Summer Landscaping

Well, the summer project is underway and this is by no means a small one. The main emphasis is on landscaping my mother-in-laws yard at the mobile home that she now lives in. Her house of near on 40 years was far too big for one person and the stint at the senior living complex was not conducive to “living” so here we are at a scaled down version of her previous home.

Mobile homes have come a long way and this one at barely 10 years old has all that you could get in a regular house except “it’s mobile” you can put it on a trailer and move it to where you want. Anyway, I don’t know too much about mobile homes so I’ll get on and we’ll talk about the plans that we came up with on the yard.

The first priority was she wanted a small raised planter that would give enough ground to plant tomatoes and perennial flowers. The rest would be colored pavers and rock to minimize the amount of maintenance required together with ornamental flower pots. The side of the property would be rock with strategically place pavers, flower pots and an arbor with a gate that would lead to the somewhat private back yard. This was all quickly sketched out on a piece of paper but the details would be left to me and as I have said in previous posts, providing you do have an idea the details will come as the job progresses.

This mobile home was situated on a plot that had an east west aspect, that is, the front was facing west so the sun would stream in the front at late afternoon. The back where the planter will be situated will have sunlight during the first half of the day before falling into shadow. The main concern was not having enough sunlight for the plants but there was little option for anything else, this was the only place it could go. A raised planter would give a little additional light to the plants before succumbing to the late afternoon shadow so we had to decide on how tall it would be. Continue reading Summer Landscaping

Having Faith in Your Carving Ability

Mahogany Lovespoon representing Love and Faith

Over the past few weeks I have been busy working on establishing some new themes for my carvings but I have also been researching other people websites. My conclusion was that I found many Lovespoon carvings would follow a similiar theme regardless of where you look on the World Wide Web and I have looked at many websites for inspiration but I find many to be repeats of the same but with different levels of carving ability.

There are many that are only carved or have relief on the front face with the back face flat or only have the corners taken off to give some dimension. These Lovespoons I felt would look often mass produced but the prices are so reasonable that it would be very easy for the enthusiast to start a collection but is this a course that I would want to take.

Close-up of the cross set within the heart

For me to try and establish myself as a carver of some sort, especially with Welsh Lovespoons most of the carvings that I make end up on eBay for auction and it is there that I try to gauge the feeling of how the design is perceived.

The amount of traffic or should I say small amount of traffic for this sort of carving is primarily from enthusiasts who are looking for a bargain and will frequently stop by. If the design is a success I would find six to eight watchers over the course of the auction and maybe six to eight bids at the end of the day, giving me a good sense of achievement. I like to think it is the quality of the carving and the unique design that sells the item and not purely the price but as we all know eBay is the site for bargains.

When I first started this type of carving I decided that both sides would have to have the same amount of detail so that the Lovespoon could be handled and not just be displayed on a board. It is only when it is handled that the true appreciation for the craftsmanship can be determined and the fact that it is hand carved, saying that it also brings the flaws closer to hand.

To determine the themes I have tried to align them with special holidays or occasions during the year such as Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and so on, that way I can focus on those particular elements that are relevant and meaningful. Continue reading Having Faith in Your Carving Ability

A Lovespoon for Spring Time

With Spring just around the corner the natural course for me would be to design a Lovespoon that represents those small details that we associate with that special time of year. The blossoming of the trees, birds vying for a mate and ourselves becoming more romantic on a daily basis. This Valentine’s day just past was the beginning as couples try to break from that wintery grip so what better than to share my thoughts on what I should carve.

For me living on the West Coast that wintery feel is only mild to what grips the rest of the country, so having said that, what should I offer in terms of elements for that special lovespoon? Continue reading A Lovespoon for Spring Time

Wedding Favor Lovespoons

As you have probably noticed during the course of reading my Welsh Lovespoon carvings, almost all have been made what I call normal size, that is, six inches or larger but recently I have had several enquiries as to whether I make wedding favor size lovespoons. Of course most of these emails are from people who have seen items that I have been selling on eBay and are genuinely interested in the carvings that I do and that is as far as it goes but after reading one particular email it first sent me into a panic. This was a firm enquiry about making Wedding Favor Lovespoons.

Normally, Wedding Favor Lovespoons are offered by the bride and groom to their guests as a memento of this special occasion and as a blessing on their marriage. It is a memento that helps to keep the bride and groom firmly in their guests mind and an item to remember them by in their prayers but how many guests will there be for this occasion? Continue reading Wedding Favor Lovespoons

Carving the Emblem

With the detailing of the heart and cross complete I am now ready to tackle the main feature of the Lovespoon, the emblem of the Priory of Sion. This is unique enough to be one of the focal points of this carving and the most intricate to get the detailing to stand out so while I have been carving the rest of the Lovespoon I have been thinking about the best way to approach this stage, which for me is an ideal approach. I can slowly work the details that I already know how I want them and casually work out the other details in the mean time.

