Sunday, December 16, 2007

Merry Christmas From Out West!

Just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a very Merry Christmas from the two of us here at the Out West homestead. Believe it or not we got a nice dusting of snow yesterday to make a pretty photo of the Out West shop and Gallery. You can see that I have a fire going in the shop but come Friday all work will stop as our time will be devoted to teasing Grandkids and celebrating the many joys of the season.
Merry Christmas!!

War Bonnet - Part 7 - Adding Some Color

With the carving finished it's time to get the paints out. It's hard to put into words how to do a visual medium so I'll take as many photos as I can as I work my way through these next steps. Just remember, it's not too easy to paint "wet" while also stopping occasionally to take a photo.

First, let me talk a moment about my views of flesh paint as I think a lot of carvers just destroy their work by applying the wrong skin colors. Take a moment and look at the skin on your hands. Do you see any white? If you do then it's time you got up from that computer to go outside and get some sun! However, if you spend a lot of time outdoors like I do you'll probably see the same colors that I do and there is no white in that mix except maybe on my backside but we're not going to talk about that area. The best flesh to me is just a mixture of Red Iron Oxide and Yellow Ochre, at least for the techniques I use. For Native Americans I mix in more of the red. For us white folks I use a little more yellow and thin things down a bit. The important thing to remember is that the wood you're applying the paint to also has a color that works to balance out those other two colors. If you put white in the mix then your figure will take on a pinkish appearance. Well, I've never seen a pink Indian or a pink Cowboy so let's save the white for the feathers and the beadwork.

If you're just beginning to use this "wet" technique of painting use thin washes at first and practice on a piece of scrapwood. You can always add more color as long as you keep your surface damp and those burn lines will keep the colors from crawling in the other areas and that's a big help when your first starting out and working wet.

So....get your brushes, mix up some paint and have some fun.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

War Bonnet-Part 6 Tassels & Feathers

Okay...before you fellas out there get excited thinking that Tassels & Feathers might mean a gallery of photos of Dita Von Teese, get your mind out of the gutter.......we're still working on this Indian bust!
Getting back to serious things, this post will outline how I add the tassels to the headress and also how to make the feathers. The tassels on a headress can be just about anything....animal tails, ribbons, feathers. In this case we're going to simulate Ermine skins. They will be painted white with black tips. It might take you a while to get everything to line up correctly, it took me a whole day to do this part. But I enjoy setting there whittling a bit, testing the fit, whittling some more, testing some more, whittling a bit more, and so on and on. Eventually, things will fit together but it will take a while. The important thing on this part is that the pieces will be firmly anchored and look natural hanging from the headband and resting against the body.
The feathers are much easier to make and after you make a couple you will probably be adding them to everything as they really make a piece "snap"! The little wire loop at the end of the quill and the associated loop on the piece will let them dangle and move which really creates interest to the viewer. Besides the two feathers on the shield and the two on the lance there are three more that will go on the back of the skullcap once the piece is painted. Don't glue the attaching loops to the lance or shield, we'll do that once the piece is painted.
So, now that the carving part is finished it's time to set down at the computer and do some googling for reference beadwork patterns, shield designs, Dita von Teese...............Opps! Here comes the wife!!!!!

Lots of photos in the gallery.

Monday, December 10, 2007

War Bonnet-Part 5 The Braids

As everything outside is frozen solid with an ongoing ice storm I thought I'd go ahead and post the work I finished today. As you can see I've added the two braids and burnt in a lot of the detail. The reason for burning now instead of waiting until everything is finished is that when I add the decorative tassels to the headress a lot of the areas will be impossible to reach with the burning pen.
You might find adding the braids difficult but it is doable so just take your time and have fun. Just remember you want them to look natural, they have weight so they have to hang and lay across the shoulders and droop straight down. Where the lower part of the braid hangs over the shoulder I hollowed out the sleeve of the warshirt so the braid dips a little inside. This helps to get things to fit snuggly. Also, do only one braid at a time and when you're ready to glue them in place do one side and let it dry completely before proceeding to glue the other. You will see in the photos where I used those innertube strips to lock the braids tight against the body so there is no space showing.
In burning the beaded areas just use a crosshatch pattern with your burner. I realize that beads are round where the crosshatches are square but what we're after here is the texture not necessarily exact detail. Once it's painted it will look good. Trust me! Once I can decide on a pattern for the shield I'll burn that detail in.
We're beyond the hard part now. Ahead lies only fun!!!
Photos in the gallery!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

War Bonnet-Part 4 The Shield & Lance

While before we had just a figure, now, with the addition of the shield and lance we have a figure doing something. To me that's what makes a really interesting carving. Also, with the design we'll paint on the shield and the feathers hanging from both the shield and lance it will knock the viewers socks off!!
First, to help you do your research go over to that search bar on the right and search out some photos of shields and lances. I like the trade cloth draped look. That cloth will be painted red which is a great background to the black and white feathers that will come later. For the lance I'm going to repeat a technique I tried on a smaller bust to indicate fur so I've put a fur wrap on there. Feathers will be hanging from there too. Another great source for reference is to go to This is one of the most fantastic stores I've ever been in. It's in Rapid City, South Dakota. If you're ever in that area take my advice and stop in. It's right in the middle of downtown. While you're on their site request a catalog. It's free and filled with great photos of native american dress, weapons, just about anything associated with plains indians. It's also a great source for books and costume supplies.
In the next post we'll add the braids and the bonnet tassels.

