re-using, recycling, and redeeming old wood

Archive for November, 2010

#33 Wood Carving: Cottonwood Bark – The Water Barrel


Bark house - the water barrel

Bark houses are a delight to carve.  The colors, contrasts, and creative opportunities make carving cottonwood bark a great medium.

The Water Barrel – stairs and bench

Following the flow of the bark is one key to making a pleasing looking bark carving.  In “The Water Barrel,”  one interesting feature was a large wing of wood plunging off to the left.  One method I have used to enhance such a piece is to pierce the wood under the house to allow light through.  In this carving, I chose to add rocks, stairs and a bench.  The shadows under the bench, created by the stairs and the rocks add visual interest.  I like how the outer skin of the bark which has been left on the carving draws the eye up to the house.

The Water Barrel – Front door and wall




Bark carving is both interesting and challenging.  This can be seen in the view of the front door and wall.  The door ended up being recessed because of the fault lines running through the piece.  At the same time those fault lines needed to be kept visible to add more interest to the piece.  Because of the faults the surface finish chosen was block or “stone” rather than clapboard.  This allowed for working around the faults.

Details can be added at any time in the carving.  However, some details need to be anticipated.  The water barrel in this carving was planned for.

Side view of bench and stairs

The sides of the house, both the bench and the barrel, needed extra wood.  In the rough out stage, the house was not completed to the base so that these details could be added in toward completion.

The same planning needed to go into the chimney.  Wood needs to be left on the roof anticipating where the chimney may go.  Position the chimney where it will add to the over-all design of the piece.

Chimney detail

Rocks and piercing on “The Water Barrel”

Even though much of the base wood has been left, some piercing has added to the eye appeal of this carving.  Note the contrast created by the light, rust colored inner wood and the skin gray.  I find this one of the most appealing features of bark carving.

The Water Barrel – the back

One more picture.  When carving bark and doing a lot of piercings, the view from the back of the carving can be nearly as interesting as the front.

One more comment on this post.  Did you notice the quality change in the photos?  I love wood carving.  Not so adept at picture taking.  Learning as I go.  The early photos were taken in the basement under indoor lighting.  The pictures at the end were taken in the sunlight.  I needed a better picture of the barrel.  Of course, that means I should take all my photos in the sunlight.  And that means I would need to commandeer not only the entire basement, the whole garage, but also a corner of the living room where we find the best sunlight.  Hmmmm.  may be plan B.  Until next time. Shalom.

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light .” Romans 13:12


#32 Wood carving: The Woodcraft Shop, good people to know.

Denny basic bench knife

Hobbyists are always looking for stuff.   They want tools to make the work go faster, with better quality results, and with less strain on hands, eyes, and pocket book.

Denny #3 3/4 in gouge I use.

As a person gains experience in a hobby they hunger for ideas.  They desire to improve their work, move on to another level of difficulty, find ideas for new  ways to complete work, new techniques which will give better results, new and interesting ways to present finished product.

Bluegill rough out

For all these things to happen the hobbyist has a great need for supplies and ideas.  So one thing the active hobbyist needs is a supplier they can trust.

One place I have gone is The Woodcraft Shop. I have been really pleased with their service and their products over the years.  Try them out.  Let me know what you think.  Happy carving.

The Woodcraft Shop
Wood carvers trusted partner for 29+ years

#31 A harmonica in Carnegie Hall. [VIDEO]

I know it is not wood carving, but it is “by hand.”  You will not regret the five minutes it takes to listen.

I have an unused harmonica in my dresser drawer. It is one of the “hobbies” I have always desired to try. Been to scared to really get into it – no real musical talent. Tried the violin for a few years – they excused me from the orchestra for faking it.

But I do enjoy a good harmonica. And, man, is this guy good.

Again, while it is not wood carving – there are carvings in the plaster work at Carnegie Hall – it is just a blast to listen to. Enjoy. And the next time you see a good wood carver, give them a standing ovation too.


A harmonica in Carnegie Hall. [VIDEO].

