This week I've gotten numerous projects finished. It may have been because of deadlines. It may have been because of the piles of unfinished projects on my work space. It might have been because of days and days of rain. Regardless, I have cleared swaths of space in my studio. Yippee!
This accomplishment also gave me time to spend carving without feeling guilty about the other things that needed attention.
I just finished this spoon. It might just be my favorite spoon. ....at least for the moment. The shape is pleasing to me and it is spalted just enough.
It's a rainy and yucky day here in Northern Virginia. Outside on the screen porch, where I often go to carve, its cold and damp. So I've spent my time down in my studio trying out pyrography. (Remember that woodburning tool you had as a kid? That's pyrography.)
The spoon is a store bought one but the design is original. It was fun to make and I'd like to make more of them. They'll eventually go in my Etsy shop or become hostess gifts.
My friends tend to end up with lots of these sorts of things as gifts from me.
I usually dislike every spoon I make until near the end of the process. In its rough form I almost always think it is messed up beyond repair. The urge to throw it away is quenched only because I know when I start sanding it, the spoon will magically become acceptable. Sanding is the least fun part, but that is when the beauty starts happening. Sanding is when I just have to persevere.
Here's what I was working on this weekend. This was the beginning step of carving a sycamore spoon. Ugly.
This was after the sanding happened. I decided I liked it at this point.
Here's the spoon after it had been treated with "spoon butter." This is the point when I have a hard time letting them go.
An old schoolmate of my daughter is a chef and has requested a spoon. I've been carving a few with her in mind. Hopefully she can find a couple she likes in my collection.
I just had to take some parting shots of the spurtle. Every time I pick it up, I just have to rub it. It just feels so smooth in my hands. It goes in the US Mail tomorrow. Someone else wants to love it.
As a wood carver, I should probably know what different woods look like, both as lumber and as as trees in the forest. Some trees I can identify easily. Beech, birch, pine, sycamore, sassafras, I know. There parts of some trees that I know but not in connection with other parts of the tree. For instance, I know what a black walnut NUT looks like, but not the bark or leaves. So when Mark and I hiked through the woods today, I tried to be more observant of trees. When I found the black walnuts on the path, I tried to find their tree and observe what the leaves and bark of the tree looked like.
I cut two pieces of wood from trees that had fallen to the ground. One was a piece of oak. Oak leaves, I know. Furniture made from oak, I know. The tree? Not so much. Here's what a branch of oak looks like.
Here's a split piece of oak.
Here's another one. I cut this piece of wood aware of what it was at the time, but now that we are home, I have forgotten.
We think it might be poplar. To remember this stuff, I probably need to either take photographs in the field or take notes.
Look what's on the inside of it though. Worms! Ew. Guess I'll leave this piece outside for a while. Worm eaten wood is prized, so as soon as it is vacated, I will try carving it.
Worms leave behind a fungus and it colors the wood in interesting ways. That funky wood is called "spalted wood" and you can pay a lot more for that than just the plain wood.
YouTube has helped me learn about some trees. I grew up knowing what sassafras leaves looked like, but I didn't realize I only knew one of the leaves from that tree. I thought they only had the three fingered mitten leaves, but actually, they have a single finger leaf, a double fingered one and a triple fingered leaf. Crazy.
And then here's a cluster of leaves we see all the time but have no clue what sort of tree goes with it. Suggestions?
This was the piece I made today. Evidently, it is called a "spurtle." In my mind it is a spatula. This particular one was made for stirring fudge. I don't know how well it will work for fudge but it feels very smooooooooooooth.
See the initial "j"? That's my brand. I took a little nail and bent it. A wee bit has been cut out so that it looks like the dot over the j. I lay this brand on top of the wood and then lay a hot wood burning tool on top of it. It heats the metal enough to burn the brand in the wood. That's my signature for the time being.
Every week or two I wander out in the woods to see if any new sycamore branches are on the ground. After rain storms is the best time to find them. I feel so excited when I see new ones as it means I have wonderful carving wood for a few weeks.
I barely got down the trail this week before I found this one.
Sycamore carves so easily that it is my favorite wood to carve. The limb I found on the ground was relatively thick and had lots of straight lines with few knots. Those parts will make for nice big straight spoons. It also had wonderfully zig zaggy bits which I enjoy carving into oddly shaped spoons. The odd ones have a lot of character and are my favorites. But my friend asked me for a long handled spoon and didn't request that it look odd, so I went with "normal."
Actually, I carved multiple spoons.
When I am done with carving, sanding and treating the wood with spoon butter, I use a wood burning tool to sign my initials. It often slooks sloppy to me, so I investigated branding. This is what I have settled on.
I sawed off the top of a cup hook and squeezed it with pliers until it looked like a "j." Then I layed the "j" on the back of the spoon and pressed a hot wood burning tool on top of it. After a few minutes, it branded just fine.
There are some fancy spoons that I have half finished on my work table, but plain old spoons are satisfying to work on. Plain ones are the ones I go back to work on day after day.