Lots of photos after the jump to the gallery.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Warbonnet-Part 3

That's not the best photo but it should give you an idea of my progress so far. With this post I start to get into the detail of the figure. I've decided to due a bust vs. a complete figure. I've also decided to make this my last large figure as it is too big to comfortably carve with the knives I use. It's chisel territory and I'm no chiseler!

I really hope that before you start any of the details of the various pieces of costume on this piece you will take a moment and do the research to learn just what they're about.

Lots of photos after the jump to the gallery.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

War Bonnet!! - Part 2-Carving the Face

With the head and headress pretty well roughed out I'll devote this post to carving the face. I want this warrior to really have a stern or threatening look to him so I set up my little mirror on the workbench so I can see that type of expression as I go along. So in a way this will be a self portrait. As you can see by the end result I'm not a fella to be messed with!!
To do the face I will bring in Old Reliable to do the cleanup work. As this piece is a lot larger than my normal size it's just too big for him to work on large surfaces. But around the eyes, mouth and nose he's my numero uno! No matter what type of knife you use make sure it's sharp.
I really like working on faces as you can literally watch the piece come to life with each chip. One thing that I would like you to notice is how I use the underlying skull of the head to help establish the features. To me this is the most important rule to follow when doing any part of a figure whether human or animal. If you don't know what's inside you'll never fully understand how to do the outside.
So grab those paddles Nurse.....let's bring this guy to life!!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

War Bonnet!! - Part 1 - The Headress & Head

All that Thanksgiving Turkey got me to thinking I should carve something with feathers so how about a War Bonnet? Of course I'll put a head in there to make it more interesting. One thing for sure though, as this piece will be a little larger than I normally carve it will tax my 6" bandsaw to it's limits.
A Native American plains headress is one of the most beautiful pieces of costume from any race in my opinion and being as I carve figures from the old west it's a good project for me. The feathers, the plumes, the beadwork and hanging attachments will really present a challenge. But hey! I'm up for about you. I haven't really decided on what will happen beyond the War Bonnet and head...maybe a bust....maybe a full body. We'll face that decision once we get this part of the job completed.
Before you start please take a moment and do the necessary research to learn as much about this piece of headgear as possible. I did a quick search on the web and there is tons of good information free for the taken. Do an image search and you'll find hundreds of photos of this feathered article of clothing. Want to make a real bonnet for yourself? Go to and ask for a free catalog. There are kits you can buy to construct one. Also, that catalog is a goldmine of info, books and photos of various Native American gear. As a favor to me, do your search from the little Google search window to the right on this page. You will enrich me by a couple of pennies if you do. Thanks!

Now let's get to work!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Unnamed Cowboy And His Pal Squint!

While I was painting the fella on the right his Bunkhouse buddy Squint dropped by so I thought I'd just put them together to wrap up this post. You're might be wondering why I always seem to have a tailor-made dangling off the lower lip? Well, remember that my Cowboy characters are set in the period of about 1860-1930. I would venture to say that most if not all members of a cattle crew lit up back then. That, plus the fact that it gives a lot of "character" to the character even though it might be a bad habit are two good reasons to do that little detail. You will also note that those cigarellos have a slight bent look to them. If you've ever rolled your own you'll recognize that no matter how hard you try you'll never get that "factory" look to your product.

I mounted these two wranglers on oak bases with a pony shoe. That's a perfect size for the scale I work in. If I had carved an entire body a full sized shoe would work. For the larger shoe I like to use the shoes the Farrier removes from our horses when he gives them a retread. Funny, up in Dayton there was a guy eyeballing one of my figures mounted this way but he said he didn't like the "used" shoe on the piece. I told him it was from my horse Boomer and that that worn look was from the good times the two of us had had roaming around the hills of Oklahoma. I thought it added a much more personal touch than if I'd tacked on a new one. Evidently he didn't agree as he looked a little longer and then wandered off. His loss not mine!

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow and we hope you all have a good one. It will be a quiet one for us with just my Mom coming over. But, as she just turned 92 that's probably the best thing we could be thankful for. Our two sons will be home for Christmas this year so we're thankful for that too.

Lots of photos after the jump to the Gallery. Don't overload on the Turkey!!!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Carving A Cowboy's Horse-Part 8-Wrapping it up!

We're done!!! In this post we'll paint the horse and put him all together. I've made him a "Strawberry Roan" in color, sort of a pinkish brown. I've always wondered how this color would look as a woodcarving and I think he turned out pretty good. For a color guide I went to the Rio Rondo website at Scroll down to the bottom of the first page and click on "Site Index". Now scroll down to "Books" and under "Reference Pics" you find just about all the colors of a horse you can imagine. If you want more you can scroll further down to the galleries. This is a terrific reference site for horses. I also buy my little buckles here.
I think this project turned out pretty well. Should you be in Dayton, Ohio this coming weekend you can check out my pony at the Artistry in Wood show. I'll also be giving a talk on carving horses. If you can't make it but still have a question just drop me a comment and I'll try to give you an answer.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Carving A Cowboy's Horse-Part 7 - Some Final Details!

