Poplar Timepiece

In a previous post I was talking about the philosophy behind the design for the Welsh lovespoon that was going to adorn the kitchen or family room wall. I’ve reached that stage where the two dimensional design is complete, at least to a point where I can spray mount the pencilled design to the wood board. From here on in it’s manual labor for 80 percent and 20 percent machine work.

Many people ask why so much hand work, why so labor intensive. My answer is, when you look at an old masters painting or a classic car from the forties or fifties does it look as though it’s been totally automated. Of course not, the sculptors have created the master clay car in the first instance putting their touch and personality into the three dimensional object and given it an identity of its own, the master painter has created his master piece, brush stroke by brush stroke. Each of these hold an aura, a beauty that cannot always be easily described but people gravitate towards them. By the same token I feel that by carving the Lovespoon by hand I am injecting my own personality into the carving, giving it its own sense of being.

OK, enough said, let me show you the stage where I’m at.

With the use of Marples carving chisels and gouges the spoon begins to take shape.

The first stage was to remove the majority of excess material from around the carving by means of a bandsaw. This allows easier handling of the Lovespoon after all it is 24 inches in length!

The idea is to cut on the line marked, eliminating a lot of outline clean up. The reasoning is, the majority of the form will be round in shape, oval or just any random shape to represent a natural limb of the vine, therefore crisp, precise shapes would be out of place. Once the outside is trimmed the internal waste is removed with a scroll saw. First off a hole is drilled in each of the sections to be removed, making way for the blade of the scroll saw to be inserted.

I use a spiral blade of heavy gauge at a slower speed due to the thickness of the material that I am using. The board of Poplar is 3/4 inch in thickness and will take considerable cutting, my scroll saw of choice is a 16 inch variable speed Delta, small but powerful enough. Care has to be taken when inserting the blade through the drill hole to avoid buckling the blade, set the tension and blade speed and proceed in cutting out the waste material.

This part of the operation is for me, nerve racking, the concentration is often interrupted by the blade working loose or the blade snapping, both caused by operator error. In other words I over tightened or under tightened the blade, it can be a fine line with the least expensive scroll saw models. OK, I survived that process and the basic blank has now taken a rough outline shape.

Close up of the clock face recess.     Close up of the spoon bowl and the start of the vine carving.

My next task was to drill out the housing for the clock mechanism, this process was tackled by using a 1 1/2 inch Forstner bit. This particular bit allows for flat bottom holes to be drilled without breaking through providing there is a minimum of 1/8 inch material left for the center pin. The actual depth of hole I required was just shy of 5/8 inch. Phew!! a close call.

The Forstner bit removes the excess material nicely leaving very little material to clean up around the edge of the scribed hole. When the clock mechanism is inserted, the bezel around the clock face seats over the top of the hole covering any discrepancies that are left. With this particular mechanism there is a plastic gasket that seats around the clock body enabling it to hold itself snugly within the recess without falling out.

The next stage was to hollow out the spoon itself, I always enjoy this part of the process. With a sharp gouge, I use one of my Marple’s which I’ve had from my Patternmaking days. It easily carves the material, I normally hold the spoon for support while carving but with this one the size is too big for a firm grip so I had to resort to clamping it to the bench. There’s one thing I don’t want to do and that’s slip, that gouge is razor sharp and it would slice my finger to the bone if I’m not careful.

As I go deeper into the spoon bowl with the gouge the wood grain tends to be more of an issue. That is, the grain starts to tear. When carving it is always easier to go with the grain to attain a smooth even finish but if the grain starts to run in the opposite direction it will start ripping up causing a rough surface. It is here that I have to reverse my cutting action and use caution. Imagine stroking your dog against the run of his fur, the fur becomes disheveled, it’s the same with cutting the timber. The deeper the bowl the richer the look, carving it right to the edge of the lip. Once there, it’s time to move onto the vine.

Carving of the vine is always therapeutic in nature, it relaxes my mind as I concentrate on perfecting the intertwining. No doubt as I continue carving the vines I will have to make adjustments to take a lot of the “blockiness” out of the final visual appearance. The vine has to look as though it has lobes as in a natural plant to give it a little authenticity, right now though I’ll make do with the basic start to the carving.

I’ll have to continue the carving later and update as another post to continue the series.

One thought on “Poplar Timepiece

  1. Thanks a lot for your comment in my blog and encouragement. To be honest with you, blogging from the third world is quite challenging and sometimes frustrating. I work with an internet speed of 5 KBPS and this is my main obstacle.
    Your designs are marvelous. I do not know if you have come to South Asia or not but if possible come to Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

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