Wood Carvings by Mark Sheridan

This and That

Well, things have been pretty busy around the homestead lately, but here’s an update on some of my activities.

The Maple Leaf Forever Tree project is coming along nicely.  You’ll recall from my last post that this particular maple tree which was felled in a wind storm was the inspiration for our first national anthem written by Alexander Muir back in 1867 or so.  The Ontario Wood Carvers Association saved a small portion of the tree and have carved a memorial that will be displayed at the Ontario Science Centre for years to come.

I spent several days travelling between Kingston and Toronto so that I could carve a portion of the tree at the Centre in Toronto.   The carving and just being a part of this project with twenty other carvers from Ontario was a delight…the traffic was not.

The unveiling of the tree is planned for July 19th at the Science Centre.  Guest speakers, a band playing “The Maple Leaf Forever”, and several carving activities for the kids who are always present at the Science Centre will round out the day’s activities.

The tree is just getting the final coats of stain-over-urethane finish and it’s looking superb.


I’ve also finished up the chalice box depicting Saints Timothy and Maura and am pleased with the way that it turned out.


I’ve been spending more time with the Ontario Wood Carvers Association and had a chance to drop by the Burlington Ontario Club to see what they’ve been up to.  All of you carvers will be very jealous ( as I am ) of their workshop.  They meet at the Art Gallery of Burlington ( south of Toronto ) for their weekly carving sessions and have full access to a very well equipped workshop in the middle of the art gallery.  Pretty nice set-up.


And last, but not least, Rosie and I have been doing our fair share of gardening.  Now it’s back to some more carving.


The Maple Leaf Forever Project

Some years ago a very old Maple tree, some 170 years old,  blew down in a windstorm in Toronto.  This particular tree had an interesting history in that it was believed to be the tree that inspired Alexander Muir to write the song “The Maple Leaf Forever” in 1867.  This song stood as the unofficial national anthem of Canada for some time.

In preparation for Canada’s sesquicentennial ( 150 years ) celebration this July 1st, the Ontario Wood Carvers Association got hold of a portion of this old tree over three years ago and began the design work and the carving of the tree trunk as a Toronto area tribute.

Thirty Maple “Leafs” are situated around the trunk, each with a particular image representing famous people ( including Muir ), famous landmarks and area First Nation artifacts and scenes.

I’ll be taking part in completing the “monument” by carving a depiction of the Toronto Old City Hall.  I’m starting next week and will be carving a couple of days at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, where the tree will continue to be on display after it’s finished.

Last week, I spent a few hours at the Ontario Science Centre and enjoyed chatting with the other carvers and hearing the young visitors’ questions…one question aimed at me by a youngster was “Isn’t it illegal to be carving a tree”…certainly a young fellow on his way to a career in litigation.


Timothy and Maura Panel

I’ve completed the latest panel for the new chalice box and now all panels are ready for joining.  This was an interesting panel as the figures were a bit smaller due to the fact that I had to include two figures together on the panel.  The folds in their robes and their facial expressions were also fun to carve.


A New Panel

Here’s the start to a new panel and chalice box.  This panel of St. Timothy and St. Maura will replace the St. Mark panel and will accompany the three other panels similar to my original versions of Jesus, Mary and Archangel Michael.

To speed up the roughing-in process of the previous panels that I had carved, I made what I’ll call a 3-axis pantograph.

Do you remember “X and Y” coordinates from high school?  Going back in time isn’t it?  A 2-axis pantograph that follows a horizontal x and y plane is often used with a router for sign making.  It’s basically a stylus and router both mounted on a pivoting arm.  By tracing the stylus along a pattern, and because the router is attached to the same arm,  the router will follow an identical path while cutting into a horizontal wood panel.

Now, for roughing in my 3-dimensional relief carvings, I needed a third, or vertical, axis…”Z.” Now it’s all coming back to you.

The horizontal XY was accomplished with three pieces of plywood stacked one on the other and attached with metal drawer sliders.  The Z axis came about by attaching to this contraption a fourth piece of plywood with an attached router and stylus…and…hinges.  The result was that the drawer sliders allowed the router and stylus to move back and forth and sideways on a horizontal plane ( XY ) and the hinges allowed it to move up and down ( Z ).

It worked great.  With my previous carved panels in place beside a blank piece of wood I was able to transfer a roughed in version of the images pretty quickly to the wood.  From there, it was still a matter of doing all of the detailing…but, it speeded up the process and it was just plain fun for an old time engineer.


Tools of the Trade

I spent a bit of time on the little carver today.  One of the things I wanted to do is add a bit of texture to his tail.  After some exhaustive(!) google research…I learned that the beaver has a bit of a scale-like texture on his tail.  I didn’t really feel like putting that much time into it so I went with a multitude of little scoops made with a small gouge.  Once it’s painted and highlighted with some dry brushing, I think that it’ll look fairly reasonable.


Of course, he also needed some tools…a long handled chisel, a palm handled chisel and a ruler.  Rather than spend a lot of time digging out the pouch, I just used my wood burner and let the burning tool do the digging.  It made the basement smell nice, too.

