Posts tagged ‘carving’

#47 Lucet

Some time ago, I came across an online image of a Viking line winder. You can find an image of the specific find here: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/511440101403969955/. Falling somewhat in love with the image, I decided to make lucet with similar markings. So I prepared a nice piece of beef bone and here’s the finished product at roughly half the size of the original find.

Bone lucet based on a linewinder found at Sømhovd, Norway

Bone lucet based on a linewinder found at Sømhovd, Norway

 

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#46 Wooden Spoon

This was carved for an Arts and Sciences competition at the Stegby Feast of Friendship this year for an item for a feasting kit. I was lazy, I didn’t write up any documentation to go with the entry, so I lost to an unadorned Viking era horn spoon with awesome amounts of documentation. I’ve been asked to run a collegia on carving for Riverhaven, but I’m not really sure what I would talk about. Carving is what it is… you take stuff away until you have what you’re aiming for or until something breaks.

Mermaid Spoon

Mermaid spoon

This spoon was made in stages. I knew what basic profile I wanted it to be, so I drew that onto the block of wood (which by the way is acacia). This was using a hand saw with a cylindrical blade. Then I cut the profile from the other direction. I cheated with this one… I used a cutting disk on a dremel.

Spoon bowls are annoying to carve out. I started by hand, got sick of that, then used the dremel, and eventually finished off with a gouger once I had it to almost the right depth.

After a fair amount of sanding, I had a shape I was pleased with, at which point I started worrying about details. I carved striations into the hair, individual fingers, and used a small gouger to mark her tail with scales.

Closer image of the mermaid's hair on the spoon

Closer image of the mermaid’s hair on the spoon

The reverse of the spoon shows that she has breasts.

The reverse shows the feature most often attributed to mermaids…

 

 

This closeup shows detail of the tail's scales

Spoon detail of the tail

I am a little disappointed that I encountered a couple of borer holes in the course of carving, but as I didn’t come across them until fairly late in the piece, I decided there was nothing to do about it, and set to polishing. That was the end of my work on the spoon prior to its entry into the competition.

At this stage, I’ve decided I need to continue work on my mermaid. I haven’t done a lot of work with wood before, so the polishing has been mainly hard work and very little in the way of cutting compounds or sealants as I didn’t want to run the risk of contaminating the wood. Using the spoon once has convinced me that I need to seal the wood before using it again. So it’s time for me to look at food-safe options.

#45 Antler Needlecase

At the Abbey Medieval Festival, I managed to pick up an antler. I’ve never worked with antler before, and I’ve wanted to try it for a while.

Logistically, I had never really considered the fact that antler is made of bone, not of horn. This is a fairly important distinction when carving something, as bone is spongy on the inside. This immediately put paid to a number of ideas I had regarding said carvings, as much of what is inside the antler is useless for making anything out of. However, the tip of the antler is quite useful for my first project: a needlecase.

I cut the tip of the antler off at what seemed a reasonable distance, then cut another smaller section in parallel to the first cut. I hollowed out the tip using a drill, then with a rotary tool I carved the lid so it would sit inside the needlecase.

A few carefully placed holes for the hinge and clasp were the last bits. Then I polished it up and tied on the cotton hinge and clasp.

Antler needlecase

Antler needlecase

 

Checking back in…

It’s been quite some time since I blogged here, and I haven’t been going to many events due (mostly) to time constraints, but that doesn’t mean that all has been silent on the A&S front. This being AS 49, I decided I need to get up and moving on my 50 things project, and to do this, I need to get up to date with my list. I previously was at Breadth challenge #27, so here’s my list continuing on:

28. My songbook has now expanded to include 55 songs, some of which are period and some not. This has been a depth challenge for me (and will continue to be ongoing… there are a lot of songs available  and a lot of pages in my songbook which are yet to be filled in.) I’ve got a YouTube channel where I’m gradually adding content. Due in part to bad speakers, another part to poor microphones, and a third part to the fallibility of my vocal cords, the sound is not always the best, but I believe it’s probably sufficient for other bards to pick up a tune from what I’ve posted. You can listen to me on this channel:   https://www.youtube.com/user/RevKristine

29. My wedding dress. You’ve already seen the fabric, here and here… the final product was entirely hand stitched to my own design. It didn’t entirely work the way I wanted, due majorly to my weight (and size) jumping all over the place while I was making the dress. However, I’m (mostly) satisfied with what I made, and apart from some minor freakouts on the day and the groom having a broken leg (that’s a story unto itself), the wedding went well. I’ve since used the dress at an event, and now that I am fatter, it fits me a lot better.

