I used a wood burning tool with a razor sharp tip to add in some detail prior to painting.
The burning process is a really good way to get nice crisp lines and boundaries in your painting. As an example, I basically cross-hatched in some very fine squares to represent beading on this gal’s leather vest. Later, you’ll see how this cross-hatching basically made small valleys or boundaries for the painting process. Now just a drop of paint in any one of the tiny squares will flow no further than the boundary that was burned, making a nice crisp final painted pattern.
Similarly, a burned line around the belt loops, hat design and boot designs prevents the paint from bleeding from one section of the carving into the next.
Finally, the burning tool is great for adding detail lines representing seams and stitching. If you keep the paint thinned, the dark marking will show through the colour nicely for some added interest. With some very minimal burning, you can really enhance the painting process.
As usual, just click on the photo, below, to make it larger for viewing.
Much of the fiddle was finished on the previous step, but I did add some final touches.
The little gear/mechanism handles for tuning were made from household copper wire. I just curled the end of the copper wire over on itself and flattened those ends into a bit of a pancake shape. A very small gap would remain in the centre of the handle but, once I put some black paint on them, the little gap was filled. The other straight end of the copper wire got cemented with expoxy into four drilled holes in the head of the fiddle. The downside of cementing them in place is that our little gal will have to live with whatever tuning the original string arrangement produces!
Because the fiddle was carved from a piece of Maple, I started the painting by staining the wood with a Red Mahogany oil stain. I then followed up with red, orange and yellow acrylic paint to get the right colouring and shading that I was after. The fretboard and the backboard were painted black. It was all finished up with a couple of coats of gloss urethane to give it a shine.
The strings ended up being wire. I had considered a number of suggestions but I felt that fine wire was the way to go. I took some braided speaker wire and unwound four very fine wires. I twisted the four separate wires at both ends of the length that I needed, and epoxied one end into a hole drilled into the head of the fiddle. I cemented that with epoxy and spread the wires evenly across the fretboard by making small knife cuts into the end of the fret board and cementing the wires within those grooves.
I made a small channel into the backboard of the fiddle and cemented the opposite twisted end of wire strands into that channel. By stretching the wires reasonably and clamping them while the epoxy dried, it ended up being a nice, tight fit. A bit of black paint over the epoxied pieces finished up the fiddle.
Now that I had decided on the fiddle rather than the original banjo idea, I had to reconfigure what I needed to do with the arm position. Using a combination of the anatomical sketch of the girl that I started with for determining overall size of the limbs as well as the clay model that was still pliable, I sketched out a couple of arms and cut them out on the bandsaw. I made sure to add in some extra material as I wasn’t quite sure about the hand position…plus, I was thinking about adding a “frill” along the arms ( which I later decided against ).
I used the same method to attach the arm to the shoulder as I did with attaching the crown of the hat to the brim. I drilled a shallow 3/16″ hole in the arm and glued a dowel in place. I drilled the mating hole in the shoulder, marked the position of the arm that I wanted against the shoulder and then with some graphite “colouring” and mating of the two surfaces by cutting away the transferred “high spots”, starting mating the two surfaces to a tight fit. Following that, it was a matter a temporarily attaching the arm and fiddle with a hot-glue gun and working away at the arm and hand positions and detail.
The arm holding the bow was carved in the exact same way. Note the little pencil marking on the arm and shoulder. This helps you make sure that you’re positioning the arm in the same place every time you remove it to carve away a bit of the transferred graphite. This is a method that I learned from watching Lynn Doughty’s videos…check them out on Youtube and you’ll get a better sense of how this works.
Following this, I once again hot-glue gunned the parts in place to double check for positioning and fit. A bamboo meat skewer was my make-shift fiddle bow at this point. Next step will be some more detailing. I’m pretty happy with the way it’s looking at this point.
Once I had the body cut out on the bandsaw, I began the roughing-in process. This is most often done with a knife but I also like to use a Foredom tool with a Typhoon bit to remove material quickly. A Foredom tool is like a Dremel tool with a flexible hand-held shaft and a Typhoon bit is a cutter that has many small carbide “pins” that cut away the wood. It leaves a very rough finish that you then follow-up with a knife to smooth things out and generally get the shape that you’re after. If you use this method, just be very careful as the cutter can do a lot of damage to you if it’s contacted. I wear gloves, heavy sleeves, a leather apron, safety glasses and a dust mask when roughing-in a carving in this fashion. You should too.
Note a couple of things in these photos…first, I always pencil in the centre lines and carve from one to the other…this ensures that I end up with rounded limbs and avoid just rounding off the square edges and thinking that it’s “round enough.” You’ll often see caricature carvings where arms, legs and bodies still have the squareness of the original bandsaw cut only because the carver didn’t picture the full centre lines and carve/round out between them. Second, as you can see in the third photo, I also keep pencilling in the joint markers ( in this case, ankle, knee and hip ) so that I maintain the right limb section lengths.
