Dec 27, 2008

Guest Blogger - Bob Tinsley

Reproduced from David Western's Portland Eisteddfod Lovespoon Blog

Bob Tinsley is a reader of this blog who was inspired to try his own lovespoon and has graciously allowed us to post pictures of his work, below, and to be our guest blogger:


Hi, I'm Bob Tinsley, and I'm honored to be David's guest blogger. I'm from Colorado Springs, CO, and I've been carving off and on, mostly off, for close to 40 years. However if you put all my carving time together in one string, it would probably amount to about two years of experience.

During the last four months I've gotten serious about carving, doing some carving every day, mostly small figures in the flat-plane style and a lot of Santa Claus Christmas ornaments.

I got into selling my Santas with a push from my wife. After I had about 10 pieces finished and painted (8 Santa ornaments of various types, one Santa Bear full figure about 6' tall and an Old World Santa I called "Watching the Weather" because he was looking up), my wife said, "What are you going to do with these? They're starting to clutter the place up." My wife is big on reducing clutter. :)

My daughter, on one of her jaunts through one of the more touristy parts of town, saw a store called "Handmade Santas & More". So I figured, what the heck. I wrapped the pieces in brown paper, put them in a box and headed for "Handmade Santas & More". The first time I went there, the owner was out. The lady at the counter said to come back tomorrow. I went there the next day, a different lady was there, but she wasn't the owner either. Third time's the charm. The next time I went there the owner was in. She looked at my work and bought all of them on the spot. This was about mid-November. By mid-December she had sold all of them and wanted me to do a commission for a gift to a man who played Santa for a charitable organization, which I did over the next weekend. She wanted a fat, jolly Santa, so I did a fat, jolly, dancing Santa.

She liked that one as well and put in an order for next year. She said just start bringing them in around the end of March and keep them coming.

I first ran across David in the pages of Woodcarving Illustrated (WCI). I liked his enthusiasm, and checked out his website. I was floored by the intricacy and delicacy of his art. I wanted to do that, so I copied the pattern in WCI, bought a couple of 1 x 3 x 12 poplar boards, ordered his book from Amazon [Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons]and got started.

I received David's book when I was about halfway through carving my first spoon. It was like getting an early Christmas present! The book is laid out in a supremely logical manner. Without asking David about this, I can be pretty sure that this book wasn't intended to be just about how to carve a lovespoon (though that information is there). David apparently wanted a book that would introduce new people to the art and romance of lovespoon carving. In this he succeeded. Beginning with the history and lore illustrated by examples of lovespoons done by him and several other artists, the book covers the materials and tools, step-by-step instructions for three patterns, then finally patterns and something that is sorely needed in all carving books but seldom included: a chapter on doing your own designs. This, in my view, elevates Fine Art of Carving Lovespoons above 99% of the carving books on the market. And I have to say that the photography is outstanding.

My tools consist of two Pinewood Forge knives, a small sloyd and a hook knife, a coping saw, a small Japanese hand saw and a battery-powered drill. I roughed out the profile with the Japanese saw and finished it with the sloyd. Surprisingly it didn't take nearly as long as I thought. Poplar is pretty easy to carve with a SHARP knife. I emphasize the word "sharp" because, even though I can put a shaving-sharp edge on a pocket knife, until I got my first Pinewood Forge knife, I didn't realize that pocketknife sharp and carving knife sharp are two different things.

I drilled holes in the pierced areas, not just one as David shows, but as many as I could fit in. I was going to have to do the piercings by hand, so I wanted to remove as much wood as I could with the drill. I started to clean out the piercings with the knife, but realized that it would be easier if the handle weren't so thick.

I took out my handy-dandy two-sided Japanese hand saw and ripped a half-inch off the thickness of the handle. Once I had done that, I could start rounding off the bottom of the spoon's bowl. I decided to do that before I tackled the piercings again, because it looked, and was, easier.

Once that was done, I started back on the piercings. The larger ones I did only with my knife. Some of the smaller ones I did with the coping saw, but discovered that clamping and unclamping that blade after taking only five or six strokes was a major pain. So I continued with the knife.

I found that getting a clean corner where two curves came together, such as at the bottom of the heart cut-out, was not easy. Cutting down into the corner was almost always against the grain, so I had to develop a technique to get the point of my sloyd into the corner and cut up out of it (with the grain) a little at a time until I had cut all the way from the front of the handle to the back. It took a while to get the joint as clean as I wanted it.

Once I had the cut-outs finished, but before starting the rounding, I used the hook knife to hollow out the bowl. I thought that the ridge going down into the bowl from the top was going to be difficult, but it wasn't. I also didn't have much trouble with the grain at the bottom of the bowl. I don't know whether this was because of the wood or the sharpness of my hook knife. I suspect it was the wood.

I began the rounding process on the handle and quickly discovered where the grain changed direction. A very light touch with a very sharp knife was the key to making these areas smooth.

I like tool marks on my carvings, so I didn't sand at all. Any place I thought was too rough, I smoothed out with numerous shallow cuts with my knife. I did use a cabinet scraper on the inside of the bowl.

I finished the spoon with a hot application of neutral shoe polish applied with a toothbrush to get in all the nooks and crannies. I wiped off the excess with a rag, then buffed with a soft brush.

I enjoyed the process as well as the result. It's really not as hard as it looks. I've already started my second spoon, so I guess you could say I'm hooked!

Thanks, David, for the opportunity to do this.

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