Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Northwest Totem

End June - Early July 2011

Time to carve: 3.5 hours
Finishing: 2 hour

...and now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Whittlin’ Jim did a few Northwestern slides and I think this design is one of the best!

Doing some research on Northwestern Totems I came across this page as a good reference TOTEM POLES OF THE GREAT NORTHWEST
Though I’m really not sure what animal it depicts, I really like the lines on this slide!

Whittlin’ Jim called for a crooked knife for this slide but I found a straight blade and lots of small cuts were call for on this slide. Carved from maple, and finely sanded, I really hated to paint this slide. The Maple would have looked great with a redwood stain but staying true to form it is painted with craft paints and given a couple of poly.

The Ladies Tea

Mid June 2011

Time to carve: 1.5 hours
Finishing: 1 hour

While technically not a slide, I needed to find something for my mother-in-law to bring back to my niece (especially when I had carved a slide for her brother.) “So what are Emmy favorite things”, I asked. After thinking about it for a few minutes, she came up with the Ladies Tea. What is a Ladies Tea you ask, well I can’t begin to describe it but I found a good description on another blog The Small Town Mom

“Each year we enjoy a luncheon and tea while all of us ladies talk followed by an inspirational speaker. The speaker is usually a member of the church or closely related to a member and they never disappoint. They always find a way to make you take a step back from reality and remember what is really important!”

A tea cup it was! One of the smaller projects I have worked on, made from maple for strength, it is another design right out of my imagination. With the exception of the spoon, which was glued on after, this is made from a single piece of wood. Painted with craft paints and finished off with poly. A small eye hook was screwed into the top so it could be made into a charm on a necklace.


Mid June 2011

Time to carve: 2.5 hours
Finishing: 2 hour

So recently my mother-in-law was visiting and telling me how much my Nephew was enjoying being a Cub Scout and was going to be in a Wolf Den this year. Mathew is a big fan of my slides and has mentioned to his mom how much he likes certain slides. Ah…the perfect opportunity for a new slide.

I’d like to think the design was patterned after the Eastern Timber WolfEastern Timber Wolf as I have camped a few times in the Adirondacks but I have a sneaking suspicion the design in my mind is more based out of Hollywood. Carved from maple, the basic design originally looked more like a fox until I folded the ears back a bit and moved on to the fur. A dark red fur seemed like the right choice for this and I used a method I had use with a Whittlin' Jim pattern Little Stinker. Instead of coffee grounds, I used tea from a K-cup. It was a very fine tea and all I had to do was sprinkle it on the glued surface of the slide. I added some white plastic teeth made glued in place. The eyes were round pins and the ears and mouth painted with craft paints. A couple of coats of poly finish it off.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Early June 2011

Time to carve: 3 hours
Finishing: 3.5 hour

Ssshhhhhh....If you know or correspond with Clarke Green don't let him know this is on the way to him...I want it to be a surprise. For those of you who have never heard of Clarke Green, his Scoutmaster blog, or the Scoutmaster podcast you really need to find him on the net! The Scoutmaster's Oracle, the podcast Commissioner and really nice guy, Clarke shares his thoughts, wit, and wisdom weekly to the folks that follow him world-wide. Always happy to answer a question for Scouter, his answers are spot-on relying on his many years of Scouting experience. On his site he shares his wisdom and thoughts on Scoutmastership, gear reviews, highlights some of the best books on Scouting, program ideas, and information on high adventure areas. I never miss the weekly podcasts and tend to listen to them within hours (sometimes minutes) of them being released.(Although I never understood the penguin joke.) So for all he does for the Scouting community, I created this slide based on the icon (see the picture above) he has used for years on his website. Thanks again Clarke...

