Sunday, December 30, 2012

Exotic Wood

This month I had my first encounter with exotic wood.  I've 'seen' exotic woods before but this is the first time I've turned it into chips, dust, and art.  There was much to learn...

The Wood
I was asked to carve a piece of Purpleheart.  "OK.  I can do that."  After a brief moment of 'sellers remorse', I Googled purpleheart wood.  Google showed me lots of pretty photos of deeply colored purple boards, boxes and furniture.  It was exciting!  But before making the worlds first purple salmon, I searched Google a second time.  This time for 'purpleheart toxicity'.

The Danger
Everyone knows it's not good for you to breath dust.  Fewer people know that some wood dust can be poisonous and even cause an allergic reaction.  As for purpleheart wood, the most common reactions include eye and skin irritation. It's has also been reported to cause nausea!  I HATE nausea!!  To make matters worse, I learned that even the fumes are toxic so there will be no color added with my torch.

The Process
Sufficiently warned, I prepared to carve.  In addition to the regular task of laying out the design, I put my safety plan to practice.  Gloves, safety glasses, respirator (not a dust mask), and a fan pushing air (fumes) across my work area.  Naturally all of this is happening out of doors.

The Result
This is one very hard wood!  It chips and splinters like Red Cedar or Douglas Fir but is as hard as dried out Oak.  To get a nice finish in something so hard requires sanding.  Sanding generates poison dust.  I'm not getting paid enough! ;-)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tree Stump Beautification

Cowboy & Eagle Americana
Lately I have been very busy with tree stump carving! I love carving stumps because of their permanent location.  I also dread the logistics of carving away from my studio.  After all, carving a tree stump with a chainsaw is a lot different than meeting friends to carve a hunk of cottonwood bark.  For one thing, the tools are a lot bigger.

One of these stump carvings begins with visiting the location to examine the stump.  Once I figure out what the customer 'really' wants me to carve, a few things have to be looked at before coming up with a price.  Such as:
Two bears, squirrel & raccoon.
Is the wood going to cooperate or is it likely to splinter, crack, and fall apart?
Is is rotten or solid?
Will the design fit inside of the stump?
Is scaffold needed?
And how far must I drive by the time I bid the job, carve the figure, oil the surface, and return later to seal it with urethane?

Goldfish Totem
Gotta figure those hidden expenses too...  Tools have to be packed  into the truck before the job then unpacked, cleaned, sharpened, and maintained to be ready for the next project.  "Time is money."

Then there is the schedule.  "You want it by the weekend?  HA HA HA HA HA!!!"  I'll do my best but unless you can control the weather, there is no guarantee.  Locally, wind causes more delays for me than does the rain.

Eagle & Salmon
Now that we have agreed on the price, what happens? You pay me, of course!  Then I start the "tree stump beautification."  :)

What can go wrong?  Mostly minor things...
If the job is large, the big hunks of wood removed, as well as scaffold feet, will dent or otherwise damage your lawn.  (A small price to pay for a large piece of art.)
Spontaneous design changes occur due to flaws and foreign objects in the wood. I've found bullets, nails, screws, spikes, staples, barbed wire, ceramic insulators and even a wrench buried under the bark of a tree!

However, the majority of what can go wrong occurs after the carving is complete and I have moved on.  It is the owners responsibility to protect and maintain their property (artwork).  I have provided a short video on caring for chainsaw carvings. To see the video, click here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scotch Anyone?

I recently carved a large Scotty Dog from a locally harvestes black walnut log. This was commissioned as a memorial for the customers friend and former co-worker.  As the deceased friend was employed by Highlands Middle School for 23 years, the massive sculpture was installed in the Highlands library earlier this week.  He was promptly names as  you can read about in the school blog.

Friday, October 12, 2012


It's not even Halloween yet.  Not even close to Thanksgiving.  The Election hasn't passed!  Still, retailers like Wal-mart and Lowes are offering Christmas decorations for sale here at the start of October.  Wow!

In the past, I have not made "holiday" themed carvings so this is my first Santa sculpture.  I like the Old World type and have created this for my first Santa attempt.  He's 30" tall, carved from Sycamore, and finished with oil based paints and spar urethane.