My wedding dress, from my own design.

My wedding dress, from my own design.

30. My wedding cake. This was made entirely of gingerbrede with marzipan icing. I will admit to buying the pink flowers on the cake, but am particularly proud of my own marzipan roses.

Wedding cake made on gingerbrede and marzipan

Wedding Cake

31. A painted buckler. I carried it into the wedding. For those who are curious, the text on the buckler is not period. It is, instead, made of Tengwar and written in Sindarin (one of the Elvish languages from J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth stories). The text reads “loving twin souls” and “eternity”. Note: I did not make the buckler (which was rehomed to us from a heavy fighter who could no longer fight due to chronic shoulder injury), I simply painted it.

 

 

A painted buckler

A painted buckler

32. My wedding jewellery. Namely a strand of  black pearls, strung on silk, using a  toggle clasp.

A photo of me which displays my wedding jewellery

A photo of me which displays my wedding jewellery

 

 

 

33. A naalbinded phone pouch.

Naalbinded pouch

Naalbinded pouch for my love’s phone

34. Turks-head knot balls. I gifted these to Stegby a while back so the canton can build a children’s play box. I don’t currently have a photo.

35. Naalbinded bag. I make a lot of bags and pouches, it seems. This one became my token display area.

36. Bone pendant. This was a wedding gift for a couple of friends. This pendant was quite challenging due to the intricacy of the design.

Bone pendant featuring knotwork

37. Cider. My dear husband has taken to brewing his own cider, and so I have dabbled alongside him. Chief among my accomplishments is a dry pomegranate cider (yum).

38. Mead. I managed to find a period recipe for “weak mead”, which I have used, drank, then used further as a base for…

39. I am unsure what to name this drink. It may be considered a melomel, or it may be considered an ale: I used a weak mead recipe as a base and added barley. The result was dry, with a lemony flavour and a lingering but not unpleasant aftertaste in the back of the throat. I may try it again sometime.

40. Sekanjabin. This is a period Middle Eastern drink of  vinegar and sugar, heated until it becomes syrupy, and used as a cordial. I use red wine vinegar, but my father tells me it’s quite nice using apple cider vineger.

41. Embroidered handkerchiefs. Carrying tissues around at an event is (while convenient) something that detracts from authenticity. To this end, I have embroidered some handkerchiefs so that I’m not dropping tissues whenever I happen to have a runny nose at an event.

42. Illumination.  This was the product of an A&S class at this year’s Great Northern War.

Illumination

Illumination

43. Pilgrim bag for my father. Having at some stage read about Elizabethan era stitching techniques, and having a father who is about ready to entrust himself to the SCA and who accompanied me to Great Northern War, I decided he needed a pilgrim bag to put his feasting gear into. You can see the bag in the background of the below image. All fabric edges have been folded into a hem and secured with a running stitch, then seams have been whipstitched. I decided that, as the fabric I was using was unbleached calico and the stitches would be visible anyway, I would make the stitches become a feature of the bag. All stitching has been done in blue. I also followed this pattern with the strap, making the strap a long tube and placing the seam for the strap uppermost and in the middle rather than on one of the edges. I think this will probably add long term strength to the strap also.

Dad

My father. Note the bag on the table next to him.

That’s it for the moment. I’m so close to my 50! I do have a few projects on the go at the moment… one crewel work embroidery, a splitstitch embroidery, a blackwork collar, a girdlebook, and a carved spoon, which means that once they’re done, I have only two more items to manage for my list.

 

On Bone

Bone is lovely stuff.  I fell in love with it at the first SCA demo my partner took me to.  There was this wonderful lady who had some remarkable bits of carved bone on display, and we got into a prolonged discussion about the merits of bone carving as an art form.  I came away from that demo with a desire to try it, at least once in my life.

The first thing I found out was that it’s not that easy to get information about it on the internet.  I guess I’m a lazy researcher, if I can’t find it on Google, I pretty much won’t look much further unless I have a really good reason to.  So, after a few hours looking at sites that were only marginally connected to what I was trying to find out, I figured the best way to learn was to reinvent the wheel.