Carved from maple, this is one of the most challenging slides I have ever made since the only thing I have had to work from was a picture off the internet. When working the Whittlin' Jim patterns, there has always been front and side views along with some directions on how to make the slide but in this case had neither. I first glued a copy of the figure to the wood and headed to the band saw to rough it out. When I cut out the middle section, between the head and and hand, with the jig-saw I really put the saw to the test since I had never cut so thick a piece of wood before with this saw. Setting knife to wood, I removed lots of layers to the base level of the body while leaving the hat intact. Lots of carving with this to make it look right. Painting was another challenge since I wasn't exactly sure of the color of the neckerchief and the color of the epaulet.Lots of mixing of colors till I the right match to the picture (hope it is the same colors in real life). The hardest part of the slide was the plaid (I hope it was plaid) of the neckerchief which entailed painting the plaid, smudging the area, and using a paint wash over the neckerchief. A couple of coats of poly finish it off.

Crossed Skis

Early June 2011

Time to carve: 2.5 hours
Finishing: 1 hour

This past winter I had the opportunity to be in Lake Placid during the Empire States games. The place we were staying had old skis like these mounted on their wall. Doing some research, I found a place that still teaches the traditional methods of making wooden skis.

A few of Whittlin Jim's projects have called for bending wood and the best wood he found for this was bamboo. I think there must have been more bamboo available back then because I sure had a hard time finding it locally (at a price I wanted to pay). But along came a project in our kitchen, which used some relatively cheap boxes from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and I found my source for bamboo. The first step was to cut the bamboo to size and then sand down the pieces to the desired width. I sanded both sides to remove any protective coating before placing the wood in water to soak. A few days later the wood was soft enough to bend and I used a pair of needle-nose pliers to bend up the tips. Even as soft as the wood had become I still had a fair amount of splitting at the ends. To save the project, I applied some super glue to the ends while the bamboo was still wet. (It is my understanding that this kind of glue works better when the object being glued is wet.) I then let every thing dry overnight. Shaping the tips of the skis was easy, thanks to the glue, and there was no further splintering. I painted the skis next because I knew I couldn't after gluing on the small pieces of leather that form the toe and heel straps. The poles are toothpicks and the baskets (small round disks near the points of the poles) were cut from a plastic OJ container. The original article called for using black tape for the handles but I opted for some heat shrink tubing with some heavy black thread for wrist straps. Super glued the pieces together on a leather loop. My only regret with this slide was painting the poles yellow because on retrospect leaving them a natural color might looked better.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mexican Zapotec Mask

Early Feb./End May 2011

Time to carve: 10 hour
Finishing: .5 hours

While many have heard of the Aztec and Maya civilizations, there was another civilization in South America called the Zapotecs who were also highly developed. They had developed a calendar, a system of writing, and organized bureaucratic structure. Their society also contained gifted weavers and artisans, You can read more about them at The Zepotecs

Carved from the hardest maple I have ever set a knife to, this project ranks right up there as the most difficult slide to date. Often times, I used a saw to help remove wood so I could lower areas before shaping. I spent almost as much time sharping my blades as I did carving, When I finished carving, I mixed up a special color of paint for this mask and then ended it off with a couple coats of poly. All in all the slide really turned out nice.

The Bold Knight

Early Feb./Mid May 2011

Time to carve: 2 hour
Metal work: .5
Finishing: .5 hours

This slide was half done back in February when I put down my knifes for a while but when I picked it up in May all I could think of was Sir Robin.

"Brave Sir Robin ran away,
Bravely ran away, away.
When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled."

...and if you have never heard of this, I strongly recommend watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail or perhaps this clip The tale of Sir Robin

Carved from maple, the head was an easy task to fashion. The spike on the top of the helmet and the nose are carved from a wooden dowel, drilled, then glued in place. The face shield is made from a piece of aluminum dryer vent pipe I had laying abound. The real trick to this was the finishing. First came masking off the face leaving only the helmet area exposed. A couple of coats of chrome spray paint carefully applied and allowed to dry overnight. Next I removed the tape and painted the face using some craft paint. Next I was using tape again to mask the chrome helmet part from the polyurethane. (I had discovered in an earlier project this chrome paint and the polyurethane did not work well together.) Finally came the mounting of the face shield which should have meant just a couple of nails but I modified the pivot point by using a small bead between the helmet and shield.A very neat side.

