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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I've been idle, and the blog shows it. Hopefully that will change soon. Not everybody has been tho- here's an article I came across about a carver in Iowa. I like the decision to stop painting and let the wood speak for itself, while I use paint on some of my whittlings I prefer to either natural or stained wood over painted. The Smithsonian and the President things are cool too- BfloBif

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

Seagull Knife

I've been thinking of this one for a long time, the original idea came from and antique pocket knife I saw a photo of. The body is Lacewood (smells like poo when you cut it) and the wings are Purpleheart (hard like rock), the eye is Ebony. Picture was taken a day or maybe two after carving, the purple heart gained color as time went by- brown when you cut it, purple increases as it oxidizes. It's a simple carving, basically shaped like a million other wooden handled knives, the joinery of the pieces (Intarsia really) was the more important aspect of the handle. Actually the concept was the most important aspect, followed by the joinery, then the carving. I wanted the blade to be a part of the sculpture, as opposed to stuck in the end of a carving. Make no mistake- I've seen some excellent carved knife handles whose blade was not part of the figure, there are probably some in my future too.

I have a couple more razors, and cutting the parts for this knife gave me parts to make the mirror image- lacewood wings and purpleheart body. I'll need a light wood for the eye, maybe maple....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More for Our Friends in Japan

I did a second quilt square for the WCI Japan Relief Project, I was having fun with the tangrams so I stuck with 'em. He's a running boy, the same 7 polygons are used to make him as the palm tree, same size polygons too. Some are obvious, some I may have blended the lines a bit, a little exercise in artistic license.

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


Happy whittling- I have a cold and am going to bed now.

Buffalo Bif

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

For our Friends in Japan

The WoodcarvingIllustrated forum has started a project to support the Red Cross efforts in Japan's recovery from the recent tsunami. Nearly 100 crafters- wood burners, jigsawyers and carvers are donating time and effort to create 4" squares which will be arranged into a 'quilt' style wall hanging to be auctioned off in June. Other than the 4" square the only restriction is squares must be 3/8" to 1/2" thick at the edges, and the hole pattern in the corners is spec'd- 1/8" holes 3/8" off each edge. I'll send two, others are also sending multiples, expectations are over 100 squares divided into 3 wall hangings.

Both my pieces will be based on the Japanese puzzle game of Tangrams: the same seven polygons are used to create both. You might be interested to Google 'Tangrams' and play your self.

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

Spring is Sprung- sort of

It depends on where in the country you are, our neighbors to the south are planting spring crops already, I'm not sure they can grow tulips outside there. Up in the still frozen north, well, we're still frozen, and the tulips are not blooming yet. This little guy is basswood, whittled in 4 parts and assembled with a hot glue gun, then painted with washes. I originally was going to whittle it as all one piece, and cut the roughout with that in mind. Once i picked up a knife and thought about actually starting I went back to the saw and cut it into parts. things went quickly after that, I don't time myself while whittling, but I'd say it took one afternoon to do. Overall 4" high and about 2.5" around at the leaf tips. I like the way acrylics work when the wood is wet first, seems like they penetrate better, and more evenly. You can see the wood color showing thru in parts of the leaves and stem, that was actually intentional. After painting I put on a clear coat of Fabulon Crystal, a clear water based urethane originally formulated as a floor finish. I was not real happy with it, and whittled the finish and paint off the flower to start over. It didn't brush on evenly, the drips looked awful. I'll reapply it with a rag, very thin coat, just a little protection for the paint. The pic, BTW, was taken before the clear coat. I had to work to type the word 'it' when referring to this piece in this blog entry, funny how even inanimate subjects take on a personality, isn't it? He's cute, not even sure why he's a he and not a she. That's just the way it is. I can envision a little garden full of little flowers, that's the first time I've been tempted to do a scene or collection of items. Would look cute on the windowsill all winter. So whittle something already-BfloBif

Sunday, March 27, 2011

5,000 Words Worth

If a picture is worth thousand words, then this entry is longer than the analysis I wrote on Faust in my last year of college. By a little bit. Technically, I think the pic is supposed to be painted... The controller is assembled, and has the first coat of finish. The bands of curl are starting to show nicely, and I like the contrasting buttons.
Joystick on the right is made from the same piece of redwood the body of the controller is, I scorched it with a torch then wire brushed it. The soft grain (fast growth, spring and summer)burns more readily than the the slow- growth winter grain, leaving a highly textured surface. I thought of doing that to the entire body, but the dark color wasn't working for me. I think the curl would have disappeared too.
Curl shows well here. The white joystick is a piece of lilac I took from mom & dad's yard 20 years of more ago. Its hard like a rock, very white with some color surprises inside. Kinda like Cracker Jacks.
Other woods: Alaskan yellow cedar, zebrawood, tulipwood, ebony, sycamore cocobolo, purpleheart, bocote (I think) and jaelo. I've never seen the last one, if it wasn't labeled in the grab box I got I'd have no clue.
Been a fun project. The redwood was a surprise to work with, very soft, the curl caused some consternation. One or two more coats of finish and off it goes, on the road to California. I have no problem letting go of something I've worked on, tho I'm usually face to face with the receiver. There's always a little nag in the back of my mind, wondering if the finished product matches what the customer really wanted.....

