Monday, September 29, 2014

"Lucas & Thomas" - A Commission of Two Brothers

This is a recent commission from a couple that have an 8 year old that loves airplanes, and a 7 year old who loves to steal cookies. Well they like to do other things too - typical boy things - but we decided to focus on these two aspects of their personalities, because, frankly, I thought they would translate into interesting mechanical pieces. The clients wanted the pieces to be hand-cranked, which I like to do from time to time.

Here's how them came together...........

This is the beginning of Lucas's body; he will be "flying" an airplane.

Lucas's body on the left and Thomas's body on the right. A line coming up through the legs will control all the motion.

Here I'm working out Thomas's arm that will reach onto the cookie jar and pull out a cookie. Getting the angle right was a bit of a challenge.

Here I'm figuring out the arm and hand that holds the cookie jar. This arm doesn't move.

I carved the arm and the inner surface of the hand - now on to the rest of the hand.... 

Their two heads - more caricatures than realistic representations.

 The two bodies, all carved and ready for paint. The 4 'doors' protect the mechanisms on the inside.

 All painted, aged, and ready to be assembled.....

Another view.

I'm checking the mechanisms here before adding the head, and the covers that protect the mechanism.

Thomas, all dressed. Putting him together was a bit of a puzzle - final assembly of my figures usually is.

Making the bases. Of course I wanted the bases to be similar, so I had to build them from scratch.

 I carved each of their names in the top and stained both boxes down. I like to see darker wood when I sand through the paint.

Here they are all painted, aged, sanded, and waxed.

Making the mechanisms. I used a couple of gears to gear down the cranks. This prevents the pieces from being wound too fast.

 "Lucas" 10.5" x 15.5" x 8"

A closer shot.

 His head turns and looks at the plane as he glides it back and forth.

Head shot.

The plane, the plane - purchased off of eBay.

 The mechanism underneath - simple, precise, and made to last.

 "Thomas" 10.5" x 15" x 8"

He turns his head from side to side as if to see if the coast is clear - and then steals one more cookie.

I love this shot - it shows a lot of his personality.

 His head.

 The mechanism - one cam, lever, and line to move his head - and one set to move his arm.

 The two boys side by side.

I sometimes wonder at all the tools it takes to make my work. And sometimes I take pictures of my tabletop.

Again, thanks for looking!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Au Contraire" - A Commission - June and July, 2014

I know it's been a while since I posted anything new. (Can you tell I've been busy?)

Here's a commissioned piece I did a while back. The client, who is in the wine business, saw my piece "Steadfast" at Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans, and thought a different version would be a perfect way to depict one of his wine labels. The label has an elephant and a mouse on a see-saw, and the wine is called "Au Contraire".

When thinking about how to approach this piece, I thought it might be overly complicated to get the elephant and mouse to move, they way the figures do on "Steadfast". But then I realized the movement wasn't essential to the overall piece, because the motion would be so slight. I also realized the real challenge with this piece was to make the elephant as light as possible. It had to be in scale with the label, but not so heavy that it would make it impossible for a motor to move it. I pondered using different materials - paper mache, fiberglas and resin, and others. Since I am a wood person, I decide to take the challenge, and carve it out of a block of wood. The hollowing out of the inside would be labor-intensive and testing at times, but it worked out well.

I will show you the in-progress photos first, then the finished piece.........

Here's the label the piece was based on. I even incorporated the colors in the final piece.

I glued up this huge, and heavy, chunk of basswood to begin with. It weighed about 18 lbs. at this stage.

Roughing it out. The block just barely fit in my bandsaw - it's approximately 6" x 13" x 15"

Taking off chunks at a time.....

Into carving - with chisels and gouges. All done by hand. BTW - I don't use power carvers - for me, too much dust and not enough control. And there's nothing more satisfying than a sharp chisel cutting through a piece of wood.

Almost there. (Not bad for a self-taught carver.)
Next is cutting it in half and hollowing it out; I've gotta get the weight down. 

 I cut it in half so I could carve out the inside. I began with various drills, which was a little slow, but it worked.

After using the drills to get rid of the wood,  I bought this rotary rasp and it really helped remove the wood. I couldn't carve it out by hand because of the way the grain was running - straight up and down. I think this was the only way to do it. Also I had to be careful not to cut through to the other side. I had a few 'incidents' but I easily glued small chunks into the holes - and kept going.

The carved elephant (solid) weighed in at about 9 lbs. After carving out the inside it was down to about 2.5 lbs. I will add a weight to the underside of the teeter-totter to compensate for the weight difference.

To glue the elephant back together, I added 4 blocks to align the two halves. They also help to hold it together.

Finished elephant. I added the ears, tusks, eyes, tail, and finished the trunk - all basswood; saturated with thin CA glue for added strength.

The pivot for the teeter-totter. The rod that moves the plank comes up through the center, and two hinges are inserted on either side. Again, this is basswood.

Here I'm testing the weight and balance - and the position of the figures on the plank.

After carving the mouse, I added the tail; made from a tapered brass rod and covered with sawdust to add texture. His eyes were glued on.

Here is the pocket I carved, into which I will add that 2.75 lbs lead weight seen on top. This will balance out the elephant - which will make things easier on the motor that moves it.

In-progress. Right before I painted the final three pieces. Here I'm testing out the movement and the clearances - again. As you can see, I covered the top of the base with tin, attached many small nails.

I projected the logo and painted it onto the base. I felt like an old-timey sign painter, and I think it came out great.

Done painting and aging. I like how the texture from all the files and rasps stand in for the texture of the skin.

Love this color and texture - it's just what I was hoping for.

And I think the mouse came out pretty swell too.

The final image. The piece measures 40" x 25" x 8".

The elephant - I'm very happy the way he came out. I had my doubts in the beginning, but I even impressed myself with the final results.

The mouse. (He's a bit out of scale to the elephant but, again, I was going by the artwork on the label.) 

 I thought this shot was nice - the meek little mouse vs. the behemoth pachyderm.

The pivot point. (Though after it was all painted and aged, I realized I sort of flipped the colors.) I still love it.

A quick movie.... watch full screen. 

Here's something interesting -----> while rough cutting the elephant, I found this lead bullet in the wood. This is the first time I've found one.  I've heard stories of golden bullets found in wood from South America..... still looking for one of those.

 Thanks for looking!