Because I wanted the head to rest at a bit of an angle and tight to the shoulders, I used the same graphite method of fitting as I did with the hat brim/crown and head carving. In this case, I knew that I didn’t have the shoulders in the final carved state but that I could go ahead and approximate what the shoulder would look like. By alternating between putting graphite on the shoulder and transferring those graphite marks to the underside of the hair ( and removing those marks ) and then doing the opposite…graphite on the underside of the hair and removing those marks left on the shoulder, I eventually got the head situated down and to the side. You’ll also see that I started to carve in a knot and scarf that would help hide the neck…and look nice, too.
With some carving, now with a knife and several sized gouges, I took away all of the roughened wood from the Typhoon process and started to get the shape that I wanted in the sculpture. In doing this, I took some measurements from the clay model that I had made as well as the paper patterns that I had developed and used those to make things fairly true to my original idea of sizings and shape. I didn’t try to absolutely replicate the clay model, but I did use it to refer to the general body position that I wanted.
Remember when you’re at this stage of your carving, be mindful of the direction of the grain and keep your tools extremely sharp so that your cuts will be accurate and crisp. Because the sculpture is becoming curved in different directions, the grain can fool you and all of a sudden you are cutting against the grain and wood is beginning to split rather than cleanly cut away.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a group of people who meet monthly on the Zoom conferencing platform to talk about caricature carving. We call ourselves the True North Caricature Carvers ( TNCC ) …our farthest northern member is in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada and our least farthest northern member is in Brisbane, Australia! So, don’t read too much into the name…all are welcome!
Since I’m planning on using this little project to emphasize some of the things that we’ve been talking about, I’ve decided to do a clay sculpture as part of this project. I guess that you could argue that this particular carving is a bit static in it’s pose and wouldn’t necessarily need a starter-sculpture, but the sculpting is helpful when you could benefit from having a three dimensional model to carve against.
I started off by twining a couple pieces of copper wire together with my battery operated drill to make up the spine and legs as these two elements will need the greatest strength. I don’t know why but it’s somehow fun. The arms are simply one strand of copper. I used an anatomy guide that I found on Pinterest for the dimensions and soldered the copper in a couple of places so that the model would be nice and rigid. The copper came from a scrap box where I had some household copper wire leftover from a project…so, I didn’t have to cash a bond to afford the current price of copper wire!
I use a latex/water based clay to model the carving. The pro’s are i) it’s inexpensive, ii) easy to use, and iii) you can use it with your bare hands and clean everything up with water. The biggest con is that it dries, shrinks and cracks to pieces. The way around it is to drape some wet paper towels over the sculpture at the end of the day and cover it under a plastic grocery bag to retain the moisture/humidity. Once you’ve used it to make your wood carving, you can just let it dry and break away the clay and keep the copper form for your next similar pose.
The value of the clay sculpture is captured somewhat in these next photos. The first photo looked a bit static to me, so by just grabbing the clay and twisting and bending it a bit, it sort of came to life.
Then it was just a matter of smoothing things out with a wet paint brush and adding some detail. I didn’t go overboard with the detail but added just enough to give me an idea of what I wanted to do with the carving.
By taking a few photos of the front and side views and, after a few attempts, I was able to print these off at the size that matched the clay sculpture. I cut these paper templates out and transferred them to the basswood block that I would use and cut everything out on the bandsaw. The things that I liked least about the clay sculpture were the boots so I intentionally made them a little bigger on the paper template so I’d have more wood to play with. Also, note that I could have left the arms on as they’ll be well supported eventually by the banjo but I decided to attach them later to, again, give the TNCC another element of carving to talk about.
And that’s where I am with this project and that’s where we’ll leave things for now!…
I’m never quite sure when I’m finished a carving. I can always think of something extra to add and, in this case, it’s probably going to be a little dog. But for now, I’m going to call this one complete enough to put into a cabinet and move on to some serious gardening.
A friend gave me a piece of bloodwood. I’d never heard of it either. It’s a South American wood, very red in colour and when it’s cut on a power saw it has a very nice odour…something like coconut butter. I used a dust mask but could still smell the fragrance of the wood. Oh…and it’s hard as nails…I would imagine if you were making something substantial from bloodwood, you’d need to buy some new saw blades and router bits after the project was complete.
I used the bloodwood for the base and carved/chiseled/ground/dynamited a few lines in it to represent cobblestone. I then added a little flower bed at the back made from basswood ( which felt like carving butter after carving the bloodwood ) and included a brickwork wall. I added a couple of evergreen bushes and it all ended up looking like a nice backdrop.
I drilled a hole through the lamp post and inserted a brass tube. A couple of screws and washers on the end covered in epoxy made nice little end spindles. Of course, a couple of little blue birds needed to be added to this bar. I also used some light metal sheet to make straps at the end of the accordion.