With this post we'll wrap up the carving of the horse and add some final details to make him ready for any ranch work that might need to be done.
First we'll carve a cowboy's rain slicker which we'll tie on the back of the saddle in case those thunderheads off to the east happen to head in our direction. We'll make a lasso that we'll tie onto the front of the saddle so he can rope a few strays. Finally, we'll make a metal bit for the horses mouth. Here's where that Metal Shop experience from your Highschool days finally pays off!!
This has been a long project and you're probably really glad to see this part of it come to and end. I hope you enjoyed it and if you're headed for this year's Dayton, Ohio woodcarving show you'll be able to see my result in person. Hopefully, I can get it painted before then.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Carving A Cowboy's Horse-Part 6-Attaching The Horses's Head!

We've reached the most critical point of this operation. It's time to scub up and head to the operating table. We've got some sewing to do!
My horses head is ready and there is plenty of wood on the body and neck to play with until I get the look I'm after. The important thing here is not to take off too much or you'll end up with a short-necked horse and that wouldn't look very good. Also, remember that the high point on a horse is the withers or shoulders. The neck drops from that point. Like our own neck, the horses neck flows gracefully out from where it meets the main part of the body. The mane will hide most of this on the right side in this case but on the left you'll have to carve this feature. Just look at your reference photos and you'll have no trouble.
Once you glue and push the two pieces together you'll have lots of squeezed out glue. You can carefully wipe this away to keep it from dripping but try to keep it from getting on any finished part of the horse as paint won't adhere there later. If you do just leave it and lightly carve it off once it's dry.
Good luck!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Carving A Cowboy's Horse-Part 5-Working On A Piece Of Tail!

Sorry, just couldn't pass up on that title!! Okay....this part goes pretty quick so I've added a little extra detail you can add if you want to be a little more challenged. You can skip it if you want and your horse will be fine and still correct.

This extra detail is the Back Cinch. Look at your reference material and you'll see it. This cinch helps hold the back of the saddle in place during heavy work and in case you might be riding downhill. However, one thing you will not see is this cinch drawn up tight against the horses body. It's normal position is to hang loosely, tied with a small strap to the front cinch so it doesn't flop back against the horses legs. I make this part of the saddle out of metal as that gives me to look that I want.....daylight and space between the cinch and horse. Lots of riders don't use this cinch, including me, so you can skip it if you want. But it sure adds a nice authentic touch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Carving A Cowboy's Horse-Part 4-The Stirrups!

Now for some real fun!! You might think this next step is difficult but it's really not. It is time consuming so plan on spending about 6-8 hours because you want to take your time and get a good result. There are lots of photos in the Gallery with explanations for each step so you should have no trouble.

After we get this done we'll give that poor fella a tail so he can keep the flies away!

Carving A Cowboy's Horse-Part 3-The Saddle

Decisions, decisions! We've now reached a point where we have to make a couple of decisions about just how we want our horse to be fitted out and whether we want him to stand alone or have a rider. As this is our first horse with saddle project I think it best to just have him stand alone without a rider. We can still put a rider in the final scene, he'll just be on the ground maybe getting ready to mount or doing some other ranch related activity. The next decision is just what type of saddle do we want on that cayuse's back. Well, as this is a working cowboy's horse we want a piece of tack that he would actually use. Personally, as I ride a "slick fork" type of saddle, and as this is pretty well a standard for the working wrangler and considering that this is my carving, I'm going for that one.

Here is a photo of a "Slick Fork" saddle. The reason it's called that is that it doesn't have any "swells". Just do a Google search for this type of saddle and you'll finds lots of reference material. If we were going to have a cowboy mounted on our horse we'd want to use this type as those swells would get in the way when fitting him into place. On this particular saddle you'll note the "Bucking Rolls" screwed down just behind the front of the saddle. If a rider needs some extra holding power he can add these as they will act in place of the missing swells. Plus, if we add them to our saddle it will give us the opportunity of doing a little extra detailing that really looks neat when done.

One important point... when we do this part of the project don't jump ahead of the last step. We have to add the stirrups before we can proceed further than the steps outlined in this post. If you go ahead and do the whole saddle without allowing for the stirrups you're going to have problems later on. Believe me, I've already learned this from past experience!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Carving a Cowboy's Horse! Part 2

Hope you haven't given up on me! I apologize again for taking so long to get a new post together. It's been really busy around here since we returned from our trip out west. Also, our Chuckwagon has been in demand so we've been hauling it around to various events. This weekend we're heading to Coffeyville, Kansas for the Dalton Defender Days celebration and then next weekend to another festival here in Oklahoma. I'm starting to get tired of all these Beans and Biscuits!

