Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How about that! - My blog just went International!

I just found out based on my spiffy new "hit counter" that my Woodcarving blog now has 2 international readers...One from Mexico and one from France.

So "Buenos Dios!" and "Bonjour!".  [Gee, I hope I spelled them right :-) ]

I've had the counter for a couple of weeks but I've seen a reallly big spurt in readership in the last few days.  So,  I'm curious:

  • Did I just get picked up by one of the search engines?  
  • What sorts of things would you like to hear about?  
  • Do people want to see more detailed carving info or just the sort of things that I have been doing already?
  • Let me know how you found my blog.  
'Til next time...Keep Makin' Chips!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Les Shovelean

If you have been having difficulty getting your excavation project completed or are developing a diminishing patience with The (you fill in the state) Department of Transportation, this guy is probably to blame.  You can tell from his wonderfully cheerful countenance and obvious, outstanding work ethic that he is just a ball of fire at everything he is involved in. You can't quite see it but he has a Heart tattoo with the word "MOM" on his upper left arm.

He is based on the carving “Brownie” by Doug Raine of the Caricature Carvers of America.

As usual, he was carved out of Basswood and painted with Acrylics.

'Til next time...Keep Makin' Chips!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Warther Museum - A real treat

While I am blathering on about hand-carved locomotives and my affinity for “The General” (see the previous posting), I wanted to share a picture with you of another hand-carved version of “The General” taken at the Warther Museum in Dover, OH (located about ½ way between Pittsburgh, PA and Columbus, OH.)

I had heard a lot about Mr. Warther and his museum over the past few years and I had always planned to “get out to see it one of these days” but I always put it off. Despite all that I had heard to the contrary, I somehow envisioned the museum to be something that one would expect to find out along Route 66, right between “The World’s largest Ball of Twine” and “Cowboy Bob’s Amazing Snake Ranch”.

But, as I discovered last fall, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The museum is not terribly impressive on the outside but on the inside it is like a fine jewel box. Each locomotive is mounted in a display case, backed with a velvet curtain, and is beautifully illuminated for maximum visibility. In the course of his life, Mr. Warther produced something like 35 amazingly accurate train models and a number of other works of art. And they weren’t made out of nice soft Basswood (like *I* would do), but from three *much* harder materials, namely Walnut, Ebony and Ivory! You probably know how hard Ivory is but Ebony is probably even harder. While it is still a species of wood, it is so dense that it will sink if placed in water!  Mr. Warther’s 8’ long rendering of Lincoln’s funeral train, complete with Lincoln lying in state) is made of *nothing but* Ebony and Ivory.

All of his trains feature fully moving wheels, drive rods, cylinders, bells and chains with dozens of individual links. Absolutely nothing requires (nor gets) any lubrication. All moving parts run in wooden bearings made from a tropical wood (regrettably, I cannot remember just now *what* type that is) that secretes enough oil to keep everything moving smoothly. The day we visited was (I think) the 95th anniversary of continuous operation of one of the models. That’s pretty darn amazing!

There was scarcely enough room in his 8’ x 10’ shop (still the way he left it) to set up one of the models, let alone build one. Surprisingly, the *only* power equipment that I could see was a vintage Delta drill press. Many of the other tools (hammers, files, knives and chisels) he made himself on the small anvil in the corner of the shop. His family still makes and sells quality woodcarving and kitchen knifes in the basement of the museum.

Mr. Warther’s other major claim to fame was the ability to turn a small piece of wood into a pair of moveable pliers (an old whittler’s trick) in record time. (I think it takes 9 well-executed cuts.)  Supposedly, he fashioned a pair in just 8 seconds (!) during an appearance on the Johnny Carson show in the 1980s. In a special display in the museum has a set of  interconnected 1024 (as memory serves) pliers cut from a single piece of wood measuring about 1.5” x 3” x 12”.

If you ever find yourself with an hour or two to spare while in east-central Ohio, I highly recommend making the trek up I-77 to Dover and stop by. The museum is only a few hundred yards off the interstate.

Check out their website before going. Last year they had discount coupons on-line.