He's listed in the For Sale area at

Election Symbol?

It's almost election time and while the elephant is the symbol of the Republican Party, what I've carved here is more of a Mouse-a-fant.  Or an elephant with mouse ears... 

Carved from cured Sycamore and finished with boiled linseed oil & urethane spar, this critter stands 24" tall and is being offered for $200 on 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Orca have landed.

I have FINALLY stopped sanding, spraying, mounting, unmounting, and otherwise fussing over this sculpture!  Today I delivered it to the You & I Framing & Gallery, 214 W 1st Ave., Kennewick, WA. 

I put a lot of myself and a great deal of time into producing this piece.  Please go have a look.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Killer Sculpture ;-)

Nearing completion is my 3 part sculpture of an orca cow and calf mounted on "coral".   All 3 pieces are Sycamore wood.  The wood for the 2 orca (actually 7 pieces of wood) are all from one massive log segment.  The coral carving is a multi forked piece that's been laying around here for years.  I'm glad to FINALLY find the perfect use for it.

The orca have been sanded glassy smooth and are getting several coats of spar urethane.  Soon they will be mounted on the coral using stainless steel hardware.

These are not yet sold and are destined for display at the You & I Framing and Art Gallery in downtown Kennewick, WA.  Other carvings available can be found on my newly redesigned website at

Thursday, July 12, 2012

This Saturday in Kennewick...

I will be giving a Chainsaw Carving Demonstration and will be selling my carvings in Kennewick!
Demo Carves at 10 am and 2 pm under the big tent :-) 

Date: Saturday -- July 14th, 2012
Time: 8 am -- 4 pm
Location: City Church -- 4624 W. 10th Ave. -- Kennewick, WA 99336 

New items will be available.  So new I don't have a photo yet but I'm calling them "Plank Art."

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I've been working on this stump at Timbers Apartments in Richland, WA.  I lost 4 days to rain and wind so when good weather hit, I dove in to finish my "modern story pole."

In this photo, the pole's shadow areas have been burned and painted before adding 2 coats of boiled linseed oil.  The oil soaked into this dry wood very quickly which provide plenty of protection in the years to come.  When conditions are right, I will seal the surface with a single coat of Spar Urethane.

Just 40 feet away from the story pole is a second pine stump to be carved. My original plan for this stump was to carve several life size squirrels searching for acorns. The more I pondered the design, the more I though it would be over powered by the story pole.  So I upgraded the design.

Stump number 2 is now topped by a giant squirrel :) This big fellow is holding a very large acorn while looking at the acorn garden lamp to his left.

Today {Thursday} I made good progress on the squirrel in spite of being rained out by 1:00 p.m.

Rained out isn't "down and out"!  At home, under the shelter of my studio canopy, I carved a new bear which is ready for the detail stage of his creation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rain, rain go away!

I've got work to do! With all this rain and cooler weather it's a wonder anything gets done. Shown is my 90% completed "modern totem pole" at the Timbers Apartments in Richland, WA.  My doctor tells me to not use electric power tools in the rain so this one is progressing very slowly :(

Forty feet away is stump number 2.  Squirrels and acorns are planned for that stump.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Flat Fish Anyone?

While carving wood with a chainsaw is most often done "in the round", flat carvings have certain advantages. Since these flat carvings are made from slabs, they require less wood, are lighter weight, and they can be hung on your wall or fence. They're also both easier and cheaper to ship than in the round carvings.

Local furniture builder, Jody White, ordered a few of my salmon carvings to decorate the area around his swimming pool. Or so I thought...  By the time I delivered the order, Jody was busy building a new cedar fence for his garden. My salmon just happened to fit in the top panels of the new fence and now decorate the street view side of his own artwork :-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Functional Art

How about something functional in a wood carving? Wood is a favorite material for furniture and furnishings so why not carve those? Or turn carvings into those items?

This little 'sign bear' was a commissioned project.  As occasionally happens, he was just too cute to be left as a simple bear... The client liked my suggestion to upgrade him to a lamp and as soon as we agreed on the price increase, I went to work.