Anyway, as you can see by the photo, I have finished the legs, rounded the body just a little, especially the areas under the belly. I didn't hold back when applying the dark wood glue as I want it to squeeze out and fill any void along the join line. The pegs will hold the halves in place when you clamp so if you didn't use the peg method you're probably wishing you did by now. Just leave the excess glue dripping as if you wipe it you'll just have to carve it off. The beauty of the dark glue is that it's easily seen when dry. Two clamps on the body and one on the neck will do the job nicely.

Once we get the Chuckwagon back in the barn we'll get cranking on this project........promise!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What A Country!

As I said in the last post, we were heading for Montana. On the way we spent some time in the Grand Teton area. Like the title says, "What A Country!" I'd love to live in this area but if I did I would probably take it for granted after a while so it's probably best to only visit it every couple of years to remind myself that it's still there and as beautiful as ever. One thing we did note is that Jackson Hole is turning into another tourist trap. Reminded me of Branson, Missouri. Too bad.

We'll be back home in a week or so and I promise I'll get back to that horse project. However, right now we're on our way to the C.M.Russell Museum so that horse will just have to wait.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Carving a Cowboy's Horse-Part 1-The Body!

My friend Dave out in Arizona has been after me to finish up the horse project so I guess I'd better do it so it's safe to go out west.

First off, if you are not completely familiar with your bandsaw ...
DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS PROJECT!! We are going to be cutting a large piece of thick wood and stability while cutting will be an issue. A person familiar and experienced with his or her saw should have no problem but if you're not DON"T DO IT! I would hate to have someone get hurt. Now that I've probably scared you to the point of passing up on this project let's continue.

I use a Sears 12" bandsaw which has a cutting capacity of about 8-1/2" inches so I will have no problem. There is no reason you can't reduce the size of the drawing to accommodate a smaller saw. I use a 3/16" blade with 4 teeth per inch. This is called a skip-tooth blade as normally there would be about 8tpi. Working at the scale of this horse this blade will let me make just about every turn I need to and that skip-tooth blade really eats the wood. This is the only blade I ever use.

When I first started carving one of the obstacles I ran into when carving horses was the areas between the legs. Through little experimentation I came up with this method which just about does away with this problem completely. Being able to seperate the two halves gives you access to the inside of the leg and makes carving a snap. Also, it lessens the possibility of breaking off a leg. In this project the only fragile thing is the resting leg so watch out for that when you work around that area. Don't sand the area between the two halves as they now match perfectly due to the path of the blade. They are also nice and rough which will make a very strong glue joint. Properly glued no one will ever know that your horse had some major surgery.

Before I knew much about horses I always thought they had that one rear leg cocked in the ready position in case someone happened to walk too close behind them. That isn't the case at all. When they stand like that they're resting. Watch one long enough and he will shift his weight to the other leg. As the front legs support the majority of a horses weight he will shift the load back there from side to side as long as he's standing in one place.

I know, you're probably wondering where the tail is. Well, like the head, we will add it later. If we made it part of the main block it would become a problem and I don't like problems! We will attach it in such a way that it will be stronger than if it were part of the original block.

One more thing......This horse is larger in scale than the head we did earlier so if you want to use that head on this body you will have to reduce it accordingly. I'd suggest just doing a new head to match this one. You can hang that other one out the barn door.

So, let's get started. Actually, you're going to have to work without me as the wife and I are heading to Montana for some Rocky Mountain Trail Riding. We'll be back in a week or so. I'll have my laptop with me so if you run into a real problem just drop me a comment and I'll climb down off my cayuse long enough to answer your question. Good luck!

Lots of photos in the Gallery.

Monday, September 03, 2007

"Darn, I Dropped The Remote!"

Even though it's Labor Day I spent the time down at the shop finishing up this little repeat. I did one similar to this several years ago. I had this horse setting on my workbench and couldn't match him up with a cowboy so thought of doing this scene again. It's a copy of a painting by Fred Harmon, the artist who drew Red Ryder called "Waiting on the Boss!" Of course I added a few things to flesh it out a bit and bring it up to date. I have no doubt whatsoever that somewhere down there south of the Oklahoma-Texas there is a outhouse that has a satellite hookup. Unfortunately for the fellow occupied inside it looks like his viewing will be limited cause I can just imagine where that remote fell and I bet he goes down to WalMart and buys a new one before searching too far inside that little room!

More photos in the Gallery.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Yellow Bird & Little Beaver

Took a while to finally get the varnish on this one. Lots of paint not to mention the beading. In the past I just ran a beaded strip over the top and down the sides of the papoose but this time I decided to try and bead the whole thing. Turned out pretty well I think. If you've ever seen the real cradleboards you will marvel as I do the care and artistry that goes into making one. You can just look and see just how much the Native Americans treasured their children.
I was worried that the highly patterned blanket, the beaded moccasins, pants, cradleboard and all the other decorations might be too much but after looking at it a while and seeing the reactions and reading the comments I guess it wasn't. I really love doing Native Americans.
Willie Lone Eagle was still hanging around the shop when I finished this one and placing them together really makes a nice group. Hopefully, whoever takes them home will take them all together. Would hate to see the family break up!
As always, comments are appreciated.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Carving the Cradleboard

