High school reunion

I recently went to my 46th high school reunion and as I was getting ready to go, I thought to myself, why am I going and why do people go to these events? I suppose I’m like everybody else in my initial response to myself, in that, it would be interesting to see what the old gang had been doing with their lives and to see how they were holding up against old man time.

As I was looking in the mirror trying to look as good as I could with what God gave me, I supposed that these thoughts were kind of frivolous, but as I continued thinking about it, I recognize that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have a responsibility to take care of our bodies as well as we can. We are body and soul. So to have a desire to look as good as we can and be interested in what our classmates look like after all these years is just a human quality. For heaven’s sake, Jesus, the Son of God, took a body for himself through the blessed womb of His virgin mother Mary. We are told in Scripture that we will have glorified bodies in Heaven, so we cannot discount the importance of our bodies when thinking about salvation history or for that matter in preparation for a high school reunion.

I was actually pleasantly surprised how well most of my classmates were looking in their 65th year. (The other side of the coin was also a stark reality in that about 5% – 10% of our classmates had already passed away.)

But as we all know, as important as the body is, the order of our soul is paramount in becoming all we can be in the service of God. So in discovering who my classmates had become required speaking with them about the issues of life. I did in fact enjoy these conversations with my classmates, catching up about vocations, families and etc. because these are the “stuff of life” that helps us answer the more important questions about life.

As I thought more about my attendance, I thought the questions that I should ask of everyone in conversation, in order to get to really know them or them to know me, would be questions that were probably not going to be asked by me of any of my classmates or of me by them.

What am I talking about?

In my opinion, the important questions that need to be asked and answered are; how many people did I help along the way, how many people, including family members, did I help bring to Christ and have I loved God with all my heart and soul? Well, these are tough questions and I’m sure all of us could have done a better job of it, so let’s thank God for his forgiveness and mercy. The way we have lived our lives is our response to the greatest commandment from God and the second just below it. Matthew 22:36-40 reads, {Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? And He said to him. “You should love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, this is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, you should love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” }

If people really wanted to know who someone is and how they are getting along in the world, these are the important questions to be asked.

So why are we reluctant to ask these more fundamental questions? Are we not concerned about the salvation of our brothers and sisters in the world? Well, we don’t want to offend people. Everyone is not where everyone else is in their walk with God, if indeed they are actually walking with Him. Many of us live for God who gives meaning to our lives while others live meaningless lives. That sounds rather harsh, but it’s the truth. We can’t go around, casually asking questions like this, especially at high school reunions……family reunions….. social gatherings….etc. or can we? More importantly, should we? Don’t we have a responsibility as Christians to speak the truth as God reveals it? And are not these the questions that the God of the universe is going to ask of us when we die?

Should we worry about offending people, especially if we haven’t seen them in 40 plus years, or should we feel embarrassed if people think that we are religious or Jesus freaks? Well these are tough questions that we all need to respond to, individually. Saint Francis said to continually share the Gospel and when necessary use words. I think another way of saying this is that we should always wear our belief in God on our shoulder, so to speak, so that everyone who comes in contact with us for any period of time, will know that we are Christians and we are more than willing to talk about our relationship with Christ, if they are open to that conversation. Many are not, some may be and a few will talk for hours about their own relationship with Christ. I think we can spiritually sense when people are open to these conversations, if we allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives.

And indeed, a few of the conversations with some of my classmates were about the Love of God and his people, but for the most part that did not happen. Of course this does not mean they were all pagans by any means. A short conversation with a person you have not seen in 46 years is certainly not going to always reveal the inner person. But I found it interesting that the people that I had a connection with all those years ago in high school were still the folks that I related to the most. It was like picking up where we left off.

I thought the experience was awesome and the possibility of reconnecting and sharing with some of my high school friends for the autumn of my life, exciting.

The Deer Mantel

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Check out the video of this piece at the bottom of this post.

This is an attempt at carving a fireplace mantel with a three dimensional nature scene into a green poplar log. I’m excited… read how it goes.