Happy carving. Don't be afraid to color outside the lines.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

XBox + Buttons

I was struggling with shaping and sizing the battery compartment and I realized the job could be done quickly and easily if I just cut the darn thing off and deal with the parts separately. Finished it up toot sweet, and glued it back on. There's the batt box, back where it belongs. Started adding the exotic bits for buttons, the bocote out front, zebrawood on the flat joystick and Alaskan yellow cedar for the power button. Purple heart triggers never made it to the photo shoot. Still some shaping to be done. The body and the joystick bumps are smoother than they were, but not quite finished yet. Stay tuned..

Saturday, March 12, 2011

XBox Progress

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

Thinking Outside the (X)Box

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?
Whittling, carving, sculpting- its all an adventure. Stay tuned for updates, and as always, Happy Whittling- BfloBif

The Elusive Black Rose.

Rose Breeders have been trying to create ( thruough selective breeding) a truly Black Rose for years, decades, maybe even centuries. I grow a few roses in my garden (none of them black), I recall reading about a large prIze, a million dollars I think, for the first truly black rose.

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

One for me, finally...

I finally got around to making myself another knife. I'm like the mechanic with the junker car, too busy making knives for others, never seem to get around to making one for me. The wood is spalted poplar, like the one I show in my last post. Same wood, different camera settings.
Thin blade, little tilt to the edge.

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.
Before I decided to make my own knives, I searched the web looking for the perfect knife, I saw a lot of nice knives, made by real artists, with sculpted handles, knives whose blade supported the design of the handle. I also saw figural jackknives, trucks and baseball bats and ladies boots, fish and dogs and nudes..... They caught my fancy, the thin material I used for this knife is easy to put into a wooden handle, so if I like the knife there is a new world of sculpted knives out there. I have half a dozen finished designs, and a bunch more sketched ideas in my notebook.
I got to spend a few hours whittling with it, it cuts nice. I've almost finished the knights for my chess set, I'm pretty pleased with the way it performs. Time will tell.
Do you hear something? It's coming from that piece of wood. Calling you, I think-

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Knife

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.


This Little Piggy...

Is the first I've done, and another commission.
My daughter asked for one, since she pretty much never asks, she got it. He's basswood, 2"x3"x3-1/2" more or less. She picked the color scheme, tho she did not pic purple spots. They started brown, I used acrylics and mixed red & green till they looked like a real nice brown on my salad plate. When I put them on the wood they turned reddish, and when I covered them with Walnut Minwax stain they turned purple. She laughed when she saw it, so I left it like it is.
In my last post I showed you a Santa by Eric Oswandel and wrote about the way he created
detail without removing as much wood as most
of us do. I tried to imitate, with p
artial success I think. The idea is to cut deep to accentuate the relation between body parts. My interpretation was to cut deep vees to outline the back leg, separate the front leg from the head, etc but keep it simple.
Piggy has a couple other firsts for me too- first time I tried to turn a figure's head, new style of eyes for me too. I like the eyes, the head worked out pretty well too. Overall I like him- it appeals to my preference for simple pieces.
Like most new things I do, I look forward to improving on it in future pieces.
Happy Whittling-

Friday, January 21, 2011

There's More than One Way...

To skin a cat. In Whittling, there are as many paths to a finished project as there are whittlers. I've filled this blog with my own steps on my path; one of the most important steps was learning to cut away enough material so my whittlings stopped looking like the block of wood they started out as I actually have two entrees on the subject, Apr 09 2010, Edgar Poe and the El Dorado of Whittling and Sept 21 2010, Evolution.

I found another with a different approach I'd like to share. Eric Oswandel of Michigan is a member of the forum (Midnight Carver there).
He was part of the Ornament Exchange 2010, he made the standing Santa here.
Eric used nice deep cuts to separate different parts of his Santa- arms from body, head and shoulders, etc. Blank was a 1" x 1" x 4.5" block. More than one part of the piece fills the 1' square- shoulders, cheeks, belly, toes- but he does not look like a block. Its the transitions from part to part- deep cuts where the beard meets the belly, where the arms meet the body, hair meets upper back give a added depth and degree of detail

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?
Mittens are a great alternative to trying to carve hands (something I've avoided so far- I stick em in pockets)

(I just noticed the date feature on my camera is a little off, Oops.)

Here is Eric's description of his method:
For my finish:
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!

Thank you Eric, both for the ornament and for sharing with us.
Keep whittling-