"Lamping" a bear is a fairly simple task thanks to the do-it-yourself lamp kits available from hardware stores. Routing the lamp cord through the relief kerf eliminates the need for drilling a hole the entire length.  Pretty much all that's required is to carve a flat surface for the lamp base, drill the proper sized hole to join with the kerf, them assemble according to instructions.

For actual furniture, Big Wood is required!
I make multiple styles of carved benches and chairs but the full benches {those with a back to lean against} are the most popular.

These benches are heavy both in weight and "wow factor". They can be disassembled for moving {hand truck required} and, like all wooden products require regular maintenance if kept out doors.

Roman soldiers are said to have used the Keyed Chair.
This ancient design is probably the first portable lawn chair used by mankind. While heavier than an aluminum tube  & webbing chaise, these are very durable and the smaller version is great for fishing or sitting around the campfire.

The design is simple and very effective. Like your chaise lounger, it folds compactly for convenient storage.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Show Time in Kennewick this weekend.

Chainsaw carving demo and general artistic mayhem are happening Saturday and Sunday at Tri-Tech on the corner of Kellogg and Metaline streets in Kennewick, WA.  Chainsaw carving will be 'ongoing' throughout the weekend from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.  Carvings and sculptures will be offered for sale at the "Big Top" {see photo} as well as indoors.

This "chair" will be on display. 
Admission to the juried art show is $3 which gives you access to all the competition pieces, a chance to vote for Peoples Choice award, and all the vendors selling books, tools and materials for wood carving and pyrography. I think there will be a workshop or two as well but don't quote me on that...

I'll have lots of bears as well as turtles, cowboy boots and other door stops for sale. My biggest piece is a huge bench featuring mirrored bears priced at $3,000.  I accept Cash, credit cards, gold, silver, guns, or ammo by the case for payment.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Battery Powered Chainsaw?

Yep. Thanks to Lithium-Ion battery technology, we have entered the age of battery powered chainsaws.

My first thought, when hearing of this new technological leap, was "Why?" Gasoline powered saws deliver plenty of power and can be refueled in only a minute, and they're highly portable. Hydraulic powered saws offer power, never run out of power, are less loud than gasoline saws and they emit no exhaust fumes...

What advantage could a battery offer?  Hard to imagine...

Well,,, today I received a loaner Stihl MSA 160 C-BQ STIHL Lithium-Ion Chain Saw from my local Stihl dealer.  Over the next 2 weeks I intend test, use, learn about and report on this new piece of equipment.  I'll be carving logs into art with battery power!  :-)

Video, thanks to a GoPro Hero, will be part of my review / report so expect a few links to YouTube in my next few posts.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Good bye holidays!

Great Horned Owl / English Walnut
The holiday season has FINALLY past and I can now get back to carving for fun and inventory. Holiday commission work is great for bringing in money but commissions have their down sides.

For starters, when I'm carving what the customer want's, I am not carving what I want to carve. Poor me, you're thinking? Well, an artist needs to be satisfied by the work in order to be creative and carving to order is rarely satisfying. That is unless the customer brings their own log and says, "Carve whatever you want to." Like that's going to happen!

But that's exactly what happened with this English Walnut... I was feeling an owl as I approached the log but was mid-way through the carving before I decided it was a horned owl. I doubt the species mattered to the customer because they loved the piece :-)

Bluto 2
With all of the commissions done, it's time to have some fun!  We have a mix breed bulldog with a blue merle color pattern.  Yesterday was his day to be carved.  He's short, thick, has a really big head and lots of spots.  I choose a log as stocky as "Bluto" himself for this "Bluto 2" sculpture :-)

 This may be a little more of an exaggeration than a true likeness but I expect it to be decorating our house or yard for a long time.

But business is business so the next bit of fun had to be something to sell.  A beaver sounds fun...

The Buck Toothed Beaver
Today I set-up a taller than typical sycamore log to carve this little beaver.  He's 38" tall, including the draped down tail, and his teeth are big enough to say they're buck teeth. ;-)  What really made this fellow fun to carve is the sign he is standing above which reads, "WELCOME To Our Dam House"

I suppose that's an appropriate greeting from a beaver.

WELCOME To Our Dam House