These pictures and thoughts about this work in progress are going to be written in installments because I’m currently working on this project. I’m using a green log of tulip poplar that was recently cut off my property. I’m hopeful, but I’m not even sure at this point if my time will be well spent or the project will split and check so much that I won’t be able to salvage anything of value. It is an experiment; sometimes we have to take a chance. I’m going to give you a blow by blow summary with text and pictures of how this project is progressing so that you can learn from my mistakes or my success.

When I began to entertain the idea of this carving, I had to think for a while about  the subjects, their environment, their relationships with one another and the various depths of the different elements such as the streams, rocks, trees, rock walls, etc. that I wanted to incorporate and portray. It was helpful to me to sketch my ideas to see how they looked on paper and to move things around until I got the look I hoped to achieve.

As I was reflecting on the various depths of this carving, I thought about how my love for God has developed and has moved through various depths of commitment over time. My love for him now has a deeper, more fervent essence than when I was first a Christian or even last year because my love for him seems to continually evolve to something greater.  If you have been a serious Christian for a while, you no doubt have experienced the same phenomenon. God is constant with his great love for us, but we his creatures learn over time to love, as we experience life and mature in our relationship with him, his creatures and creations.

I thought it would be interesting and perhaps beneficial, (especially to me), to contemplate, then articulate the various steps that the growth of our love for God move through as we strive for a closer relationship with him from birth towards death (not birth till death because we are still alive). This endeavor will be kind of like making a sketch of the carving before the carving process to determine the different depths of the subjects within the carving. So if you would like to follow the unfolding of this thought, go to the “Splinters of Faith” section of this site and scroll to: “Depths of our love for God”

During this process of carving and writing about this piece of art, one of my students, Curtis Bowman, was killed in a tragic truck accident. Curtis was kind, quiet, an extremely hard worker, loved by all and one of my best students. Curtis and his father, Tim, had cut some trees and removed some stumps from my yard that autumn and one of the trees that they handled was the poplar tree that this carving is made from, so I would like to dedicate this piece of art to his memory. This memorable’ “This art is dedicated to the loving memory of Curtis Bowman” will be imbued on the back of this piece.  God be with him and his family.

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After drawing a rough sketch and thinking about the project for a while, I brought the log up to along my shop outside with a two wheel cart. I estimate that this 6’ by 18” diameter green log probably weighed about 150 pounds or more. I know I had a time maneuvering it around. Using my 041 Sthil farm boss chainsaw, I made three cuts length ways of the log roughly squaring up the back, bottom and front of the log. I left the top uncut except for about 10” on each end.

I spent some time making a sizable pattern for each of the animals and copied those to the face of the log using my sketch for placement and roughly drew in the hills and trees in the background. Keep in mind that this log is still approximately 14” in diameter. There are no splits in the wood at this time.

dm4At this point, I started to use my Sthil 025 with the carving tip chainsaw and continued to rough out the three deer, the trees in the foreground, the hills in the background, and what I hope is going to be a stream coming down from the hills.

dm3The buck deer is in the immediate foreground, so still using the chainsaw, I roughed out behind the deer as well, pretty much making this animal, an in the round or three dimensional figure; 14 “ of wood to work with makes this possible.

dm2The trees on each end of the carving are approximately 10” deep and I continued to use the chainsaw to rough them out. I sawed perpendicular into the boughs of the tree to start the three dimensional look that I hope to achieve in the tree by being able to look through the tree.

dm1The next step was getting the carving onto my bench in my shop; it is still very heavy. I began using my rotary tools on the buck deer and the tree behind the deer that will help support the antlers. Just so you know, at this time I have a couple of  ½ horse motors by Mastercarver and a dremel tool, all with flexible shafts hanging at my bench with an array of cutting tools that I have purchased from Woodcarver’s Supply. At this point I’m primarily using 3/8”, ½”, ¾” round and /or bull nose bits in these machines, but I have also used gouge chisels in areas to remove wood more quickly.

