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Sunday, December 22, 2013

New little stopper, a commission

Friend of the fam who has more rosebud stoppers than anybody else in the world asked me for a different flower, 'not a rose' so here it is (its a lilly)  Lot of fun, little bit of adventure.  I'm sure a different tool and some sandpaper would have made things easier, but I don't roll like that.

I work for cookies :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thinkin of the past today.

My past, mostly.  I've been trying to get a little whittling in regularly, daily is unfortunately too much to ask for.  Mostly been making little roses, promised a couple dozen for the holidays, and the little snowmen as in my last post.  (I'm really enjoying my latest knife- forged blade and a curly maple handle)

But I digress from my original digression.  Someone asked if I knew where to find a pattern I have used in the past, its a little reindeer that I based my tutorial on- you'll find my version on the left.  The original was by Will Hayden; Will has taken his website down for health reasons, his blog remains but has no additions since Oct 2011, I think it was.  Will was one of several friends I never met, people who helped and encouraged me in the early days of my whittling.  I may not have improved, but they helped me enjoy the work.  Will was particularly inspiring, quick to answer my emails, treated me like he knew me all along.  As time has passed I realized he did know me, the same way I know the newbies to the craft coming along now- its a lot like looking in the mirror.  I can only wish to be as inspirational.

Will's not the only one on my mind- others are flitting through as I type this, and my mind was on my Mom today.  I had finished painting a couple roses and was washing out my paint brush, can't begin to tell you all how many times I watched her do that.   She made a million Christmas ornaments, maybe more.  She wasn't a whittler so much as a woodburner- the term pyrographer was not in common usage at the time.  She did do some carvings, mostly relief, very realistic.  I can only remember three, I have one, sis has one, and I have no idea where the other is.  That's how Mom was, she did whatever the hell crossed her mind to do.  Painted, oils and acrylics, metal etching, pen & ink, whatever.  A local NBC exec asked for a rendering of the NBC peacock- anybody remember that?  She did that in pen & India ink.  She asked about the shading on the feathers, they gave her the answer in pixels, basically, though we did not know the term then.  Translation was dots per inch, she made sure each tail feather has the correct number of dots per inch, one dot at a time.  I was awed, and at the same time I expected no less from her.  'That's how she rolled'.  I hope she's looks in on me and maybe smiles a little at the pile of chips on the floor, I suspect I bore her by not trying new mediums, and I know she has a frown for me over the dishes in the sink.....

 Pay it forward my friends- that's what Mom wants.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Holidays are approaching fast

Here's my project for the year- (at least they don't have to worry about melting!)

They're a little less than 2" tall, plus or minus, half inch thick and inch and change wide.  They come out of scrap, I love to find uses for scrap.  Flat on the back they have a little rare earth magnet glued on so they can hang around the fridge. ( where else would little fatties like these hang out?)  did a couple last year, without mittens, the arms I drew on looked pretty lame.  Mittens are better.  One of my forum-buddies suggested a method of painting on coal-eyes etc, I'll give that a try next.  they're getting snatched up pretty quick. 

Little larger and 3-D would make a nice bottle stopper I think...

Basswood, of course.  Paint is acrylics mixed with water base polyurethane, roughly equal amounts.  I keep painting it on continuously until it stops soaking in and all surfaces start to shine.  One shot, color and urethane protection combined- I have some bottle stoppers we use regularly painted this way with no signs of wear in a year, anyway.  They hold up to a quick rinse under the faucet and pat dry immediately.

I took a walk on the simple side with these guys- no bandsaw, no sawing the outline.  Grabbed a coping saw and cut little pieces off the blank at the same angle as the top of the hat- wanted to minimize whittling end grain- the rest was done with my trusty knife.  You can do it too.  Give it a try.

With the holidays ramping up and work on the house ramping down, I'm hoping I can find some extra time to whittle.

Whittle on my friends- chips wont make themselves.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Gremlin in my pocket

Not the greatest pic, but he keeps moving....

This little guy was trapped in a 1x1x1.5 inch block of basswood, the design in not my own- Wood Carving Illustrated mag had a step-by-step in the summer 2013 issue, I had to give it a try.  he was a lot of fun; the top of the helmet and the top inside of the ears presented some challenges- lot of end grain in there.  Nifty tip in the mag, cut a blank that will let you make at least two- carve the first then turn him upside down and use him as a handle to carve the second.  Think I'll put a saw kerf in between the ears and hat on the next to help myself out a little there.

That's a clothes pin he's sitting on, though technically he has no butt to sit on (or arms, legs, eyes...)
He's just come out of a 15+ minute bath in tung oil, I'll give him a day to cure then a coat of beeswax. 