#30 Wood carving: Seals, Nature and The Zoo

Seal, six inches high, acrylic paint

Seals. I have seen them in Lincoln Park Zoo. They show up in circuses and shows. There are several books I remember from my childhood where seals were the main characters.

Early stages, cleaning blank

Carving awaiting paint

One of the things that attracts me to seals is their smooth, clean lines. There is

something about their glide through the water, the effortless twists and turns, that make them eye-appealing.

A harem of seals.

Of course, their sounds, barks and other interesting vocalizations helps to draw one to them.

Seal, another view of early stages

So another idea for carving.

Carving Tip:  You will notice the seal awaiting paint.  The base utilizes some of the features found on the wood when the carving was planned.

The dark part of the base is a bit of the basswood bark.  The carving was arranged so that this bark feature would remain.

“Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.”   Gen 1  New International Bible.

Close up of finished seal.

#29 Woodcarving: Scandinavian flat-plane

Scandinavian flat-plane carving.

“The Scandinavian flat-plane style of  woodcarving is a style of figure carving. The figures are carved in large flat planes, created primarily using a carving knife. Tool marks are left in the carving and very little (if any) rounding or sanding is done. Swedish-born American artist, Emil Janel was considered by many to be the one of the best of this genre.” (Wikipedia)

Scandinavian flat-plane ala Harley Refsal

One of my favorite Scandinavian style carvers is Harley Refsal. He has followed well in the tradition of Emil Janel.

Refsal Scandinavian flat-plane: The Farm Wife

Shadows and clean lines make a visually pleasing presentation for a flat-plane piece.

Farmer side view 1

Farm wife side view 2

A minimum of cuts used to create the shadow lines requires long, smooth strokes of a very sharp knife.

Farmer side view 2

Farm wife side view 1

The paint job also adds to the appeal of these flat plain carvings.  A light wash of color allows the wood grain to come through as can be seen in the side views above.

Out looking at his crops.

Looking too.

Facial details, “Crops look good, Ollie.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  Psalm 19:1

#28 Wood carving: Cotton wood bark houses and buildings

One of the joys I have in carving is cottonwood bark. The bark of the cottonwood tree is a delightful carving medium.

Bark house 11 14 10 a

It can grow up to six inches thick on certain Plains trees.  Most of the bark I work with is from two to four inches thick.

Bark house 11 14 10 b

Another great feature of the bark is its color.  The outer part comes in many shades of gray, maybe black or I have even found pieces that have been bleached white by the sun and other conditions.  The exterior coloring is also varied by the amount of moss or lichen which may cover the piece.  While there is great coloration on the exterior, the interior coloring always takes my breath away.  Tones of color from rich, deep reds to light browns and even yellows make cutting into any piece an adventure.

Bark house 11 14 10 c

In the next months I will post many more bark carvings,

Bark house 11 14 10 d

take note of the color variations.  Added to the coloring is the growth layer variations which are exposed in different ways with each new cut.  If you have not, let me encourage you to pick up a piece of cottonwood bark and give it a try.

Bark house 11 14 10 e

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music…  Psalm 98:4

#27 Wood Carving: Doc commission nearing completion.

It is almost finished! After three months and many small steps, Doc 2 nears completion. Paint brushes came out today after chores where done. The paint scheme for Doc 2 is from Phil Bishop. Doc 2 is, as I said in the

Doc 2, what a smile

last Doc post, from a Bishop rough out.

Doc 2, frontal view

Phil did a great job on the original paint work. The skin is a mix of medium flesh, dark flesh and Georgia Clay. Doc’s hair is Brown Iron Oxide. The shirt is Denim Blue and the tie is Bright Red. Pants are Wintergreen. The stethoscope adds a nice touch with Metallic Silver. And the lab coat is official doctor white.

One more closeup.

All that is left now is that Doc needs to dry for a day or two. After he dries he will be dipped into boiled

Caricature – large head and feet

linseed oil with a little Burnt Sienna. That will soak in for a night and Doc will be ready for shipping. Now the next commission – four faces which need painting.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.   1 Chronicles 16: 34