Pinewood Derby Racer

Mid April 2011

Time to carve: none
Finishing: Unknown

It was pleasure to be presented with this Pinewood Derby racer at a recent race during Pack 8's Pinewood derby. I love the details of the slide and marvel at it's simplicity of its construction. The slide is make from a single wooden clothes pin with the outside edges glued together. A wooden bead is used for the head and small black buttons glued on for the wheels. A pipe cleaner is glued to the back to form the loop for the neckercheif. Craft paints used to give the car it's color. Nice work guys!

When the time is right...

Back in November, I began to feel like my quest was becoming a bit too automatic and I had become machine like producing the slides.  I took a break for the holidays thinking I would start up again in January and find my grove again. Well, I did put out a few in January 2011 but the joy of making the slides just wasn't there...

Was anyone, outside my family, even reading my blog?

 Two things this spring made me believe again. The first was a gift to me by Pack 8 in Pittsfield, MA - a neckerchief slide. You see, I have helped run the Pinewood Derby there for the past three years and as a "Thank You" they presented me this year with a Pinewood Derby racer slide.  I was really touched by this act and to honor their gift, I will give it a place of honor on my blog.

The second factor was an email from a fellow encouraging me to continue because he was living out his dreams of woodcarving vicariously through me. He had also begun trying his hand at making slides because of what I was doing.

In May, during a stressful time at work, I picked up carving again as a way to relax but this time with a new outlook on my quest. I still plan to make all the Wittlin' Jim patterns but I will no longer try to crank out slides to beat a calendar date. From now on I will take my time re-creating these slides as my best works and perhaps a few of my own design.

and without further ado....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bull Frog

End Dec. 2010

Time to carve: 2.5 hours
Finishing: 1.5

A day off,a piece of really hard maple and a lot of fun to carve. I've been looking forward to carving this slide for a while because one of my favorite memories as a boy was the pond across the street from my house. Oh yeah, filled with bull frogs jumping, croaking and sunning themselves by day and the peepers by night. Once the piece was carved, the next fun part was painting it. I started with a light coat of light green, and then used darker and darker washes of green. The last coat was a wash of brown paint and all the different washes really give this some depth. The underside is painted an off white like a real frog. A couple of coats of poly finish it off.

Sioux Moccasins

Mid Dec. 2010

Time to carve: 2.5 hours
Finishing: 2

With new band saw blade in place, I roughed this slide out and set forth carving. When finished and sanded, I hated to even think about painting this slide. I was so good looking in it's natural state. But once again, I wanted to stay true to the original article and began to paint. The more I painted the more interesting the slide became and when it was finished it was really something! A couple of coats of poly later and its ready to wear.

Fourth of July

Mid Dec. 2010

Time to carve: ,5 hours
Finishing: 1.5

My band saw blade broke and while I was waiting for a replacement to come in, I found this slide in my pile. OK, I don't need anything fancy for this one, just a dowel, my knee (to break the dowel with), thin plywood,and a sharp knife. It didn't take much to cut out the parts and glue them together. Painted with craft paints and finished with poly,

Sky Geek from Mars

Early Dec. 2010

Time to carve: 2 hours
Finishing: 1.5

"If you can't whittle this one, your just not a whittler..." wrote Whittlin Jim. Well, sure it was easy to carve but on the other hand ...

Carved from maple with the teeth carved separately and glued on later. The antenna were cut from 1/8 dowel and the ends are wooden beads. All the parts were painted with craft paints before gluing them together. Now when it came to finishing the slide, I set it up to spray it with poly but it slipped from holder breaking off one of the antenna. AAarrragghhh! Now what I thought! Drill it out and redo the antenna or try to glue back together. I had nothing to lose by gluing it and could always go the other route if it didn't look right. Glued, sanded and repainted in place, the slide was ready to finish again. Two coats of poly and a new respect for the fragile nature of the slide.