My first goal was to offset the fleur-de-lis to the surrounding, by doing this it will allow me to carve a subtle shape giving it more dimension and a more lily like flower arrangement. Much of the carving for this is in the way of cutting on the detail line with a knife then chipping down with a micro chisel to gain some shape. The deeper the knife cut the more likelihood of chip out from the exposed end grain so at this stage I am being careful not to try and pry the chips out but making sure that it is cut away completely. Continue reading Carving the Emblem

Detailing the Da Vinci Lovespoon

With the spoon bowl carved out with my Sorby gouge, the back face of the bowl is then shaped with a regular wood chisel. I still use my Marples wood chisels from 30 years ago and they keep a good keen edge after sharpening. With good quality tools it only takes one purchase to last a lifetime and although I have bought cheaper tools in the past I have totally regretted the fact. You may save a few bucks initially but after a few uses I have been totally dismayed with the performance, so from my point of view, buy the best you can afford even if it’s one at a time. Continue reading Detailing the Da Vinci Lovespoon

Lovespoon Carving Da Vinci Style

In the previous post I had talked about and worked out all the element placement and now I’m at the stage where I have attached the sketch to the wooden blank. In this particular instance I’m going to use birch as the wood of choice as it has the elasticity to absorb the constant pressure of carving in delicate areas without cracking. I know it will not be the easiest wood to carve as it tends to have a pliable feel when carving, in contrast to that crisp feel of cutting mahogany or maple. With birch it always seems to have a little resistance before the shaving starts to curl off the carving tool regardless of how sharp the blade is. It gives the impression that the tool is dull and you’re constantly checking for sharpness.

Drilled pilot holes in wooden blank ready for the fret saw.

The first task in the development of any of my Lovespoons is to drill small pilot holes in all of the tight corners. This one procedure eliminates a lot of mishaps with the bandsaw, it reduces the chance of cutting into delicate parts of the design and adds a clean finish to the corners. For this design I used a couple of different size drill bits depending on the complexity of the area. For the heart I only needed a few holes so that the fret saw could be easily maneuvered around the inside of the shape, in contrast the rose needed many small holes to define the corners and present an easy way of controlling the fret saw.

As you can see from the design I have decided to remove material from both the inside of the heart and the inside of the cross making for a light delicate theme throughout. The spoon bowl has also been extended and like I said previously, by leaving these areas open it gave me the option to revisit them as the design formulated in my mind.

With all the pilot holes drilled, the next stage is to cut out the inner shape with a fret saw, for me I use a hand fret saw. The ease with which you can transfer from one area to the next is far easier than releasing the blade on a power fret saw and trying to relock without the blade snapping more than once during the course of cutting out the shape.

I will leave the outside intact until I have cut the inner shape first and by doing this it will eliminate crushing the delicate edges of the design and provide a sturdy grip in the vise. The one drawback from hand cutting is trying to keep the blade square to the line, this would be a problem if the carving was going to be one sided but in my case I always shape the back face as well. In one sided carving you would want the hole to be square through so that you would get the full benefit of the shape whereas I can resolve any issues when I shape the back face. The best way for a square edge in this case would be to use a power fret saw.

Cutting out the material for me always starts at the top, that way I have the majority of the spoon blank secured in the vise preventing any unwanted bending. I want the blade to be cutting with every stroke without the material flexing, that way I get a reasonably clean cutout. Continue reading Lovespoon Carving Da Vinci Style

Lovespoon Design Layout

In my previous post I had outlined all the elements that I thought would have the makings of a unique Welsh Lovespoon and now that I have placed the shapes onto paper I have decided to increased some of the dimensions so that it will flow a little better. As I said before I’ve left the heart and the cross intentionally open for further refinement until it is time to start cutting out the blank. This will give me plenty of opportunity to refine the design before cutting commences. Continue reading Lovespoon Design Layout

Da Vinci Code Lovespoon

Official emblem of the Priory of Sion

While reading the Da Vinci Code novel by Dan Brown this summer I was thoroughly intrigued by the many layers that were going on at the same time together with the various elements that came into play and being curious I decided to take the time to research the internet to see if any references could be made to any of these particular instances. I knew that this novel had caused a stir amongst the religious sectors due to speculations and misrepresentations said to be portrayed throughout this novel but the impression was enough to seek further reading.

I had a notion that I could design a unique Lovespoon around some of these elements and I started off by first visiting the Wikipedia with a reference to the Priory of Sion. It was there that I found the official emblem of the Priory of Sion which incorporated a fleur-de-lis, intricate enough to make a great focal point for the start of my Lovespoon design.

The other strong elements that had been referenced during the reading was an equal sided cross and a five petal rose that was inlaid into the rosewood box that would encase the cryptex. These two prominent elements together with a heart would make for a strong design and are quite often primary elements in most traditional Lovespoons. Continue reading Da Vinci Code Lovespoon

Our Newfoundland Goes For Gold

The annual My Dog’s Face Contest has kicked off today in the Orange County Register and we thought why not submit Murphy our thirteen month old Newfoundland puppy. This little guy at 110lbs will slobber you like no tomorrow being the lean all swimming machine that he is. Visiting the dog beach at Huntington Beach with bumper in tow, that is the small type that floats and not the item that protects your vehicle, he will crash into the surf to retrieve it for hours on end. The only time he relaxes is to take a drink or visit with some passing canine that takes his fancy, then the fun begins with a race up the beach.

The year since we got him has passed in a flash with all sorts of peculiar happenings that we have never experienced before, like the time that his puppy teeth had to be knocked out with a hammer at the vets because they were so strong that the adult teeth were forming crooked. He was gnawing the wooden chair rails, he was gnawing the chair legs, he would shred dried queen palm fronds in minutes, we had large leg bones that he would splinter during his teething to try and relieve the pain and pressure and still they would not budge. In the vets own words, “I have never experienced this in all my years as a vet” but once out the adult teeth straightened up nicely and also saved our chairs. Continue reading Our Newfoundland Goes For Gold