With the figure finished we can now do the Cradleboard. As I'm here in Oklahoma I've decided to do one from a tribe that was resident here.....Kiowa. Here's where a little research will really help you out. With the Net it should be no problem for you to track down photos of cradleboards as there are lots of them out there. I haven't decided on just how much beading I will do on this one so I haven't added it on yet.
The photos are pretty clear as to what I did to do this part of the project. I used a 1- 3/8" Forstner bit to drill the hole into the block. You want to drill it deep enough for the head insert to fit naturally. Once you get the hole drilled take a 1/8" bit and drill on through so you can insert something to push out the head as you carve and fit it. Otherwise it will get stuck in there. Make the insert about 1/2" thick so you have plenty to work with. Make it the same size as the hole and then carve it to fit easily into the hole but not so much that there is a lot of space around it. To make the frame I just slabbed off some thin strips of basswood, carved them to remove the saw marks, and epoxied them together, leaving a lot of excess wood to cut away after every thing hardened up.
The cradleboard is mounted to the body with a couple of 1/8" dowels but I don't glue the frame to the bag or body until we get it painted.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Squaw With Papoose

As it's been a while since we did a complete project I thought this would be a good one if you want to follow along . It will be quite a colorful carving when done and will require you to do some research. At least I hope you do the research, that's half the fun of doing this type of carving. I'm not going into the actual carving of this except for the head as we've covered carving in other posts. I will devote some time to doing the Papoose as it will require a little construction.
The photo giving the pattern can be blown up to give you the correct sizes using the 10" length of the side profile a a guide. The Papoose blank should be at least 1- 3/8" thick.
You will note from the associated photos that I do a lot of roughing out on my bandsaw. DON'T DO IT!!! It's a very dangerous shortcut that only a fool would use. I guess because my wife is always telling me that I'm a "fool" I think I can get away with it!! One of these days I'll pay the piper!
Once the body was completely carved I burnt in the creases and also the blanket pattern. I used a design called "Circle of Life" out of the latest Pendleton Blanket catalog. Here's the link: , If you want to use something else that's fine. Just remember....with all the folds and overlays in the blanket you'll have to adjust your pattern to reflect this.

After I carved the head I determined the head position on the body, and then carved, fitted and epoxied the braids into place. Do this one side at a time, that's the easiest way. And remember this very important rule of attaching parts: Always leave enough excess wood on the two pieces to allow you to carve the attachment to look like it's part of the main piece and not just something glued on. Sure, you can try and carve the braids and the head a one piece but I can tell you that you'll never get the head to fit down into the body with those braids in the way. You could also carve the head, braids and body as one piece but it would just not look as good as it will the way we will do it. I use Tuf-Carve epoxy to attach things. It's strong, can be carved and is close in basswood in color. Here's the link in case you want to buy some. It goes a long way so get the smallest amount you can.

More photos in the Gallery section.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Brushpopper Bill

Here's a bust I just completed carving. He's going to Chicago to occupy the top spot on a Bottle-Stopper Christmas tree that another artist is constructing. This guy collects bottlestoppers from all over the world and then assembles these fantastic constructions involving hundreds of different stoppers. This new one will be all Cowboys with old Bill being the "King of the Cowboys"! I'll try and post a photo once it's finished.
Here's old Bill all decked out for the Saturday Night Dance over at the Bandstand. He's got a new prospect all lined up and thought he'd better put on his best shirt to make a good impression. I hope he combed out all those biscuit crumbs from that hairbrush above his lip!!
Move photos after the jump and comments always welcome!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Willy Lone Eagle

Poor Willy! He doesn't look happy at all. Maybe the slots down at the Turtle Stop Casino didn't pay off like he thought. Whatever, this has the makings of a nice looking piece. It's about 15" tall not counting the feather. He'll hopefully be joined by his mate which I plan on starting this afternoon. If things work out she will have Willy's offspring strapped to her back on a cradleboard.

Took me a while to get him finally finished as we've been doing fence work. I've done figures similar to this one several times before but this time I tried a headband. I carved it out of tupelo, bent it to shape and then attached it. I like it! Woodcarving, unlike working in clay to be cast into bronze, has one major drawback or hurdle we have to deal with and that's making things look as they really are with out having the necessary supporting structure overpower the detail. In this instance the headband would have been much to fragile if I tried to carve it as it appears. The way I did it it is extremely strong and will never break unless someone drops him on his head or tries to pick it off. The back feather is not permanently attached for that very reason. People like to touch things so when we carve we have to or should take that into consideration.

To make the headband I bent one circle of tupelo and glued it. To add additional strength to the bond I glued a wood rosette to the junction. I then did another layer of tupelo for the beaded strip and glued it on. This doubel layer allowed me to do some burn detail for the beading that I otherwise couldn't do as the strip would break on the burn lines. I found that out the hard way.

Anyway, hope you like him.

Friday, June 29, 2007

An Early Checkin!

