I've done a little experimenting on finishes too, nothing to show for it yet; I'm interested in keeping the redwood as light colored as possible.
Definitely stretching my legs on this one.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Its not whittling, maybe not even carving, lucky for me the blog has 'and Other Affairs' in the title
I've accepted my first paying commission to create a sculpture in wood, a gentleman from California approached me to make a wooden (non-working, duh!) version of an XBox controller. Well, that's just far enough outside the box that I could not say no.
And I got to go shopping at the Hardwood Store, too. If you are ever in the neighborhood, stop by Buffalo Hardwoods at the intersection of Main & Kensington in Amherst, NY. Half the space is hardwood storage, half is wood shop, they always have time to listen to whatever project I have in mind, and often are building something interesting themselves. I didn't get any compensation for this blurb, I just like 'em. Candy store for me, you know?
I went in looking for something special, with some wild or strong grain so there'd be no doubt my controller was made of wood. I walked out with a small chunk of redwood cut from the root of an enormous tree-(Yeah, I bought softwood at the hardwood store). They had two slices there cut from the same root, nearly 4'wide and 8'long, each 3" thick- I figure the root must have been 4' around, am guessing the tree was up to 20' diameter at the base. There is no bark on any of the outer edges, the outside couple inches of the tree are decaying and show signs of fire. Years ago when Redwoods were regularly felled, giant trees would commonly be cut leaving an 8' or taller stump in the forest. Lately some loggers have been going into the woods and harvesting these decaying stumps; I suspect that is where my little chunk came from. In addition to the wild grain, it has the advantage of hailing from the buyers home state.
So first things first- bandsaw the rough shape. the original piece is 3" thick, so I cut a slice off to get down to the 2+ inches I'll need. Next thing is to identify the high spots, in this case it's the 3 mounds that surround some of the buttons and joysticks. I left them large and high, plenty of time to refine them later. Sitting high like they do, they are likely to incur a bit of damage while I shape the rest of the piece too. I used a router and then a router bit in my drill press to get to this point- no carving yet.
Next step is to begin to rough in the details- shape the handle area, rough saw the battery box on the bottom. some knife work, some rasp work. You can see the grain starting to show, I have a plan for that, but I'm not talking yet.
Ive done some saw work and some knife work on the back/bottom, and you can see why I picked this piece of wood- its curly, tight strong curl too, a rarity. For those who do not know wood, curl is those alternating lines of light and dark. They're caused by grain that does not grow in straight lines but undulates through the piece. If you rotate the piece, the dark and light bands will switch- it's pretty amazing. The front half is so roughed up you can't see them, they're there and they'll pop when I finish the wood.
I just realized I posted photos for my client, who is a professional photographer. Don't laugh too hard, OK?
I'm not patient enough for crossbreeding, so I painted mine. I thought the explanation might head off the comments (eewwww!) and questions (Why???)
I've done one other rosebud bottle stopper (see post of July 29, 2010), my inspiration was a little faceted glass rosebud my daughter brought home from the mall one day. The facets did not work out so well on the first, but I think I came closer to nailin em on this one. Are they even, or symmetrical? Not really, they won't pass the micrometer test, but they look like I want em to- pretty even, and obviously hand made. I considered getting my layout squares and rulers out to make the facets as nearly perfect as possible, but decided tools like that have no business in Whittling.
Thanks for looking. Go whittle something.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
If I'm gonna make a knife, it has to be something I can't find. I've discovered I don't care about the size or shape of the handle, as long as the knife is scary sharp. If it's dull no handle will be comfortable. I did not spend much time on the handle, the thin blade is new for me and I did not want to spend too much time on a knife I might not like. On the other hand, if I ended up with a keeper, I wanted the handle to be special.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I regularly make knives from files, and wrap the handles with leather cord, but decided to try something new. The handle here is spalted poplar, the colors and pattern are caused by a fungus that invades the wood. Too much spalt and you get decay, somewhere between healthy wood and punky wood you get a sound piece with amazing color patterns.
I call this my Schmoo knife, which dates me I'm afraid. Anybody out there remember the Schmoo from the Lil' Abner comic strip? Used to read it every Sunday as a kid. Google it if you want.
The blade is a new material for me too- it's a floor scraper blade, you can buy them from the big box home improvement type stores. They mount in a tool one would use to remove linoleum from a floor you wanted to re-do. They're hardened steel, half inch or so wide, 8 inches ling and .035 inches thick. That's bout half the thickness of the blades I generally make from files, and they tend to flex a bit. They are softer than my files too, I'd guess RC 59 or 60 (estimate files to be RC63 or more), so they can flex a bit without breading. They're easy to grind, the blank fits in a bandsaw slot. A little epoxy and away you go.
I tried to make the handle and the blade flow together- most wood handled knives are a piece of steel stuck in a hole in the end of a piece of wood, and they look it. I also kept the circular feature at the pommel end I use in my leather wrapped knives, a little 'signature' item for me. I could wish for better pics, the color is less than true and the overall shape of the knife is less than clear. The photographed side of the knife is the more spectacularly spalted side, the opposite side lost it's pattern as I carved. it was bound to happen, Murphy says so. I'm glad one side held the coloring so well.
This one is shipping out- payment to the man who gave me the wood I made the handle from. I did not get to carve with it past the test cuts I take when making a knife. I have enough wood to make a couple more, with luck I'll get to make myself on this weekend.....
So, Whittle on, even if you only have a Whittle time- the chores can wait.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I found another with a different approach I'd like to share. Eric Oswandel of Michigan is a member of the WoodCarvingIllustrated.com forum (Midnight Carver there).
There are some other features worth mentioning. Making eyes that appear to be smiling is not an easy thing, especially on an unpainted piece. Eric's eyes are simple rectangular chips- the smile comes from the cheekbones and the upturned mustache. Its a magnificent mustache, don't you think?
(I just noticed the date feature on my camera is a little off, Oops.)
Here is Eric's description of his method:
I used a 1x1x4.5
3/8 top of foot
3/4 bottom of hands
1-3/4 bottom of beard
2-5/8 bottom of head (rear)
3-1/8 bottom of hat (rear)
3-3/8 bottom of hat (front)
1. I rubbed the carving down thoroughly with a brown paper bag
2. I painted the whole piece with several thin washes of burnt umber, keeping it wet, until I got the color I wanted. Keep in mind, the color will change when dunked in oil.
3. Right away, I lightly rolled it back and forth in a brown paper bag, which took some of the paint off the high spots
4. When it was dry, I dunked it in Watco Danish oil - natural color. I waited 30 min, then dunked it again
5. After waiting at least 3 days, for the oil to fully cure, I gave it 3 coats of Deft clear wood finish - Satin
Have a great day!