I spoke in detail about my notion of carving a Welsh Lovespoon from the seed pod of a Queen Palm, well that notion has transpired into action. Sketching out on the actual dried pod with a 2B pencil to formulate the outline, the overall length turned out to be about eighteen inches in length with a width of five inches. I decided to try carving the bowl first to see if the material was of any substance and I was quite surprised to find that carving it was very rewarding. The wood (for a better word) cut crisply with my Ashley Iles carving gouges with no ripping of the material. With that knowledge I now know it is a valid material with a reasonable density, I can now press on and give the carving the attention that it fully deserves.
The part of the seed pod I decided to use for the carving was the very end, the most twisted part of the casing but also the widest point where I wanted the bowl of the spoon. The complication will arise when I have to carve the twisting vine that leads from the head of the spoon, I decided to have just a heart shaped spoon bowl with a twisting vine for the design, like I said in the previous posting this will be a simple carving to evaluate the material.
I feel confident with carving this particular material but the additional twist will certainly be a challenge. I would like to be able to get maximum relief out of the surfaces to give the carving a true three dimensional feel and that will be a challenge in itself. The amount of hand carving for this project will be at a premium, normally I would be able to utilize the scroll saw for removing inner portions of the design but I will probably have to resort to a hand fret saw in this case.
Now that I have the design figured out here are a couple of images to give you a true perspective of where I’m at. As you can see I’ve tried the carving tools on the spoon bowl and from the perspectives you can see the extreme twists I am dealing with. The actual shape reminds me of a fish so as it progresses it should look pretty interesting.
I’ve cut the main outline out on the bandsaw taking care not to allow the blade to grab, this may sound easy but as the blade follows the pencil line it automatically climbs the twist wanting to bring the material closer to the bed of the bandsaw. The idea is to roll the shape as the blade cuts, keeping the material as close to the bed as possible eliminating the chance of the material to bounce and possibly snap. Not only is it safer for the carving in question but it also reduces the chances of injury through pulling your fingers into the bandsaw blade.
The likelyhood of this carving snapping is more critical than most due to the hairline cracks in the outer casing formed while in the drying out stage. These cracks are not that deep but it is like scoring a cardboard sheet and if you bend it too much then the sheet will fold and the same applies to this carving.
After the sample carving of the bowl I turned my attention to the back face to see how hard the material was there. To my surprise I found that it was a lot harder than the inner surface, this will present a new challenge as the cracks are also on the back face. With my Marples chisel I start carving the outer face of the spoon and find that the chisel has to be extra sharp to deal with the tough fiber type material. It’s difficult to cut and it needs additional effort not to bend the carving while cutting. This will definitely be a long process until I get the feel for the material. The only other option is to try and remove a lot of the material on the sanding disc but that can be a little risky, only time will tell.
Well, I’ve made the initial in steps on the carving and it’s a case of proceeding with caution to finalize the piece. I will continue to carve the outer surfaces to near completion before cutting out the inner sections that provide ridgidity in the mean time. Once those sections are cut out the offset of the vine will make or break the carving, then we will see if it has all been worth while. The outer edges will be sanded to give a smooth transition or flow to the design then I will think about the type of finish I will use but this will all be at a later date.
For further information on carving as a hobby you may find these books of interest (affiliate links)