From the Workshop - Part 7 archive

Thursday 18 July 2013

Ben Hawthorne takes his grandson for a walk in the country for a first-hand look at our wonderful wildlife

At last we have had a few days of weather more usual for Springtime. I don’t think I have ever seen so much snow for such a long period. The poor farmers in our part of the country have had an unbelievably awful winter and spring both for their crops and for their livestock. Let us hope we have seen the last of it for this year and can look forward to a decent summer.

Odd jobs

Because of the extremely cold weather I haven't spent much time out in my workshop as, even with my little woodburning stove going, it takes a fair while to get the place warm enough to stay out there for long.

As a result Mary has found me lots of jobs indoors that she has had on her 'honey do' list. I had been putting off fitting some shelves for her as she wanted them fitted to a studwork wall and, as the house is rather old, none of the timbers for the plasterboard are at reliable centres. I have tried using one of those wood and wire finding gadgets that are supposed to make a beeping noise when something is detected but it obviously hasn't been told what it is supposed to detect because it seems to beep when it feels like it.

We had an electrician in recently to fit some plugs and he used some very useful fittings that I hadn't seen before. They were a plastic or metal coarse screw threaded plug that you screw into the plasterboard and then screw whatever you want to fix into this plug. I tried using some in the workshop to hang up my garden tools and they are brilliant, so I decided to use them for Mary's shelves. They have been so successful that I have been all over the house to see if there are any more shelves that need fitting.

Country walks

We have had a couple of weeks now where the weather has been quite nice and this has coincided with Will being on school holiday for Easter so I decided to take him out for some walks in the country. He has become very interested in animals and birds so I thought that some first-hand information on the local wildlife might be of interest to him. He seemed very enthusiastic when I suggested it so he came over for a couple of days and we organised some walks through the woods near us to see what we could find. His school has been carrying out some projects on animals and he has a check list for those he has managed to see so, armed with his list and notepad and my camera, we set off into the unknown.

One thing about Will is that he can be very sensible when necessary and he is prepared to be very quiet when needed and to remain very still in order to study an animal or bird.

Vegetable carving

We found quite a number of different animals and birds to add to his list and, with his carving in mind, I also got him to try to sketch each one that he saw to add to his possible carving subjects. While these were not exactly works of art, they did give an idea of the general shape of the animal in question.

He was very keen to follow this up as soon as possible after we got home but there was no way that we could do any sort of woodcarving quickly enough for him, so I tried to think of an alternative way of getting the shapes we wanted.

Mary was getting the dinner ready while we were thinking and, as she was cutting up the vegetables with Will helping, she suggested that he might like to make an animal out of a carrot. By the time we had finished he had a selection of shapes cut out of potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc. all done quickly and safely. He did need a little guidance to get the correct shape but it didn't need to be at all detailed - it just had to be recognisable.

While we were doing this I suddenly realised what our carving tutor had been saying for years: "Always carve the basic shape first and the detail second." If you don't have this basic shape of the subject right in your carving, it doesn't matter how much detail you put in, it won't end up looking realistic. All birds are basically the same as are all dogs but each individual or type is very different from the next. Even just an outline can give an idea of the correct shape and, surprisingly, Will's sketches did vary from bird to bird and animal to animal, so he was able to distinguish between the different individuals.

I think I will have to try this myself. After all we do recognise different trees by their shapes and we can even distinguish many of the various makes of car by their shape even though their designs are getting more and more similar all the time.

I have come to the conclusion that sketching a subject instead of photographing it should make it easier to recognise the shape that I need and by looking at it sufficiently closely to be able to sketch it ought to, somehow, imprint the shape into my head.

Main image: Spring time, birds and animals, can all provide inspiration for your carvings (PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ISTOCKPHOTO/THINKSTOCK)

Woodworkers Institute

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From the Workshop , Ben Hawthorne

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