Monday, February 27, 2012

St David's Day, Dragons, and other current projects...

For a Welsh lovespoon carver, this coming Thursday, March 1st, is an important day: it's St. David's Day! St. David is the patron saint of Wales. So I thought I'd encourage anyone reading here to celebrate any little bit of Welsh-ness you or someone you know may have this week! Happy St. David's Day!
It's an especially good week, then, to make a lovespoon!

So, while I've been finishing up the spoons for that carving workshop I mentioned in recent posts, I was also helping to organize my local Welsh Society's annual St. David's Day event. I also started a few new commissions, including some miniature spoons (maybe 5" long?) with daffodils, made from some very old walnut that came from a near-by Welsh settlement. I'm not going to tell you much about the other commissions, though, until after they've been given to their recipients, because they are gifts. I don't really think the recipients would be reading this, but you never know, do you?!

I will tell you, though, that one of these commissions includes a dragon that is not quite a flag dragon. I've heard from other lovespoon carvers that a favorite "typical" thing to carve is a dragon, because they are VERY open for design, and can be very beautiful. Mike Davies also told me once (after expressing how much he enjoys dragons) that the tongue and tail should always point up. I'm not sure why, but if Mike Davies (one of the truly great  lovespoon carvers in the world today) says so, that's enough for me.
Anyway, I've tried many times to draw a spoon with a dragon, but I can't ever seem to do it - I just draw a blank, every time! But this time, my client wanted a dragon, drawn by me, and not just a flag dragon. So, several times, again, I sat down to design this spoon, and I drew a blank. But finally, a week or so ago, I sat down, and I found myself able to draw a dragon! It just confirms what I so often say: spoons come out SO much better when there's a real person on the receiving end! And the other carvers are right - dragons ARE fun! I think mine still has very flag-like features in many respects, but it is also definitely not a flag dragon. It's also going to be a really challenging spoon, so I'm going to try to remember to stop & take pictures along the way so later on, I can show how it unfolds. Meanwhile, I will show you the back of this beautiful walnut board I found that I'll plan to use for this spoon... it's a crotch (the part of the tree where the trunk splits into two parts) so has lots of figure (challenging to carve, but VERY pretty). For the rest, make sure to check back here maybe around summertime!

And, of course, those workshop spoons are now getting their last coats of oil, then wax this week. The workshop is next week, so I'm also starting a few more, so that I can have examples at different points of progression, and demonstrate different specific parts. Between those extra blanks, and the blanks for a few commissions I'm doing, I think I'll be relegated to my saw in the basement for the better part of a few days this week!
Anyway, here are some pictures. Now you can really see how the one is much darker than all the others. It's basswood from my local Woodcraft (they get it from from Heineke, so it should be the northern basswood), and then I got all the others from the half-price selection from Itasca. So they really are probably all the usual, northern basswood, but maybe it's the age that makes that one piece darker, or maybe it was just that odd, darker piece of basswood. I don't know, as I don't have any experience with aging basswood, either. The fluctuation in every piece of wood is one of the things, after all, that makes wood beautiful, but you still wonder a little.
Anyway, here they are, all stacked up (you know - like spoons!):

 Oh, and while I take all these pictures, something is normally happening that I normally crop away, but thought I'd zoom out a bit and show you this time...

That's Tri. (pronounced like "Tree"). Apparently, he's supervising.
Then, here are a few more pictures of the finished spoons. Oh - I think I'd mentioned that one of the things I'd observed in my limited experience with basswood is that it doesn't seem to like to polish up quite as  nicely as harder woods. On these, I did my usual process of sanding to 600, then wetting them with water, then re-sanding at 600, and then went through the rest of the grits all the way to 12,000 grit, and it seemed like they came to a nicer shine than I remembered. But, then, once I oiled them, they returned to a more satiny finish, like the polish they had at about 3200 grit. I let the oil dry, and then tried sanding between 3200 and 12,000 again, but the polish no longer improved. So, I'm keeping my opinion that basswood generally doesn't come to quite as nice a polish as harder woods usually do. Now, that's not to say that I don't occasionally find limits on harder woods, but that seems to be the exception, rather than the norm, unlike basswood, where it seems to be the norm. So, I'll be advising my students that I don't really see much point in sanding beyond 3200,  if they even want to go that far, with the basswood.
All that said, it's still a pretty nice finish, and certainly doesn't have any scratches or anything, so it's very acceptable for a lovespoon's finish.

On this one above, you can see a little bit of the sheen that's still there in the bowls... My camera seems to miss that (I seem to be lucky if I can focus at all) on most of them. I think this camera is more for taking pictures of kids at birthday parties and soccer matches. Maybe some day I'll get a nice camera with a nice macro lens. Until then, I'll just do my best.

And the backs...

Then, a few details...

You can see in the crevices how I'm not done oiling these yet - they need a couple more layers of protection. It shouldn't look dry anywhere - it should look evenly finished, and the wood literally won't soak in any more oil when there's enough oil already on it.

Well, that's probably more than enough for now. Thanks for stopping by, and hope you'll come back and see more another time! Have a nice day!


  1. I am jealous. I'd snap one of those stems just by looking at it.


    1. Thanks, Bob, but I wish you could hold one of these so you could see that they're really not that delicate. I still think you could do it. Just be careful to support behind wherever you're carving or sanding. I also wonder if I may have a little advantage using gouges & a skew instead of knives. hmmm...