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....