I didn’t do it all alone.  I’d had some good discussions with some SCAdians about bone and horn before I started, so I knew there were health risks involved.  If you’re reading this as a future bone carver, please note: there are SERIOUS health risks involved.  Bone is wonderful stuff, but when you carve it, you get powdered bone.  Powdered bone is not good to breathe.  If it gets into your lungs, it stays there.  It’s too heavy to cough out.  Powdered bone can also scratch corneas.  ALWAYS use safety goggles and a decent face mask that will stop fine particulate matter.  Keep your carving area well ventilated.  And, where possible, run a vacuum cleaner close to your work to suck up excess bone powder.  No piece of carving is worth you contracting white lung, or going blind.  On top of that, hand protection is a must too.  If you’re working scrimshaw, you’re going to be using lots of sharp implements that can easily slip.  If you’re using a rotary tool, not only do you have slippage to worry about, you’ve got to watch that you take frequent breaks.  The vibration of the tool can cause a problem known as white finger.  Use carving gloves, and don’t run your rotary tool for hours on end. 

Preparation

When I first set out to learn, I decided to go the whole hog.  The cheapest way, I figured, was to buy pet bones and prepare them myself.  I had been advised that boiling the bones was a good way to get the nasties off, and that a little bit of detergent into the water would help to break down the connective tissue.  That sounded awesome to my scientifically inclined mind, and made a lot of sense.  So I picked up a couple of bags of offcuts marked for pets from the local butcher, shoved them into a huge pot of water with a bit of detergent in it, chucked it onto the stove and sat down to wait for the magic to happen.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Some pieces of bone were ready almost immediately, and these were carefully removed with tongs as they became free of meat and marrow.  Others took much longer.  After twelve hours of topping up the water so it didn’t boil dry, I got rather sick of the smell and the heat, so I stopped.  There were still bone pieces with connective tissue adhered to them.  The theory behind the detergent is all well and good, but in practise, it’s not that great after all.

Translucency due to fat in the bone

Using offcuts wasn’t that great either.  I had a pile of different pieces of bone, but not all of them were usable, and they were all rather thin (<2mm).  I managed a lot of nice sized flat pieces early on, but they were fragile.  Boiling them for so long also managed to produce some strange colourations, as in some cases the marrow seeped into the pores of the bone, and in others the fat turned the bone yellowish or patchy and almost translucent .

  Later on I changed the source of my bone, having found a pet supply store nearby.  It’s marvellous what opportunities expanding your horizons can provide you with!  I began paying a bit more for my bones, but getting more bang for my buck, when I switched to using shin.

My mate, Jean the Hornmaster, told me I should only be boiling the bones long enough for the marrow to go nice and sloppy, so I did just that.  Forget the detergent, forget boiling for hours on end, I put the water to the boil, popped in my new bones, and roughly a half hour later I retrieved them.  I gave them a flush with cold water, poked out any marrow that was still stuck in the middle, and voila!  I had some lovely, white bone that was roughly 6 – 7mm thick throughout.

This carving clearly shows marrow that has seeped into the pores of the bone.

Carving

My first foray into bone carving was a small piece of scrim, using only a needle.

Mermaid, carved on beef bone, coloured with oils.

I chose a mermaid, as all my somewhat limited forays into internet research on scrimshaw had led me to the conclusion that “true authenticity” would be best upheld by a nautical theme. (N.B. I was rather precious at the time.  I have since relaxed somewhat).

It took me forever to carve this.  Well, maybe not forever, but a number of hours.  I think I can put this down to not yet realising something every scrimshander needs to know.

Bone is softer when it’s wet.

Dry bone is horribly hard and brittle, and doesn’t take a needle very well at all.  But soak that bone in water, and it’s hard not to mark it.

Also, don’t use a needle, or a pin, or any other sharp thing that’s really small.  Your hands will cramp up terribly.  Try a splinter probe, or a really sharp awl.  And don’t forget the carvers gloves, or some other sort of hand guard designed for carvers.  You will end up stabbing yourself, no matter how careful you are.

 For the record, using oil paint to colour my work was not an original idea.  I read somewhere (I forget where, but I’m pretty sure it was a tertiary source with no references) that oil paints was a common way of making scrim stand out on the bone.  I forget which particular period this referred to, but it was within a time period covered by SCA.  So I went ahead and painted my work with oil paints that may very well be synthetic tones (LOL) with the gusto that only the very freshest of SCAdians can muster, not documenting any of my research at all.  The older me winces.  It may very well be a period practice, but I haven’t seen anything about it since.  Please, if anyone has more information about the historic use of oils to colour scrimshaw, please leave a comment with sources, I’d be very interested to follow up on that one.