Whittle on- BfloBif

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Something New, at least for me-

Found this little project on the forum at, it was cute it was small and I get to use some scraps- I love recycling.  I have stayed away from faces in the past, so I got some practice on facial features.  One factor that appealed to me is he only has half a face (one of these times I'll try the other side!)  Since I've done a few, I also get to compare finishes.  One is shellac, one is urethane, two are tung oil.  All have a beeswax topcoat.  Shellac is a little light in color, does not add as much to the carved areas as urethane and tung oil do.  Tung oil enhances the grain better than urethane- you can see that in the pic, poor though it may be.  Urethane also left some shiny spots which I had to remove before applying wax.  My choice- I like the tung oil finish.  These are fridge magnets, they could be little hanging items, just decorative- not gonna get much wear and tear, oil and wax will make a suitable finish I think.  I'd rethink the finish if it was subject to higher wear, or even abuse, like a bottle stopper.

Being fridge magnets, I got to experiment with different glues, too.  I tried epoxy, Gorilla glue, and hot glue gun.  Gorilla had to be cleaned up after drying, no fun there.  Tung oil dissolved hot glue-Oops.  I'll try hot glue gun again AFTER oil has dried, we'll see how that goes.  So far the epoxy is winning, though mixing and dry time are not ideal.

Carve Diem- BfloBif

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Moses Robinson, Whittler

Came across the following, gotta love the World Wide Interweb.  Whittlings will be on display untill April 2014, I think- Museum is in Georgia, if you need a vacation.  I can only dream of my whittlings lasting 100 years- BfloBif

Read the original article hereNeighbor Newspapers - Heritage Sandy Springs to host folk art exhibit

Heritage Sandy Springs to host folk art exhibit
by Savannah Weeks
February 06, 2013 10:16 AM

Special Photo<br>
Robinson whittled and gave away toys such as this one to children in Sandy Springs.

Special Photo
Robinson whittled and gave away toys such as this one to children in Sandy Springs.
Special Photo<br>
Moses Robinson whittled toys, like this horse and plow, with a pocketknife.
Special Photo
Moses Robinson whittled toys, like this horse and plow, with a pocketknife

Moses Robinson made do with what he had when it came to art, and beginning Feb. 16, his folk art will be shown at Heritage Sandy Springs.

A lifelong Sandy Springs resident, the whittler was born in 1845 and worked as a farmer until he reached his 60s. To make use of his time, he started whittling. Robinson used a pocketknife to create animals, birds, soldiers, couples and other toys out of wood. He made miniature baskets out of peach pits.

“He ended up giving the toys away to kids, and that’s how he got famous,” said Kimberly Brigance, Heritage’s director of programs and historic resources.

Eventually, Robinson carved walking canes for World War II soldiers. He died at age 97 in 1942.

What was left of Robinson’s collection was passed down through the years to his children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.

Over the course of a year, Brigance has identified five of these heirs, who have loaned her figurines and toys for the exhibit.

“Stuff is still coming in,” she said. “Members of the family heard about it and are bringing in their collections.”

She expects to have about 50 items on display.

“Most of these items are about 100 years old,” she said. “We’re hoping to get some donations to repair some and display later.”

Robinson’s work has never been on display before.

Acworth resident Bonnie Webb, whose grandmother, Annie Margaret Robinson Wootten, was Robinson’s youngest daughter, said she was ecstatic when she learned about the exhibit.

“The family has always been proud of them and felt that they provided a link to a distinct family personality that we would never have known so well otherwise,” she said.

“This has almost been like M.Y. (Moses) has used the carvings to draw his scattered family and the community of Sandy Springs together again.”

Brigance said Robinson’s warmth radiates from his works.

“All the little animals are smiling,” she said. “You get happy when you look at them, and you can tell he was happy when he made them. That he made them and gave them away is amazing.”

If you go:
o What: Wit in the Wood folk art exhibit

o When: Feb. 16 through Sept. 4, Wednesday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

o Where: Heritage Sandy Springs, 6110 Blue Stone Road

o Cost: $3 for adults and $1 for children 6 to 12 and seniors (65 and older)

o Information:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Custom Quill Knife


I had an opportunity to make a custom knife for a calligrapher, specifically designed for cutting feather quills.  It was an interesting project and a lovely piece of wood.  I can test the knife for sharpness, but have no idea how to test for quill-cutting ability.  I'll leave that up to the customer and wait for their report-

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Knives

The Crazy Train Knife Project taught me a lot about making personna blade knives, and I've learned some more since.  I've been experimetning, looking for one or two handle designs I can make quickly, repeatedly and inexpensively.  I ocassionally make knives for a teacher to include in their beginners class kit, and for a club that tries to keep a few on hand for new members, I was lookig for a way to help speed up making small productions runs and make them more cost effective. Here's one:

