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We Remember Skip

Who wouldn’t?

I was asked to make a sign to signify that a butterfly garden within the local dog park was planted in memory of Skip, who graced our town with his succession of tiny sweet dogs. People would meet him in town, sit down for a cup of coffee, and hold a poodle until their blood pressure went down.

I chose the butterfly shape for the sign, and roughed it out to have slightly lifted wings. I cut the big angles on the band saw to save work.

I had the presence of mind to plan the mounting before I carved. This old dog can learn new tricks; I left the butterfly’s body very chunky so I could sink two screws into it. I mounted it to waste wood. Later, I used the holes in the waste wood to mark the holes in a three-foot post.

That block allowed me to clamp the work into the bench vise while I carved. I signed the raw wood although I knew that paint would cover it.

I modeled it on the Northern Metalmark because of it’s shape and colors. It’s a mostly dark butterfly, so the sign won’t compete with the flowers in the garden. The flowers are the point, not the sign. I left the top of the wings unpatterned for the lettering. My lettering was awkward. Next time, I’ll make a light-colored band, and write the lettering in sharpie, not paint.

I added a coat of acrylic varnish for shine and protection. I don’t expect this to last forever outdoors, being only basswood, but it should be alright for quite a while. It will be mounted in the dog park before it opens.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Yes, it seemed like The Project That Would Not Die, but I finished it off and delivered it. Stupidest Project Ever. I had no plan to mount it or how to attach a top surface, and I used the lopsided surface as the bottom, so it wouldn’t stand straight. And it had no real purpose. Although the log was hollow, the opening was too small for me to get my hand in there with a power tool. But it looked so promising!

Perfect base or a Lava Lamp, isn’t it?

And, at the same time, I delivered a custom nightstand. You’ve seen this in a prior blog, and now it’s done. But while I was cutting up that log, I thought, why not cut out a coordinating piece? So, here’s the nightstand, custom built to fit a 7″ wide space, and a dubiously useful … place to keep your extra eyeglasses.

Both are cut from Bartlet pear, except for the legs on the nightstand which are ipe. Yes, that’s a kind of wood and not a typo. The color is pretty, the wood is hard, and now I have fewer logs lying around. Both have two drawers. The little round drawers are large enough for eyeglasses. The top of the nightstand is cut out to hold a cup and some keys or pencils.

I’m pleased with the curves in the design, and I liked the patterns in the spalted wood of the dead trees, but I think I’ll give myself a break and not feed any more logs through the saw for a while.

Saved from the Firewood Pile

My neighbor took down her old flowering pear. Here’s a big chunk. I had despaired of using it for anything, but then I got a request for a side table, no wider than 7″, 24″ high, and about a foot deep. With a drawer. Aha! You can see from the square foot tiles under it that it’s not 2 feet long, but it’s chunky enough to give me the solid 7″ and most of the 12″.

Squaring up on the band saw is scary when the piece is heavy, but with each cut it gets lighter. It’s grain pattern is dull because I’m only cutting into the new wood, and by rounding the front, I lose visual interest, but the worm hole adds character.

With carpentry, you usually need straight lines so that the pieces match up. But with a bandsaw, no matter what shapes you cut from a single block, they fit together. Within the next few days, I’ll glue up the two drawers and the case. Then I’ll figure out how to attach legs and a top. Stay tuned!

Tour the Tomb Room: Dust Collection

You can see this table without stuff on it in my first blog.

Time to finish the giraffes. I’ve been using files on this but now I need to use grinders, so I need dust collection. You can see the open end of the suction hose behind the workpiece.

Here’s the back. The hose is just jammed into a hole in the wood.
A picture of a dust collector covered with dust is ironic.
This is NOT Foredom’s official stand.

The Foredom company was early in developing this kind of flexible shaft tool. . Now you can get them from Dremel and other companies as well, but Foredom’s is a workhorse, and it can turn either way, which is critical. This kicks up a lot of dust. You can see it in all the pictures. But the collector picks up the smallest particles, which hang in the air long enough to get pulled in. The heavier stuff falls, but I can sweep that up. Theoretically. I mean, if I ever wanted to.

The Foredom grinder hangs on that stand, for use and for storage. It’s made of the base of an office chair, some PVC, a shovel handle, and curtain rod hooks from my house in New Brunswick. I kept all those pieces because they’d be useful later, and they were!

Here’s the bullnose burr I’m using on the giraffes; it’s evil!

The dust hose fits pre-made plastic ports that are sometimes provided with tools, and can be added if they aren’t:

Belt sanders come equipped with a port but I needed an adapter.

Belt sanders are notorious for not collecting their own dust well. The giraffes make chunky dust when I cut them with the grinder, so it’s not too annoying, and cherry smells good. Pine, on the other hand, also smells good, but deposits very small particles on the belt sander and everything else, even though I run the collector.

The dust collection bags can catch anything over 5 microns, which I gather is very small. That’s the stuff I don’t want floating in the air. The lower bag has a window, so I can tell when it’s full. I compost the dust.

Maybe by the time we’re all free of self-quarantine, I’ll have dusted the dust collector. You never know. It could happen.

I’m A Late Bloomer…

I’m accidentally creating a coherent body of work.

Say what?

I’m cleaning up the shop and finishing things I cut out years ago. I never finished the rabbit because I snapped off the left ear with a grinder, and I never found that piece. I put it aside. Last month I carved the iguana and prairie chicken out of the same tree, and last week I cut off the broken ear and glued on a bit from a different slab of the same tree. It’s not invisible, but I retained the shape that I had wanted.

‘So’, says Iguana, ‘It’s been nice hanging out with you but I’m going to live in an office in Teaneck.’

I’ve often been told that I need to create a ‘coherent body of work’. And now, I have! I’m working on a line of fish out of the same wood in a similar flattened style. Halesia is a repulsive wood to carve; it chips and pops out and cracks, and its dust is acrid and bitter. (Sanding inevitably leads to a certain amount of ingestion. Tupelo, by contrast, is not exactly yummy but tastes like Tupelo honey.) But Halesia has curly variegated grain that stands out in pieces like this.

The Iguana sold at the opening show at South Avenue Arts, so in fact, I still only have two ‘coherent’ pieces, plus a lizard-shaped box out of the same tree. I’m carving the last of the wood, so this series is near the end. And it’s taken me 45 years to get one coherent theme! Now I have to find another?