Sunday, May 21, 2017

Carving Wood Mobiles

Our middle daughter asked me to make a mobile for her son, our first grandchild, who will arrive early this summer. At the same time, the Northeastern Woodworkers Association announced a "2x4 Challenge", a competition to make something using primarily a common lumber stud. I had just joined the woodcarving special interest group who primarily worked on birds. Why not, for practice, make a flock of flying geese? 

Nine Completed Geese Ready for Painting

Painting Complete

 Suspending Geese So They Face the Same Direction and Stay Level Required Fancy Thread Work
The stand that mounts on a table and holds the "Vee" required more time to make than carving the birds. During a two hour video I could finish two of them. The curved stand required ripping half a stud into strips and then sanding them thinner and thinner until they bent over an aluminum form without breaking. The upper part has nine layers, increasing to double as many at the base.

A Different Perspective
 One advantage of working with accomplished woodcarvers is their knowledge of tools and where to get them. Or how to make your own tools. Very good carving blades are available from Warren Cutlery Corporation ( I used a variety of 6 shapes (6SBL for $7.25) and three copies of straight blade (22B for $3.79) that I curved for making grooves. These blades come very sharp and are very hard so they hold their edge very well. To bend them they must be red hot and then quenched in oil while hot to make them hard again. 
A Set of Carving Knives With Ebony and Rosewood Handles That Took a Morning to Make

The Beginning of "Isa", the Dog Before Her Hind Legs and Tail Were Added
 Our daughter and family often visit seashores so most of the characters I chose relate to life in the sea. We had to add a beagle so that we can tease this new little one by mistakenly calling an eagle or a seagull a beagle (or vice versa). And the owl is a nod to the book: "Owl Moon", one of our favorites.
Mobile Characters Before Being Sent to Another Daughter for Painting
 Carving legs with talons are too difficult in wood, so I twisted some copper wire together and pulled out digits. These figures are pretty substantial so that they can be unhooked from the mobile and handled or played with. The type of wood and direction of grain insure that appendages don't break easily. The starfish, turtle and seahorse are plywood.
Eagle and Owl with Wire Talons

The Owl Being Held by a Four-year-old, for Scale

Friday, May 12, 2017

2017 Spring Snakes, Turtles and Birds

The past months I've been carving wood figures in our basement. One day I was surprised to find a small garter snake climbing the stairs. I relocated it to our garden that is farthest from lawn where a mower could hurt it. A few days later, a much larger (30") milk snake surprised me by passing over the foot pedal that controls the carving tool I was using. It too I released outdoors.
Cellar Dwelling Garter Snake

Milk Snake Traveling Over Tool Power Cords on Cellar Floor
Same Milk Snake Released on a Garden Path

We have an enclosed blueberry patch that has fencing all around and netting over the top. It has a few holes large enough for birds to get in and they often cannot find their way out. I then climb in, catch and release them. Our dog, Belle, thinks this is great fun and often helps me by distracting them by running around outside the fence. One day when I was not inside the enclosure, she jumped on the fence and shoved her nose underneath, catching a dove in her mouth. She was very proud when he brought it to me. I praised her and she readily let me gently take it away. After resting awhile, it exploded in a cloud of feathers and flew away.
Mourning Dove Rescued from Our Dog's Mouth
 While walking through our acres of grass, I'm always looking for turtles, snakes and amphibians so I don't step on them. The dozen or more lady painted turtles in our pond lay nests of eggs randomly around our lawn. Though I've tried fencing these nests and moving them inside garden fences, skunks usually decimate every one. This year, one nest succeeded in producing baby turtles. So far I've found and relocated three to our small hidden pond that we keep secluded so that blue herons do not eat the frogs, salamanders and baby turtles that thrive there. These small creatures do not fare well in our large pond with its thriving bass population and visiting herons.
Newly Hatched Painted Turtle (2017 #2)

Same Painted Turtle Showing Plastron (bottom shell) 

Another Newly Hatched Painted Turtle (2017 #3)

Painted Turtle #3 Showing a Different Pattern on Its Plastron 
 A pair of geese make their home on our pond every year. They use our abandoned bee hive platform in the large pond as a safe haven for their nest. This year they had seven eggs and today brought us five goslings. I hurried to see what happened to the other two eggs and found one dead gosling sprawled across the nest but no hint of another. Last year there was a single large egg that did not hatch. Although I relocate every snapping turtle I find in our pond, earlier this spring we saw a very large one pass under our canoe. Maybe it ate the seventh gosling! 
Mom and Dad Geese with Five Goslings Between Them

Goose Nest Remnants Including One Missing Gosling