Nice fat Teardrop handle, actually a collection of flat sides- I hate it when a  knife rolls.
Here's the other:
A slimmer Quill handle knife, narrow at the bck with a little more mass at the front end of the knife.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

First Contest

You know me- I like tools that are as beautiful to look at as they are fun to use. That's the basis of the Crazy Train knife project (still going on BTW). When I heard Helvie Knife company was planning a handle carving contest, I had to give it t try. Making all those knive for my project and not carving any myself (no time) was weighing on my mind, the pressure of a contest deadline was just the ticket for me to try a couple of the designa I had in mind. I entered twice, pics below. Helvie provided the 'knives', a bass handle with a dummy blade in them. I had to polish the blades a bit, they were too annoying as delivered.  Finish is two coats of Dip- poly/tung/spirit mix



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cookin' Wood

Curly Basswood Thermally Modified

The correct technical term is 'Thermally Modified Wood'- its done in an oven, up to 400 degrees and smells like baking bread- cookin' wood.  The Europeans are ahead of us on the process, I'm not surprised.  We didn't invent the rocket either, but we were first to the moon once we kidnapped all those German rocket scientists.  But I digress.

Interesting (and useful) changes take place in the structure of wood when subjected to temps of a few hundred degrees.  Not as interesting as when you get above the ignition point, but still neat.

It all starts with a question:  What makes wood interesting to fungus, bugs, and other decay inducing organisms?  Sugar, of course,  In different degrees, wood contains sugar inside the cells, used for metabolism.  Syrup maple have a lot, I reckon, other woods not so much.  We can deter those organisms by adding poisons- the buggers still bite, but they die.  That's pressure treated lumber, and it has its own inherent problems- its toxic to us too, and treatment involves adding moisture to a KD product and the instabilities that go with that.  Another issue is the species used in treating- the process works with softwoods, which do not wear as well as hardwoods.

More questions: Is there a better way?  Can we remove the sugars, or otherwise render the wood inedible?  Ahhh, now we're on an interesting track.  Caramelized sugars are different enough to be uninteresting to the organism's we  want to deter- however, sugars caramelize at temps above the normal course of kiln drying that we use to stabilize hardwoods.  Hardwood lumber kilns often operate in the 180 degree F range.  Wikipedia has a TMI article for people who want more:

Sugar caramelizes in the mid 300 degree F range, depending on the type of sugar. 

So we have two issues to overcome.  Kiln dried lumber still has some water inside the cell walls, and a little bit floating around outside too, typically 6% or more by weight.  We need to take steps to get rid of that water gently- too much heat too fast and the expanding steam will likely damage (crack) the wood.  Step one, heat above the boiling point, just a little bit, and let the water escape slowly.  The wood needs to be heated all the way through, ALL the water needs to be turned to steam and allowed to escape.  Well, almost all anyway.  Once the water is gone, we can up the temp and caramelize the sugar- same deal as the water, all the sugar needs to be caramelized, all the way to the center of the wood.

The resulting thermally modified stick is now drier, little lighter, more stable, little harder, and unappetizing to fungus and bugs.  Its also darker, on account of the caramelization.  Treated lumber without the poison.  Ash is often used and is beginning to hit the market as outdoor decking.

So far I've successfully treated a piece of bass, see the pic, which I will whittle.  I don't notice that it's any harder, it certainly is brown- lovely milk chocolate brown, thru & thru.  I have a piece of tropical hardwood, looks to be in the rosewood family, part of a pallet I found, I''ve treated that and will cut it open to check for 'doneness' in the center when it cools.  For me the advantage will be in using found wood for knife handles- little extra stability, heat treat to kill the screeblies- all in my toaster oven.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Off shoot of the Crazy Train Knife Project

In the middle of the insanity of my knife trade project, I got a surprise package- one of the forum members who was not part of the trade sent a carved handle with a slot machined in the base but no blade.  Cool, I have some experiments in mind anyway.  Tom has carved knives and posted them to WCI in the past, seeing his work is part of what got me started on the trade to begin with.

So here's a pic of his handle, I've fitted a piece of file to the socket.  I'll end up taking at least a half inch off the end, as it sits it is much too long a blade for my tastes.

Here's the list of things I'll try with this knife:
          Fully anneal the file in order to saw the blank
          13 degree bevel, have not tried that with a file knife yet
          Back of the blade thick as13 deg bevel allows ( I like to push on the back w/ left thumb)
          Heat treat blade

Stay Tuned