‘Til next time. Keep makin’ chips!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Golden Spike

You may have been wondering -- but then again, maybe you haven’t -- why I have made so few posting recently.  Now that it has been awarded, I can finally reveal the reason. I have been working for about a month on “project of to end all projects”…a carving of a Steam Locomotive.  As previously posted, I have made commemorative carvings for those individuals who have reached their 20th anniversary with our company.  This is the latest in the series. 

I was inspired to make a locomotive by a book that I received for Christmas: “Carving an 1880 Western Train” by the Caricature carvers of America.  So it didn’t take too much encouragement from anyone for me to make the plunge.  After some deep thought, I decided to do one of the locomotives that were present at the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point back in 1869.   

If you can find a photo of the event (there are many out there on the web) you will see that there were two locomotives there on that day: the Central Pacific “Jupiter” and the Union Pacific “119”.  Well, given that the “Jupiter” had a *way* cooler name and, well, just looked more like the western train that I wanted to make anyway (ridiculously large stack, big wheels, flashy paint job, etc.), the “Jupiter” won, hands down.

The locomotive was turned, carved and assembled from Basswood…many, many little pieces.  One of the major problems that I had was locating good drawings or photographs of a locomotive to work from.  I could find lots of photos but most had been taken many years after the fact and showed major modifications to the locomotive (specifically, the addition of air brakes).  There were precious few of “side-on” pictures and absolutely no “head-on” shots that I could scale from.  While the side view of the locomotive is a reasonably accurate representation, the wheel spacing and, therefore, the gauge of the track, are dis-proportionally wide.  However, I don’t think that detracts from the overall look of the piece.

About the paint job:  Ever since Fess Parker starred in the Disney movie “The Great Locomotive Chase” -- a not terribly accurate portrayal of an actual spy mission conducted during the Civil War (filmed in the late 50s or early 60s) -- I have been fascinated with “The General”, a classic, wood burning, 4-4-0 locomotive of the “American” design.  (BTW, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the story, it's a darn good yarn that you might just find interesting. A number of the Union troops involved in the mission received the very first Congressional Medals of Honor.  But I digress…). 

I found a number of color photos of “The General”, so the “Jupiter” was painted to look like the “General”.  Like I’ve said before, this is my carving and if I have to alter the space/time continuum just to make my carving fit what I think it should look like…well, so be it! :-)

I used birdcage gravel for the ballast, held in place with watered down “Elmer’s” glue and painted gray.  I’ve used it before on other dioramas.  Someone actually asked me one time, “how did I carve all those little pieces?” (Huh?)

The fourth spike from the right end of the track is painted gold.

A local model-maker crafted the beautiful, custom Plexiglas dust cover and cherry base.
I do believe that John was pleased with the gift.  This commemorative might be kinda hard to top for the next guy!

As for that itch to carve a 1880s Western Train…it’s still there.  Anybody know where I can get some good drawings or photos?????

“Til next time, keep makin’ chips.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lily Pad Liz

If you have been reading my blog regularly, I may recall one of my best customers, “J”. (I call her “J” here to ensure her anonymity and my longevity:-) ).  But for those who don’t know or remember, she and her husband are big – and I do mean *BIG* – “Three Dog Night” fans.  Not only that, but she has a legion of friends who also attend every TDN concert that they can get to. 

I have carved many gifts for her to give to these friends.  Many of them were frog-related, in honor of “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog”, which is sort of the group’s signature tune.  I posted pictures of a Guitar Playing Frog sometime last year – yet another, TDN friend gift.

“Lily Pad Liz” is the latest in the series and is a derivative of a previous piece that I did several years ago, “Lily Pad Lynn” (The recipient there was named “Lynn”).  Now I don’t mean to be rude but the first carving depicted the frog as…well…shall we say…“Big Boned” and of  “indeterminate” gender. 

When “J” requested a second carving (this time for friend “Liz”), I decided that this one should be:
(1) recognizable as a girl and 
(2) have her weight "a little more under control".   

I think I accomplished the first goal but I think maybe that ol’ Lily Pad should keep her gym membership active.  Her arms look nice and trim but her legs still look pretty heavy to me.

I hope you like it and for “J’s” friends -- who I’m sure now probably have the link to my blog – keep checking back.  You never can tell when I might be posting a picture of your next gift from “J”.

‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!