Don't ask me how I came up with this just happened! I had completed the head a year ago and it just sat on the workbench smiling at me to where I just couldn't take it anymore. Doing it as a Dude from the city showing up for his week at the Happy Landing Guest Ranch seemed a good way put him to use. The dog? Well... let's just not go there!
I tried something new with him that I'll probably use in the future now that I know how to do it and that's how to make really good looking glasses. I bent the glass frames from thin cooper and soldered in a nose piece and then attached the ear pieces. I then bent the ear pieces to match the head as doing it once the glasses were finished would be too risky. Putting down a piece of wax paper I mixed up some clear epoxy and while holding the frames level dropped in some of the mixture until the frames were full. Once the glue had gone off I pealed off the paper and then very carefully on my little disc sander sanded off the face of the frame so it was level. This left a frosted look to the plastic lenses which looks good I think. Once the frames were painted and placed on the head a little epoxy to hold them in place. I really like the look!!
Lots more photos on the gallery page.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Here is a carving of a Huron warrior that I did back in 2000. It's a fairly detailed piece. I especially like the Flintlock rifle. I made the firing mechnism out of metal wire, pounded flat and then bent to shape. The trigger guard was made the same way. The two little ties on his leggins are also metal. Everything else is wood.
Back then I was carving my eyes as only slits as I didn't think the pupils really showed much on the scale I was working. However, as this figure was much bigger, standing at about 22 inches it was clear to me after completing this piece that I couldn't get away with it on a larger sized figure. So, any new figures completed after this one all have their eyes completely visible. I think it was a good decision as it allows a lot more action in a figure by being able to have those eyeballs moving around.
Lots of photos after the jump.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Waiitng For A Good One

While this guy might look like he's missing his Harley he's really just leaning against the fence surveying the herd for a good ride for the day. He'll be holding his lasso in one hand and the horses's headstall and bit in the other.
This will make a nice little scene but it would have been better had I moved his elbows back over the fence rail farther. It would have made him much more relaxed. Next time!!

More photos after the jump to the Gallery.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Chief Bear Claw

Here's another quick one. I started this yesterday after lunch and wrapped up the carving and burning just before lunch today so I have about 6 hours total into it so far and that includes the base. Some of you now you know how fast I work. Now, in no way does this reflect how much time I spend on every piece. This one just seemed to go together.
I'm trying something different here....a Bear Claw neckless. You'll note that the claws are missing! I'll add those once the piece is painted as I want the claws to be over the beaded strips but with the beads still clearly visible. I've attached a photo of the claws in a rough shape. Each will be carved and fitted into the cutouts once they're painted. Should be a neat effect and this ought to also be a very colorful piece.
I really enjoy doing Native Americans as there is so much color and possibilities for details. It's funny though, I'll do a bunch of them and then they'll just set on the Gallery shelf for months then BANG! they're all gone.
Okay...the painting is complete and I think the figure really turned out well. I spent about twice the time painting on this one as I did on carving it. But it was fun and the necklace really turned out just the way I thought it would.

Ol' Brushy Bill

Here is a little bust I did over the past couple of days. It was more an experiment in doing a head with a rather large mustache than anything else. We have a small woodcarvers group that meets once a week at the Grove Community Center and that's where I completed the head. Finished it up once I got home.
The eye glasses are made from wire...soldered and painted gold then inserted into holes. The neck medallion is made from wood but I used pounded wire for the leather tassels as I didn't want them to break off over time. I think this is a very important thing to remember for those of us that sell their work....Build as much strength into your pieces as you can so they'll stand up to handling, cleaning or any sort of abuse.
A friend made the comment that he looked like Teddy Roosevelt....hmmmmmm.....I'll have to remember that as I've always wanted to do a figure of him. The secret would be to get that toothy smile!
More photos in the Gallery!!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Sad End To A Bad Year

Now here is one sad Cowboy! You'd probably feel the same way if you received such a piece of paper in the mail. This piece was a lot of fun to do even though old Tex probably would have preferred being left in the chunk of wood he was born from.
I turned the milk can on the lathe and then whittled it to look carved. A few bullet holes and a couple of metal handles finished it up. The mailbox has all the required hardware...the flag and the metal door closure. Would have liked to have made the whole thing from tin so the front door could have been left open but just didn't have the time. Maybe in the future. The letter and the envelope were made from tin so they'd hold up over time.
There are lots of photos in the Gallery section.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Carving A Horse Head - Part 2

It's time to wrap this part of the horse project up. Along with the carving tips I'll give you a little lesson on horse anatomy that just might help you to understand just how much the inside of a thing can affect the outside.
There were several questions on the last post about how thick the head should be. With all the photos associated with this post you should have no trouble figuring that out on your own. Half the fun of doing something is figuring out how to do it.
In the very near future I'll continue this project by moving on to the body of the horse. So if that post is not up when your finished with the head just set it aside for a bit.
Again, there are a lot of photos in the gallery so let's get started.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Carving A Horse Head - Part 1

As Norm always says...."Before we start, let's take a moment and talk about shop safety!" This valid advice applies to woodcarving too so make sure your tools are sharp and you have a carving glove on along with a thumb protector. In the accompanying photos you'll see that I'm suited up. It's the only way to carve!
As you can see by in the photo you will need a basswood block 3-1/2" by 4" and at least 2" thick. Lay the head out with the grain running up and down. While the one block looks a little's not! It's just thicker. I will cut out two different blanks to show you a little trick to give a future project a little more interest. You will also note that on that thicker block I've moved the ears just a bit. This will make this horse just a little different than the other. No fun in carving the same thing over and over.
I've included a few reference photos of our horses that I will refer to as we go along. There will be lots of comments along with the photos so let's get started.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Carving A Horse Head

