Wood Carvings by Mark Sheridan

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Better Late Than Never

It’s great to be back to the tributesinwood blog and I’ll start by saying that I got caught up in having a lot of fun enjoying my family and carving…and didn’t get around to telling you about it!

So, you’ll forgive me a bit if I take you back to a few Christmas carvings that I created for the grandchildren. Now, the little ones are really little and have no idea whatsoever as to what I just helped them unwrap and why some of the stuff gets parked on a shelf…but someday they’ll get it.

I really enjoyed making a number of Christmas Bell caricature carvings that ended up on my daughter’s and a few friends’ trees this year. It’s a real simple idea that starts off with some roughing out on a lathe…although you can do the roughing out by hand as well…the lathe just makes it easier to keep everything concentric.

Here’s a photo of the end result but you should take a few minutes and check out the Youtube video that I made to describe the steps in making this little ornament. Just search my name, Mark Sheridan, or the True North Caricature Carvers, which is something that I’ll describe to you in the next post. You’ll find four videos but two will be specific to this carving…one for carving the ornament and the other for painting the ornament. Watch them, give the carving a try and don’t be too critical of my video recording attempts. I’ll get better with time!

The second Christmas carving for the little family was this elf, below. The head of the elf was inspired by a drawing that I saw somewhere on the web. I sure would like to credit the artist…if I ever find the photo again that I looked at, I certainly will. The rest of the carving was just based on what I thought that Al, the Procurement Elf, would have planned for Ada, Henry and their parents.

Comments welcome!


Painting the Pony and Base

I decided to paint the base in a way that it looks like it’s been around for a lot of years and has seen its share of use.

The wooden base started off with several thin, wash coats of ‘red barn’ which gives it a nice reddish-brown look. I hand painted the lettering with a fine brush and tried to keep the paint a bit translucent to make it look like the letters were fading. Later, I added small dry-brush scuffs of ‘burnt sienna’ and ‘raw sienna’ to show some dirt and wear everywhere on the box, including over top of the lettering. I mixed up a light beige colour using white, brown and a tiny bit of yellow and dry brushed some broader areas to make it look like the paint had worn down completely to the wooden structure.

For the two cylinders that support the horse, I painted them black with a few dry brush marks of ‘burnt sienna’ and then added some touches of silver to make it look like bare metal beneath. I added some aluminum metal tape with an adhesive backing to the bottom hinged cylinder ( simulated hinged! ) and then coated the two cylinders in a light wash of ‘Payne’s grey.’ This grey colour when put on lightly really makes things look like the real McCoy, especially when applied over the metal tape.

The coin return was painted a dark grey, scuffed up with some ‘burnt sienna’ and dabbed with a few spots of silver. Once again, a very light coat of ‘Payne’s grey’ was used over everything.

All of the above got a coat of satin finish urethane. I still use the method that Lynn Doughty has demonstrated and wipe the urethane off before it dries with a single ply kitchen wipe. This gives the urethane a nice dull look rather than too shiny an appearance. The trick is to find a lower quality paper towel that isn’t too “fluffy” as all of that extra fluff that you pay for in a softer towel will come off on the drying urethane and make a mess.

The pony was painted predominantly with ‘raw sienna’ and I lightened and darkened it with browns and yellows. I used washes throughout this process to build light coats on top of dark coats. The effect lightened the pony’s coat on the top and darkened it toward the bottom and in recesses beneath the head, legs, etc. I added a bit of off white for markings and just above the hooves and for the teeth. Again, I showed a number of worn areas by dry brushing “scuffs”of beige here and there. The mane and tail are black with some dark grey highlights. Some final dry brushing with a light beige finished it up. Once dry, I added some satin finish urethane but did not wipe it off this time so that it would have more of a shiny finish as you’d expect from a riding horse.

And, here’s how it’s turning out so far…

Pickin’ and a-grinnin’

Well, we’ve been pretty busy with a whole lot of things…but the best pastime has been visiting and watching my little granddaughter grow. The less interesting items have included finally getting around to clearing out our basement of thirty years of collection and putting a fresh coat of paint on the house interior.

But, now it’s time to get to some caricature carving…so, here goes…

Some time ago, I carved a little female caricature head and have spent a fair amount of time just looking at her and trying to guess what she might become. It turns out…she’s a cowgirl and she can play a banjo!…or, at least, she’s going to learn real soon.

Lynn Doughty has a real neat way of adding a hat and I used that method once again. It starts with basically cutting away the head where the brim of the hat will rest, drawing in the side and plan view of the hat and then taking that pattern to the bandsaw.

What follows is shaping the brim and crown and using a piece of graphite to etch one side of two mating surfaces such that an impression is left of all of the “high spots” that need to be removed in order to get a tight mating surface. The dowel that you see is handy in that the two surfaces are always placed back in the exact same spot as you continue to transfer the graphite high spots to the adjoining surface. Without using the dowel, you’d be chasing the high spots all over the place as the two mating surfaces keep landing in different spots. It’s a quick and brilliant method of getting a nice tight seam, and, in the case of hats, leaves the impression that the hat surrounds the head rather than just sits on top of it. Thanks Lynn!

I start with the hat brim. After I’ve cut out the plan view, I tack the pieces back together with a bit of carpenter glue so that I can cut the side view with a flat surface to run along the bandsaw table. Once it’s cut out and I break away the previously tacked pieces of wood, I begin gouging out the top of the brim and I also shape the underside. Notice that the grain of the wood is running front to back.

