Wood Carvings by Mark Sheridan

Building a Shed and some Brick-Work

I started off by deepening the glass frames, window and doors on the upper level.  You have to be pretty careful when trimming the bark down to what will become window and door frames as the bark is fairly fragile when thinned down.  When I do cut the windows through, I’ll want to leave at least a 1/4″ depth of bark for strength.

I also started the rows of brick.  Start with cutting the horizontal lines and then add the horizontal breaks for bricks.  Remember to alternate back and forth with the bricks so that you don’t end up with the ends of the bricks one on top of the other.  I also like to make the bricks look irregular by cutting the edges off randomly so that they lose their flat profile.  The fewer flat profiles throughout the carving, the better, as it will give a nice shadow effect when the light hits it.


For the first time in my bark carving experience, I added a couple of pieces with glue to make the shed.  So, I trimmed that protrusion on the side of the bark to give it a flat profile and then glued a piece to the side.  That’s the four-sided piece you see sitting vertically.  I then took another larger piece of bark and by marking the top of the recess where it would fit with lead crayon, I transferred the markings to the top of the new piece, cut those “high point” markings away and eventually got the roof to fit nicely.  I just used a woodworking glue and it worked very nicely.


Now onto some shingles on that new roof so the rain doesn’t pour in…



A Bark Lighthouse

Here’s the start to a bark lighthouse based loosely on a famous lighthouse found at Martha’s Vineyard.  Known as the Gay Head Lighthouse, it’s famous in that it was moved intact from it’s location in 2015.  You can google it and you’ll find that it’s an interesting story.

The bark is from a Cottonwood tree near Kingston.  This climate produces a thinner and darker version of the bark than that which you would see from the west coast.  You might recall that the lighthouse that I made for Peggy’s uncle some time ago was made from the same tree.

Here’s where it starts…looking hard at a piece of bark to try to see a lighthouse in it!  Can you see it?  How about a lighthouse with a little shed-like shelter at the base?  See it now?


The lighthouse that I’m carving has a very large glassed section with a similar sized level below it and then a final base that’s about 2 1/2 times longer than the upper levels.  I’m using a bit of creative licence to add the little shed and I’m going to add some cedar shingled roofs and larger, aged bricks just because they look really good in a bark carving.

Here’s the first roughing-in.  Although you want to be very close to a vacuum system, I like to use a Foredom tool and Typhoon bit to do the initial shaping.  It’s quick and it’s easy on the bark.


Then with a couple of knives and a gouge, I added a bit of detail to start getting the dimensions right.  If you have tried bark carving, you’ll know that it doesn’t carve like a block of wood.  The only way that I can describe it is to imagine that you’re carving a softwood that has some qualities of cork.  The knife or gouge isn’t quite pushed or pulled through the material…it’s more like a shearing action where you slide the knife along as you push or pull.


Now you can see where that shed is going to go, right?  Of course, before it’s finished, all of that glass area and windows / doors will be hollowed out.  I like to keep that to the last so that the bark is as strong as possible while I’m carving so I don’t run the risk of damaging anything.

From Clay to Wood

Why is it that everytime I start a little fun project, a bunch of seemingly necessary projects come up to interfere?  I can remember as a kid always enjoying the fall period as it meant the start of a new winter project…usually a model airplane…and nothing seemed to get in the way of that.

But I did take a bit of time to rough in the basswood blank based on the clay sculpture.

I decided to do the head separately again just so that I could get the right sideways glance that I wanted.  I also decided to do the arms separately so that I would have a better chance at getting the wood grain going in the strongest direction.  My plan is to attach the arms just below the rolled sleeves.

So with a quick approximation on the bandsaw and them some callipers to transfer the dimensions from the clay to the wood, here’s where I ended up.  Note again that I used a Foredom tool with a typhoon bit to remove the wood quickly.  That’s what created the fuzzy appearance on the wood.  Now that it’s at this point, I’ll get to carving with a knife and gouges.   Still a lot of slimming down to do.


Mervin Moves Up

Well, Mervin of “Mervin the Mover” fame was so successful that he has decided to add another venture to his business empire.  Plus, his slogan of “One Haul…That’s All” is taking its toll on his back.  Time to move up, lean back and enjoy life.