Before everything was epoxied in place, everything got a light coat of satin urethane.
Well, I continue to dabble with a number of projects around the house during our “social distancing” period. I’m not sure if it’s the amount of news we’re watching that consumes our days or just the fact that I have too many projects to play with…but, it seems that I’m not focusing on one thing to any great degree lately.
I did do a bit of carving and painting on my romantic couple scene, though. I decided on a wooden bench with cement support legs and cut that out on the bandsaw as one piece. With a very fine v-tool, I engraved grain marks into the wooden slacks of the bench that will look pretty nice once I paint the bench. I probably did a lot of work for nothing as the two figures will be sitting on much of the grain that I carved…but, I’ll know it’s there! Here’s a photo of just the centre section engraved so that you can see how I went about progressing with it.
I carved and painted the little guy to look a bit ragged but not too ragged. The girl on the other hand was finished with sandpaper to make her smooth and delicate and then painted with bright, clean colours. The little guy has been left with all of the angularity of the knife cuts with wrinkles cut into place…and then painted with a bit of off-colour spots and dry brushed highlighting to make him look just a wee bit dusty.
But the real fun was when I decided he needed a hat. So I made a nice straw hat for him in my usual way with the crown and brim as separate pieces for strength ( thanks to Lynn Doughty for this tip ). After carving it up and glueing the two pieces together, I used a wood burning tool to make a spiral wound weave and then painted the whole thing with a combination of whites, beiges and a honeycomb colour. Of course, the top of the little guy’s head needed to be lopped off to accommodate the hat. Looks pretty nice, I think…
So, here’s how everything is looking so far…
Take care of yourselves, everyone…regardless from where you’re reading this post, we’re all in this together.
I’ve been shovelling snow more than I’ve been carving the little Basset Hound, lately.
But I have put a little bit of time into carving. I’ve actually been joining a group of fellows at our local Seniors’ Centre for some carving once a week and have been enjoying that…and managed to finish a bark carving and a Santa figure ( which my Mom now has ). Next week, I’m providing an afternoon seminar on caricature carving at the centre and I’m looking forward to that as well. Hopefully, I’ll get some more people involved in caricature carving.
The Basset in a Basket is coming along nicely. I like to trim down the ears quite a bit so that they’re thin and, with a bit of sanding, take on a velvety appearance. The facial features are coming along nicely as well and I’ll make sure that he has droopy eyes to go along with his howling pout.
The braided rug where the three little dogs will sit came together pretty nicely.
It’s nothing more than a thin layer of basswood, maybe 3/16″, in which I made some spiral cuts with both a v-tool and followed up with a burning tool tip to clean things up a bit. The individual braided part was created using a burning tool tip. I guess you’d call it a herringbone pattern and it’s pretty simple to do but it takes a bit of time. If you make a rug like this, just remember to give yourself enough room between spirals as you’ll need the room for the burned-in pattern.
Once that was done, I used three alternating colours to paint the patterns. You don’t have to actually switch between colours…just paint one “braid” or block, skip two and then paint the next braid until you’re finished with that colour. The other two colours will follow the same pattern and eventually fill in all of the braids.
I actually used a three colour combination of blues, greens and reds. Just pick a dark, medium and light colour in each of the blue, green and red combinations and start painting. Water down your acrylic paint and you’ll find that the paint flows nicely over the braid that you’re painting and the burned line keeps it from flowing beyond that braid.
The final touch was to do some dry brushing with a light beige colour just to pick up the high points and add a little more interest. So, this was just using a fanning motion lightly over the carving with a large brush loaded with little and almost dry paint. I think that without the dry brushing, the rug would look a little too new and a bit plastic looking. I’ll add a urethane finish for the final touch a bit later.
From an earlier post, you’ll remember the little Basset-in-a-Box. This little guy is intended as a “Learning by Doing” project at the upcoming Magic in Wood Competition and Show held in Pickering, Ontario this October. The basic idea is to have several carvers come up with a carving that can be accomplished in about two hours and invite small groups to join them in completing a project of their own. Registration will be on the Ontariowoodcarvers.ca site shortly for all of the different projects. I was asked to lead a carving session for a Basset carving and this is what I’m planning to bring.
Actually, because we only have a couple of hours in the carving session, I’m bringing a “rough-out” of the carving for each participant that will look something like this…
From that roughed in version, the hope is to get everyone within a couple of hours to this stage…
Beyond that, I’m planning to leave some instructions and photos with the participants so, if they choose, they can go home and paint the figure along the lines that I’ve painted mine.
Now, about the change in plans. Well, although I started out with the idea that the pup would be in a box, it struck me along the way that it would either be a pretty big pup or a pretty small box. So, I decided that the box needed to become a bag…a gift bag.
So, come on, who wouldn’t want to receive a howling hound in a surprise gift bag? Really.