Some of you have been after me to do a horse and I've been giving a lot of thought on just how to go about it to keep it fun but to also make it a little easier to complete. So....we'll start with just the horse's head and expand the project from there.
Now this is a caricature carving but before you begin I'd suggest doing some research on a real horse to see just how the muscle structure works. Whatever you do, don't rush into this project before you have a good understanding just what a horse is. I think you're going to be surprised at just how easy this project will be if you do these things.
I've included a little pattern cutout that I use. It's about 3-1/2" across the head and neck. I'd suggest you lay the pattern out on a 2" thick piece of basswood. I'd also suggest you wait until the next installment of this project to see the best way to go about establishing grain direction plus a couple of other tips to make your animal more natural looking.
Once we get the head laid out and carved we'll move on to the body and hopefully end up with a complete horse.
A few more photos in the Gallery.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Will Rogers

Back in 2000 I was approached by the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma to do a number of carvings. As part of that project I did a carving of Will as a young cowhand on his Father's Dog Iron Ranch outside of Oologah, just up the road from Claremore. While the other pieces were sold in the Museum's gift shop the carving of young Will was displayed in the main hall up until the end of last year. As there was a change in the Museum's management, with a new Director taking over at the first of the year, I have a feeling that Will packed his bags and left with the old Director. Whatever happened to him I hope he's appreciated. Still, it was nice while it lasted to see my work displayed so prominently in such a prestigious place. The Charlie Russell bronze of Will on his horse was within sight of him. How's that for company?

While in Claremore today for another western event, my wife and I stopped by the Memorial to do a little research for a new piece I'd like to do. I managed to snap a few photos to use as go-bys and I've put them in the Gallery section of this Blog should you be interested. Will Rogers was really a fasinating person, especially as he started out not far from here in Jay. We've been truly lucky to have a close relationship with the Memorial. We were invited to bring our Chuckwagon to the Dog Iron for Will's 200th Birthday celebration a couple years ago. Serving biscuits and hot coffee to most of his living relatives was a real treat. It's such things that make my interest in woodcarving continue to grow and, most importantly, continue to be so much fun.

Just Wondering....

It's been just about a year now since I posted my first Blog entry. I guess this experiment is sucessful as I've talked to a number of people from across the woodcarving spectrum who have mentioned how much they enjoy following what I'm up to along with the tips I provide. I can also tell just how much traffic the Blog gets by the number counts on the photographs in the Gallery section. There is one thing that I would like to see a lot more of though and that's comments in the comment section. If you have a question about a Blog entry just ask and I'll try and give you a quick response. If you're just visiting to check out what's new how about a brief note to let me know what you think? That way I can see just what you're interested in and can try and aim my upcoming projects into those areas.

So, thanks for your interest over the past year. Here's looking to a productive year ahead.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Frowning Cowboy - The Head`

Last night, while watching a real good modern western titled "Don't Come Knocking", starring Sam Shepard, I made a little sketch of a frowning Cowboy which ended up looking like it might make a good character. This morning, after cleaning out the horse stalls, carrying hay and picking hooves I went over to the shop and cut out a blank. As this is a little different from my normal heads I thought you might like to come along for the ride to see how I went about carving it out.

I won't put any descriptions next to the photos as there are about 40 of them and they are large enough for you to see the cuts I made as the project progressed along. Should you have any questions just drop me a note in the comment section and I'll try and answer it.

April 25....Okay! Here he is all painted but not in a very good mood. Evidently his trip down to the Sale Barn didn't work out like he thought it wood.

Lots of photos in the Gallery.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Global Warming

With the Global Warming issue in the news I couldn't pass up the opportunity of addressing it with a scene. I did a similar piece years ago titled "Back Draft" but this one should be much improved. At least I hope it is.

The main body of the stove was turned on a lathe with the legs and stack added. I hollowed out the interior so the viewer can look in and see the red coal. The coffee pot is green at the moment with automotive primer. The coal bucket has some jagged gravel added to simulate coal chunks. There is a square of tin beneath the stove to catch any falling embers. I blackened it with gun blueing and then painted it to look old and worn. The floor is basswood scribed and carved to look like a plank floor. I used the technique of adding a smaller circle of wood beneath it painted black to pop the piece off the oak base.

The figure is dressed in his well used long-johns and a pair of Monkey Socks that could also use some repair. I made the glasses out of bent wire and will also blacken them. I still have to come up with something to fill the floor area on the backside of the stove. Another carver suggested a pair of old boots which sounds pretty good.

This is a fairly large piece, standing about 15" tall. It should be pretty colorful once it's painted.
Page 2........
Okay! Here he is complete. Turned out pretty good. There is still the problem of the open floor space on the back side of the stove. I did some mockups of an ash bucket and pan but when put in place they and the stove overpowered the figure. Will have to keep giving this a little thought. It actually looks pretty good the way it is but that area will continue to haunt me until I can resolve it somehow.
I really like the Monkey Socks. I bought some of those years ago thinking they must be the ticket for work socks as they've been around for so long. Unfortunately, they kept falling down! Sure look good painted on a woodcarving though!!!