After this first attempt, I pretty much gave up on using the old fashioned methods and turned to a rotary tool (also known as a Dremel, for those who use well known brand names to signify the generic item).  It used to belong to my partner.  It now, through use and addition of added extras, belongs to me by default.

Originally my rotary tool had a flexible arm that I could attach bits to.  I don’t any more.  It seems they get hot very quickly (I melted the plastic on the outside of it within the first week of use), and they’re rather fragile (the second week, I don’t know how, but the inner drive shaft snapped).  Since then I’ve been working without the flexi-arm.  This offers some unfortunate limitations to angles I’m able to reach with my bits, but them’s the breaks.

A rotary tool allows you to do amazing things with bone very quickly.  I’ve found that using dry bone with a rotary tool is better than using wet bone, as wet bone tends to gum up the bits very quickly.  Also, if you’re using  a rotary tool on bone, use a low speed setting.  Bone burns very easily, and when it does, it turns a very unpleasant orange colour.  I actually learned this from attempting to buff an early piece of bone I was preparing for a local A&S competition.  Faster does not necessarily equate to quicker.  Unfortunately, the burn was in a place I couldn’t sand out, so I had to resort to hiding it, by inking the entire piece in black and rubbing off highlights.   My piece won, but I will always recall the shame of hiding the unsightly burn.

Polishing

Bone takes a polish very nicely with a polishing wheel.  I’m quite fortunate to have a large grinder in my workshop, with a rag disk attached, but you can get similar polishing implements that attach to drills, and tiny polishing bits for rotary tools are available from most hardware stores.

Polishing your bone will show you exactly where all your lumps and bumps are.  If you’re using a rotary tool for your carving, this is where your little stone bits come in.  Work carefully over your rough spots with your fine grinding bits until it comes up nicely.  I say carefully, because it’s very easy to remove pieces of detail.  Then polish.  You should be able to get a mirror shine when you’re done.

Polishing compounds will help you to get a nice finish, but the bone will generally pick up a tinge of the compound colour.  It doesn’t always buff completely out, especially in areas of high detail.  For this reason, I’ve stopped using a green cutting compound.  It simply looked wrong.  I generally use a brown, however I’ve been told that white compounds exist which would be a better choice.  If you do happen to get cutting compound into prominent, hard-to-buff places, there’s a simple solution.  Brush your carved piece rather briskly with hot water and a soft toothbrush.  The plastic is softer than the bone, so it leaves your pattern and polish intact, while removing the coloured cutting wax.

If you’re working scrim without anything electrical, progressively finer sandpapers will do the trick, until you’re eventually buffing with a soft cloth.  The level of polish you’re going to get depends on your level of patience.

Hopefully this little how-to has been of help to those seeking the knowledge I had to find out the hard way.  Happy carving, everyone!

My latest piece, completed this morning.

Item #5: Ear spoon

I’ve run two market day stalls so far, and at each of them, a friend of mine, who happens to be all things Viking, has asked me about ear spoons.  I used to know where I could buy them by the box load, but that store shut down, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen them.

It just so happens that the Canton of Stegby has its annual Feast of Friendship coming up, and this year there is a Viking theme.  If you’re in Lochac I do encourage you to come, it’s a wonderful event and a great bunch of people.  You can find out more about them here:  http://lochac.sca.org/stegby/

They of course have an A&S competition, and among the items they have listed for competition is a Viking treasure necklace, so of course I set out immediately to find information on Viking jewellery.

I get distracted easily.  One minute I’m looking at pretty jewellery type things, the next I’m staring at an ornate Viking ear spoon, cast in bronze.  It was beautiful.  In fact, you can see it for yourself:  http://www.netvike.com/volundrviking/VV7005DETAILS.HTML

I’m not sure if the site is advertising their wares, or if it’s showing off well preserved pieces from archaeological digs, but I was immediately struck with the urge to carve that piece in bone.  I could even justify the effort, because I know someone who desperately wants an ear spoon.  So out came my dremel, and 2 hours later, voila!

Bone Ear Spoon

This bone ear spoon depicts a Valkyrie holding out a horn to offer to a dead warrior entering Valhalla. It is carved on beef bone.

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