Yup…window cleaning.

So, I dug out the old clay figure that I had created for Mervin the Mover and with a bit of bending and breaking away the dry clay from the copper armature that I made, I’ve twisted him into a posture for window cleaning.  Now, Mervin is vintage ’30s so don’t expect him to have the best safety harness as he’s cleaning downtown, high rise apartments….just a sling or rope that he’s leaning back against.


With a bit of clay added, you can see that he’s leaning back with his heels planted on the ledge of the high rise window.  He’ll have a rag in his right hand as he wipes away a spot and his left hand will be holding a bucket of suds and a squeegee.

I’m thinking that this one’s going to be called “Missed A Spot.”  And I’m pretty sure that it will somehow include a little dog.




The Completed Carving

Here’s the completed carving of “Another Dam Carver”.  I’ll get some more pictures up later in the week.  A nice little momento of Canada’s 150th birthday.



Let The Chips Fly

A few wood chips glued in place are making the little guy’s project a bit more interesting…


Some Additions

Things are moving along although I haven’t put that much time into the carving as of late.

I did manage to make a base from red oak.  It’s a couple of inches thick and I simply cut out a circle on the bandsaw and then used a router to add an edge at both the top and bottom.  I like to add a little edge to undercut the bottom of the bases as I think it just makes it look nicer when sitting on a table.

After staining and applying a few satin urethane coatings, I applied about an 1/8″ of white glue over the top almost like you’d put icing on a cake.  I then lightly pressed in about a 1/4″ or more of sawdust…who doesn’t have lots of sawdust laying around the shop?

When that was dry, I brushed away the loose sawdust to find that the glue made quite a bit of the sawdust look “wetted”, which I didn’t like.  So, I sprayed a coat of aerosol adhesive onto the sawdust base and then laid another 1/8″ of sawdust on top of that.  When that had dried, the sawdust looked dry and just the way I wanted it.

Out of a scrap piece of basswood, I carved the beaver’s project…a maple leaf.  And,  of course, on the bark I carved a smooth section and burned in 150th, representing this year’s 150th birthdate of our nation.  A small groove gouge made all of the markings on the bark.

Everything is epoxied in place now with a couple of wood screws also holding the two pieces onto the base.  Next step is to get a nameplate made up and to add a few larger wood chips here and there.



Adding Some Details

I used Cheryl’s suggestion from the last post and applied a bit more of a dark wash on the  fur before dry brushing some yellow ochre and later some bright yellow in small areas over the fur.  Once that was well dried, I applied some satin urethane wiping away the excess to prevent the carving from getting too shiny.  I’m pretty pleased with the results so far.

Also notice that the little guy now has a small ruler and a pencil in his apron pouch to help him with his carving.  I’ve given him some wire shoe laces and plan to go back with some brass nails and silver straight pins for the rivets on the pouch.

Stay tuned!


A Bit of Painting

Here’s the start to the painting.

The apron is a blend of washes of yellow ochre and asphaltum ( brown ).  I then added a few dabs of burnt sienna and raw sienna for highlights.  The whole thing was then dry brushed with an ivory.

The fur has many washes of asphaltum, burnt umber and yellow ochre.  I even added a single light wash of purple to give it a bit of richness.  I still want to go back and lighten up spots, especially around the face area.


Back to Caricatures

With the last project wrapped up, I’m returning to “Another Dam Carver.”

Any hard working Canadian beaver needs a toque…so, that’s what we’re working on this afternoon.  Now, for non-Canadians ( you unfortunates! ), a toque is a knitted wool hat that absolutely everyone owns.  They’re great for those cold Canadian winters and can be generally worn anytime from about the end of August to the following first of June!

I still use and enjoy Lynn Doughty’s method of “sizing” the hat to the head of the caricature with a bit of pencil lead on the head that transfers to the inside of the hat to highlight the high points that need to be shaved away.  The dowel is used to ensure that you’re replacing the hat in the exact same spot every time.


As you can see from the photo above and below, after shaping the toque, I used a burning tool to make vertical ridges in the hat.  Later,  I burned further marks into each of the ridges to make a herringbone pattern.  All in all, it looks pretty close to a knit pattern ( if you squint a bit ).



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