More photos in the gallery!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Magua, The Huron

With the Kansas City Woodcarving Show coming up the end of March I've been working on a new bust to enter in competition. The other day I was doing some web-surfing and came across Wes Studi's webpage. If you have seen the movie Last of the Mohicians he played Magua, The Sly Fox, a Canadian Huron. The photos of Wes in the character of Magua were just what I was looking for.

This bust is a little larger than normal as I wanted to be able to do a lot of "attachments" and a smaller version wouldn't have been large enough to support all I have in mind. With the base it stands about 10 inches tall. While the photo shows the carving basically finished I still have to add some more feathers, a nose piece and maybe a couple more rings in the ears. I really want this thing to "pop" when the Judge walks by. I spent the afternoon painting the head and believe me when I say it's definitely going to "pop"!

The feathers will be painted to resemble Turkey tail feathers and there will hopefully be a few Blue Jay feathers added to his topnot. The medallion on the chest gorget will have a peace medal in the center with a couple smaller medals on each side. Once I get him painted I will post the completed photos.

Wes Studi's Website:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Let It Snow!

Believe it or not I finally got around to finishing this character! I didn't take photos of my painting the figure as we have covered this in other posts. If you have any problems with your paint job just drop me a comment and I'll try and answer any question.

The associated photos pretty well explain the process of splattering white paint all over you carving so I don't really need to cover it here. It's an easy process the only real difficulty being getting up the courage to actually do it! But, I've got faith in you so go ahead and flip those bristles!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Woodchopper

This has been a real fun project. I wanted to create a carving showing a Cowboy, who's stuck out in some Line Shack during a cold winter, doing what they surely must have considered the most important chore. I also wanted to try and create the look of pretty deep snow. I have done snow in the past but not this deep and I think it turned out looking pretty good.

I dressed him in my Carhartt jacket, detailed right down to the emblem on the front chest pocket. Unfortunately, the snow storm has pretty well covered it up. Oh well....guess that would have happened in realife. I added a little 1/8" wafer of paneling between the snow and the oak base to give it a revealing break. The snow base you see is a second-effort as the first looked too much like he was standing on a marshmellow. Even looking at it now it sort of looks like a cookie.

I had originally considered having the bandana tied around the hat with the brim pulled down over the ears. However, in trying that out on myself I found that this really gave no protection from the cold so I doubt if they would have done that. A bandana wrapped over the head and ears works good at keeping out the wind and cold.

I hope you enjoy looking this fella over as much as I did creating him. Lots of photos after the jump. Now let's let that wrangler get inside and stoke the stove!

Friday, January 26, 2007

"At The Dentist"

This is my Single Figure Caricature competition piece for 2007, at least until it's sold. Had hoped to show it at the Mesa, Arizona show in February but Mother Nature had different plans.

I spent a lot of time on the details. The glass window in the door is a piece of Lexan that I buffed to make it milky. The bullet holes were drilled and then white paint was used to create the spider-web effect of the bullets impact. A neat trick I'll use again. I created the Diploma on the computer and did the same with the calender. If you really strain your eyes you can read everything on the Diploma. All the other signs were made from thin strips of wood, carved and hand-lettered.

To make the coat stand I used my own gun and holster hanging on a peg as a model, the same with the jacket. When doing things like this you just can't beat working from the actual article. The spilt Pain Killer was made from drops of epoxy painted with Amber Shellac and then coated with epoxy again. Makes the liquid look real thick and gooey which is just want I wanted.

I did the figure first and then built the floor, wall and base. The chair is all pegged together just like a real one. Four pegs in the feet hold the chair and figure to the floor. The figure is pegged to the chair.

It takes a lot of planning to do something like this but once the "room" is built the little details just seem to start showing up. You have to be careful though as too many details will cause the scene to collaspe in on itself to the point that the original concept will be weakened.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Drop me a comment below and let me know what you think.

More photos after the jump to the Gallery.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Let's Carve This Fella - Part 3...Making The Base!

Although I did an earlier post on making a Snow base, I've come up with a much simpler way of doing the same thing, eliminating the need to use epoxy resin.

In the photo I show all the materials I used to accomplish this project. They are:

Krylon Fusion Outdoor Furniture Paint. White.
Dupli-Color Spray Primer. Grey
Testors Dull Cote. A flattening spray.
Basswood 1/2"

That outdoor furniture paint works great as it dries pretty fast. It will take several coats of it to get a real smooth finish. Make sure you wait till one coat dries before you spray on the next.

What we're trying to accomplish here is to get a piece of Basswood to look like properly scaled snow. I've seen some of the snow texture material available in craft stores or catalogs but they just don't look right to me. To look good the snow has to look in scale with the figure. When you reduce it to the scale of this figure it would be very smooth without any visible detail. Following the steps outlined will give you that effect. The secret to accomplish this is to sand, sand, sand, and then to sand again!

I didn't cover making the Red Oak Base as we did that in another post. So lets makes some snow!!