You’ll also notice the carver’s project at the bandsaw stage: a birch stump with his carved Canadian Maple Leaf commemorating Canada’s 150th year in 2017!   Aren’t I clever today?


That Dam Carver

Yup, the dam carver is coming along nicely.  I actually haven’t been able to spend much time on it as of late, but I’m enjoying the bit of carving that I’m doing.  It’s surprisingly cold here today with a wind chill of -15 C, so being indoors and carving felt about right.

I’ve been using a medium sized gouge to scoop out a depression here and there along the beaver’s coat.  This makes the coat look a bit more realistic with some sections that will look a bit tufted.  I’ve also made sure not to make the carving too symmetrical.  By not having each side a mirror image of the other side, I think that it makes the little guy more life-like…plus, the tilt of the head and the sway to one side looks pretty good, I think.


As you can see, I added some more wrinkles to his apron and, with the end of a very small gouge, made the outline of a couple of beady beaver eyes.  Finally, with a fine v-shaped chisel, I made many short cuts that produced pretty reasonable fur.  Those little v cuts look especially nice where I had made the larger gouge marks as the fur seems to be following the contours of what you’d imagine as the folds in his skin.

Wildlife carvers would be very proud of me…


Ontario Carving Shows

I attended two Ontario carving shows this past few days, one in Kitchener and the other in Whitby.  Although I didn’t enter anything in either show, I brought along a number of my carvings to display at the table representing the Ontario Wood Carving Association and had a chance to meet and talk to a lot of carvers.

Here are a few photos from both events.  Just click on the photos to make them bigger.

March Break

March Break around here means that teachers, staff and students have a week or more to relax.  So, for us, it means that everyone’s home!

Emily came to spend a few days with us and I’ll be heading back with her and along the way taking some time to visit the Brooklin Carving Show in Whitby and the Art In The Cities Carving Show in Kitchener.  Both are known to be great events and I’ve not attended either in the past, so this will be a lot of fun for me.  I won’t be entering anything in the shows but I will put together a booth of some of my past carvings to display as part of the Ontario Wood Carvers Association presence at these shows.

As you know, Emily is quite the designer and crocheter ( not sure that’s a word…a person who crochets .)  So this week, she took on the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars fame.Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 3.25.44 PM

I’m not sure how she takes a picture like this and converts it into a crochet pattern…but, she does.  Schooling in Engineering Physics may lead to this…so, you’ve been warned.

Caricature of a Carver

Last year at the Quinte Wood Carving Show and Competition held in Belleville, Ontario, we were challenged to think about entering a caricature carving of…a carver.  I’m not sure that I’ll have this ready for the show or if I’ll show it at all, but I thought that it was a fun idea.

As you are probably already aware, carvers in general are a fine looking group of people, so it’s a bit difficult to think of them with the exaggerated features required of a caricature!  So, I’m going in a bit of a different direction.  My would-be carver is going to be a caricature of the good old Canadian beaver.  I’m picturing him in a leather carving apron with some gouges in the pouch and wearing either a Mountie style hat or something along the lines of a Tilly hat.

The caption for this carving will be “Another Dam Carver.”  Ha!  Once I experiment a bit with this caricature, I’ll post a decent pattern for those that might like to try one for themselves.

I started by gluing a couple blocks of basswood together to make up a head and body portion of the carving and cutting out the profile of the carving beaver on the bandsaw.

I added a slightly upward curving tail section to the bottom of the figure.  I did this tail separately so that the grain of the wood could run along the length of the tail, giving it greater strength.  I cut a somewhat keyed section into the bottom of the figure and matched that shape on the end of the tail to “lock in” and glue the two pieces together.


Finally, with a Foredom  tool equipped with a Typhoon bit, I quickly roughed out the edges and then followed up with a knife and gouges to give the carving its initial shape.  In the process of shaping, I returned the carving to the bandsaw and cut a straight line through the neck of the carving, separating the head from the body.  I then glued the two pieces back together with the head turned just a little bit to give the carving a bit more character.


You can start to see what this guy’s going to look like with his hands wrapped around the neck strap of his leather apron and his shoes sticking out beneath.


Hamilton Wood Show 2017

I attended the Hamilton show this past weekend with my chalice box and, once again, I had a chance to spend the day and evenings with Emily.

This is a big and well organized show staged at the Canadian Warplane Museum hangar adjacent to the Hamilton airport.  Although wood carving is a big part of the show, I suspect the majority of the people come to the show to take in the many vendors selling and demonstrating wood working equipment.  And there are a lot.

Of course, besides enjoying the wood working and wood carving, the aviation museum is also open and visitors can mill around these restored and airworthy aircraft.

The chalice box took a first place in the relief carving category and there were many beautiful carvings in all categories.  I thought that the best of show this year was just spectacular.  Carved by John Mills, this was a carving inspired by a hood ornament of a 30’s or 40’s era cadillac.  It was very well done.

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