Adding Elements to Carvings:
While a lot of my carvings are one piece, with the possible exception of eyes, I sometimes need to add additional elements to carvings. In this case we'll examine my method for making ladybugs, although these principles will obviously be of use for other subjects as well. Since these additions will stand proud from the surface and be exposed to wear and damage, I'm quite concerned with making them very sturdy, especially their attachment to the surface. I don't need the pain or enmity of clients because of items being broken off or damaged on an expensive piece of work.
Here is a small stone-bladed knife with a pyrographed lizard on one side. I often like to portray natural subjects in their natural adversary predator/prey relationship. In this case, the lizard will be hunting a group of insects (ladybugs). In the past I've used other bugs like ants, beetles or spiders.. I've chosen to represent the lizard in a rather stylized manner, and the ladybugs in a more realistic setting. I often like this juxtaposition of artistic styles in one piece. It seems to add a certain tension. Above are the stone blade and the handle blank (yellow - English boxwood, center core - black walnut and black guard - ziricote). I'll be adding ladybugs, coloring them and adding dark pegs for their spots. The pegs will also do double duty by providing added strength in attaching the ladybugs to the surface of the carving.
I've chosen to use moose antler to construct the ladybug's bodies out of. There's a little method to my madness here. The hard outer surface of the antler is quite resistant to damage and wear, is porous enough to take stain fairly well and is pretty white so it won't interfere with the colors I'll be using. Above are the beginning stages of ladybugs. At the bottom of the image is a small block of raw antler, the hard outer layer. I sanded the base flat and used gap-filling cyanoacrylate glue ("super" glue) to attach a block to a piece of 3/16 inch dowel straight from the hardware store (top of the image). I sanded the end flat to obtain a good fit for a strong glue joint. In the center is a roughed-out ladybug I sanded to shape using a disc sander. You could carve it as well using a rotary grinder and various burrs. One of the major problems I've often faced in netsuke carving is holding and manipulating small pieces. If I hold such things in my fingers I either end up getting blood on them, or they go flying into the far corners of the studio and bury themselves in a pile of sawdust, never to be seen again. A temporary gluing to a sacrificial holding device solves a lot of the problems.
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Tom Sterling PO Box 1621 Coupeville WA 98239
Last Updated:Monday March 24, 2008