Thursday, August 2, 2012

Carving fun cages

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Time for some carving! But where to begin....?  Well, sometimes that's a little bit of a dilemma for me, but this time, I actually had put some thought into it while I was still working on the design. This time, I'd start at the bottom: the bowl. Then I'll work my way up. I've mentioned before how concerned I have been about the spoon holding up around these frail little cages, so I want to get all that extra pressure from carving away all that excess wood around and inside the bowl before I get started on the cages.

I started with the back/exterior of the bowl. Now, after a few hours' stretch, something usually happens that makes me chuckle. I thought it might make for a good opening picture for this post....
 and here's actually the back of the bowl...

Anyway, after the dog returned to his usual spot on the back of the sofa, I spent a few more hours removing the interior of the bowl. This is a pretty simple task (certainly the simplest feature on this spoon), but labor and time intensive. And, the bowl is an important part, too - it deserves careful attention. People always ask me how long it takes to make spoons... so, I think it took around 8 hours of carving to get to this point, just to give you an idea. Yeah - cherry is kinda hard.

One thing I learn in the process of carving the bowl is what this particular piece of cherry is like. Now, I know I pushed for cherry because it's stronger than some other woods, but another reason was that cherry never seems to vary as much in hardness or other carving characteristics as other woods. So, naturally, as I carved the bowl, I discovered that this particular piece of cherry seems to be at least as hard as any cherry I've ever used, and it also seems to be a little more fussy, and likely to tear with certain approaches to the grain. It still carved better than a lot of woods, though, so I do still think it was a good choice.

Please note the size of those chips up there, too.... on most spoons, those would be pretty normal-sized. On this one, however, we won't see many more nice, big chips like that. Normally, for the rest of the spoon, I would use my 8mm #5 gouge for 80-90% of the work. This time, however, I got to use that "big" 8mm gouge for maybe 5% of the carving, if that. I'd end up using mostly my 3mm #5 gouge. Lots of hard-to-reach areas on this one, where the 8mm gouge just wouldn't fit. To some extent, I anticipated this, but I'll give you, I didn't effectively factor it into my estimate for how long all the carving would take. 3mm vs 8mm - well, you do the math. :) The other big learning experience for me this time: all these different, interweaving vines & knots and third-dimension decisions (that I didn't draw out - I usually make those up as I go) aren't so bad each by itself, but having them all so close together makes a big difference. My spoons are usually so much simpler, the mid-carving thought process doesn't usually take up that much time. This time, however, it may have been one of the biggest factors. It's so easy to get lost in all that detail, especially when you're flipping from front to back, and sides, and the relationships between all those details. I want vines to act like vines, and knots to act like knots... etc.

Well... that was a lot of words. So - here are a lot of pictures, as the cages developed. Still, from bottom to top...

Note the size of the chips.... see what I mean? That's all I'd see for a while...
Oh - and you may notice the light is different here, too - that's because these were taken where I normally carve once a week:

Next to the river. :) Nice. Then back to my usual arm-chair, and more work on the cages...

 Getting into the back.... and now lots of thinking, checking where I am about to carve, following vines through the cages and up the handle.... into the bowl... etc......
And finally, freeing the ball in the first cage... see it in there? now I have a very-large-handled rattle. Ha. This cage was awfully fun. Interestingly, while it took a lot of thought and very careful concentration throughout the carving process, there was a trade-off. One challenge missing from this cage that is often important in other cages - there are no straight lines, and no need to make one part look exactly like another part. Straight lines and symmetry are tricky. However, while I don't have to worry much about symmetry - I do have to think about balance, and making the roots/vines actually look like roots or vines. They are also not as much fun as this organic stuff. So - more fun through the rest of the cages...

Note - I'm having to start working a little higher up the handle to make sure I'm putting everything in the right place - again, keeping that "big picture" view, and overall balance.

A note about caged balls: they are still just a matter of carving away everything that isn't a ball or a cage. At this point, I've freed the ball in the upper-most cage, too. But, I think the biggest challenge with them (especially when you don't have to worry about symmetry) is getting to clean up the inside of the cages, and shaping the ball. I like to try to get the ball as round and smooth as I can before I free it. That usually requires pretty small tools, and certainly very small chips. These cages were all actually mostly a little bit larger and more accessible than I'm used to - the ones I've done before, I put near another element, blocking access on one side, and that sort of thing. Still - with all those vines around them - especially in that lower cage, it was a little tough to see whether the ball was actually round. Then, once I DID free each ball, my fingers didn't quite fit in there, so it's really tricky to secure it for further carving. Eventually, I came up with a solution to that problem, but I'll explain that another time.

So, I eventually freed the remaining balls, and got to a point where I felt like I was finished with the cages. Just a few more pictures of the cages to leave you with, for now. Next time, we can see what happens above the cages. Meanwhile - I REALLY hope you'll consider making a donation to help support the West Coast Eisteddfod (there's a "Donate" button at the right on this page), to get your chances to win this spoon, and encourage the making of more, in future years!

 Oh - one more note - I'm pretty certain that I had something different in mind for the third-dimension of the cages, that would have had more connections from vine to vine (more like what's above the lowest cage). I know my original plan wasn't as open as this. I don't remember exactly what that original plan was, so I just made it up as I carved, knowing exactly how strong things actually were now, and apparently, this arrangement is what struck my fancy while I carved.


  1. Another great post....cant wait to see finished article :)

  2. This is absolutely incredible, as always! If I missed it in the design, is that four balls for each year you and or Dave has been doing the spoons? Laura you are a unique and amazing carver and I'm always stunned the detail, complexity and delicacy of your work.

  3. Oh - yes, Gaabi - 4 artists, 4 balls, 4 maple leaves and 4 stars, all in honor of the 4th year. :)

    - Laura