Using the “graphite transfer” and locating-dowel-method, I slowly carve away the high spots until the head sits nicely within the brim of the hat. The crown is cut with the grain preferably running top to bottom ( I find it easier to carve this way. ) With the dowel now drilled up through the brim and into the crown…the head, brim and crown are all aligned and will stay that way while you graphite the top of the brim and let the high spots transfer to the bottom of the crown. Now, just cut away the high spots marked on the bottom of the crown until you are happy with the fit.

Add in a little band around the crown, use a nail brush and hand soap to scrub away all the left over graphite and then sit this part of our little gal aside while we consider the body posture.

A Bit of Catch-Up!

I haven’t been very faithful to my blog, have I? I’m not sure that I have a lot of great excuses for my absence, but I have been busy with a few projects that I can share with you.

One of the things I’ve been busy with is starting up a Caricature Carving group here in Ontario and working on a “Virtual Show” week with the Ontario Wood Carvers Association. By the way, if you’d like to learn more about how you can join our Caricature Carving group…the True North Caricature Carvers…and be part of our monthly Zoom calls, contact me at

Most of these projects were done around the Christmas period as gifts and just fun items to quickly carve.

Pinnocchio is actually about thirty years old and was a gift for Paul. He basically wore it out and it spent many years in a “fix-it someday” drawer! Well, Pin got refurbished this past Christmas and Paul was just as thrilled as the first time around.

A friend has been feeding me with his off-cut pieces of wood from his fine woodworking projects and I’ve been turning them into Christmas tree ornaments. It’s been pretty straight-forward…gluing various wood segments up, putting it on a lathe and then very gently turn these down to as thin a profile as I can manage without breaking everything in the process!

Maple, Walnut and spalted Birch make up the pieces. They were stained with Danish oil and the brass and gold pieces are acrylic paint. Everything got a light coat of satin urethane.

The Completed Basset

A few Christmas carvings along with eating all kinds of Christmas goodies got in the way of completing my latest Basset in a Basket! But here it is all finished.

Finishing included a variety of washes of different tones of brown on the darker sections of the little hound along with a slightly off-white for the remainder. The basket also has a number of tones but predominantly yellow-ochre and shades of almost a butterscotch colour.

Everything was topped off with a light coat of satin urethane that was mostly wiped away before it set.

Finishing Up The Bell

I added a handle and small bow as two separate pieces to the carved bell. Both the handle and the bow have a little dowel drilled into the neighbouring pieces to locate it and were epoxied in place after I had finished the painting. That bow was actually a lot of fun to carve.

The handle is several light coats of asphaltum brown. The bow is cherry red and gold. You can see from the previous photo that I separated the two colours with a wood burning line. This not only looks nice but it also makes a bit of a dam when you’re painting…the two separate colours stop dead at that line and don’t bleed one into the other.

The face is flesh colour with some red mixed in for the nose and cheeks and some Payne’s grey above the eyes. The brass portion of the bell is alternating light coats ( washes ) of gold and “worn penny”…which looks like copper. I was quite surprised that the flesh colour of the face blended nicely into the brass colour without looking odd. At least as non-odd as a bell with a face can be…

After a bit of dry brushing with a beige colour to pick up the high spots on the knife cuts, the whole thing got a light coat of satin urethane. A slightly grumpy looking Christmas Bell and a fun project.

Christmas Pickles and More

Well, Emily and Paul received their Christmas Pickles and were happy and confused by them. But it was fun.

After the festivities, I started carving another little face figure. This time, a face within a bell. You might recall the “Claymations” Christmas versions of the bells. I guess that my bell is loosely based on those. I’m not finished yet, but here’s how things are coming along.

I started with a pretty simple bell pattern cut out on the bandsaw. The face is located on one of the corners of the bandsaw cut so that you have a lot of wood to play with as you start shaping the face.

I won’t go into the detail of shaping the face. I basically have been following Lynn Doughty’s method of laying out the face and find that works well for me. Check Lynn’s work and his videos out at outwestwoodcarving.

I want to add a handle with a Christmas bow on it…so, there’s more to come.

A Christmas Pickle

Ok…stay with me on this one.

I was wondering why many of my carving friends were posting pictures of carved pickles on their Facebook pages. Well, I now know that there was a German tradition of hanging a pickle on the Christmas tree. Whoever found the hidden pickle would receive an extra gift.

Those clever Germans…Mercedes, BMW’s and Christmas pickles.

Anyways, here’s my version of a Christmas pickle. Pretty simple bandsawed blank from basswood, a bit of acrylic paint and sealed with urethane. Use a few different tones of green to give it some life. Drill a hole in the top and glue a little cord in place so that you can hang it from the tree.

Just be sure to have an extra present around in case the person who finds it knows about this tradition!

Basset Hound in a Basket

You’ve seen my original Basset Hound in a Box post, so I won’t go into great detail on what got me to this point…just look back on the previous post if you’d like to see those steps.

It was suggested to me, though, that the same carving would look nice with a woven basket rather than a bag. That turned out to be a good suggestion as the carving of a basket weave is something that I hadn’t tried before and it turned out to be fun.

The thing that you have to keep in mind is that the weave has a horizontal band and two vertical bands, or in my rendition, more of a rounded cane. The horizontal bands weave over one vertical cane and under the adjacent cane. Once you get your head around that, it’s just repetitive carving. I finished up with a wood burning tool to keep everything nice and neat and “split” the horizontal band just to make it look more complicated!

Time for a Santa

You know, I’ve never carved a Santa. I always think about carving one just before Christmas and by the time I get around to things, Christmas is over and I’m on to something new.

This year is different…maybe. At least I’ve started on a Santa.

So, here’s how I’m coming along with it. Started with just a quick sketch directly on the basswood and then went from there. I threw it out twice before finishing it! I’ll do a bit more wood burning to clean up a couple of spots and then on to painting.

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