2012-11-03 11.44.29This kind of carving is hard on the tools and since the beginning of this carving I have already broken two inner shafts. On the trees I used a drill driver with an extension with a ½” spade bit through the chainsaw cuts to open the initial chainsaw cuts through the boughs of the tree as demonstrated in this photo.

The wood is starting to shrink and split since it’s been in the shop now for about a week. There was a small split across the face of the buck that has opened up to about a ½” at this point. My plan is that when the wood stops shrinking and moving, to deal with these splits if I can, until then I’m kind of ignoring them. I know that would be hard for many woodworkers to do. This is why this carving is an experiment. If this wood had a moisture content of below 15%, I wouldn’t have to worry about it. The other side of this coin however is that you would be hard pressed to find a log of this size dried unless you found it dried on the stump before decay and insects had gotten to it (God has blessed me with such trees in the past) and it would take forever to dry a log of this size in a kiln and even then it’s still going to split. I know you could laminate several kiln dried pieces of lumber or timbers to get the desired thickness, which I’ve done before, but one would have to deal with costs and glue joints in the carving.

One thing I am considering is to carve all but the final details and take it to a friend of mine who has a kiln and have it dried for a while before trying to deal with the splits and final detail work. We will see how it goes.

Last evening I spent a couple of hours on the doe deer, trying to make her three dimensional and proportional. I thought it was difficult to get there from a one dimensional drawing on the face of the carving. This is challenging and time consuming. At one point I got onto the internet and looked at pictures of white tailed deer for about 15 minutes to help me better visualize the anatomy of the deer’s head in the round and it helped.

My next encounter with the carving found me moving to the fawn, the dead tree and dealing with the hills and trees in the background. At this point I’m still not satisfied with the transitions from the front to the back of the carving in order to follow a natural flow in the landscape, but I’m hopeful this will work itself out as I continue to carve and visualize.

I’m going to let the log sit in my shop for awhile and dry to see how the splitting affects the carving.

About two months has elapsed since my last work on this piece and the wood seems to have stopped moving. Here are a couple of pictures of the 3/4 ” gap caused from the split and how I glued a piece of poplar  to fill the gap.DSC02440

 

DSC02443   Then you can see the face of the deer and the trunk of the tree repaired.DSC02450 The carving is still a ways from being completed but you can see how I have dealt with the splitting issue up to this point.

I’ve been working diligently with this carving for the past couple of weeks , a little bit every day. That is kind of a mantra with me. Since I work full time and have other responsibilities with family, church, etc.,I strive to do some small thing everyday in my shop and after a period of time, results happen. It is a disicpline and it works for me.

I was thinking about what I would call this type of carving; its not a relief carving. I’m thinking that it would be called a three dimensonal, deep relief sculpture. Any way here are a couple of pictures of the progress.owl and rabbit 1 001 I’m working on the background details at the present time; the trees, bushes, rocks and grass.owl and rabbit 1 006

A couple of weeks have passed and I have been working, when I can, on the trees in the background. As you can see in these latest photos, if you look closely, that I have opened the background underneath the boughs of the trees all the way through the carving.2013-09-06 14.24.33 This has helped me with the transition from the front to back of the carving that I was having some trouble with. All these details are happening as I do them so if I were doing it over again, it would not be the same. This is truly a one of a kind three dimensional sculpture.2013-09-06 14.25.18

It’s been a couple of months since my last update. I was wrong thinking that the log had stopped splitting and I’ve had to deal with a few more splits in the carving due to the the drying process. I started this carving about 13 months ago and the log is still moving and splitting, but I have dealt with these issues as they crop up. At this point I’m working on the detailing and it’s been slow going. Here are a couple of photos of the progress.DSC02704  DSC02705  DSC02706 DSC02703

Great horned owl and rabbit encounter

 

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This sculpture in progress was the result of my imagination trying to capture the movement in the encounter of a great horned owl with a wild rabbit in one solid piece of wild cherry.  Before thinking about a model or making saw dust, I spent time researching great horned owls and rabbits on the internet. I found some awesome videos of owls and mostly photos of rabbits that I literally studied in order to picture in my mind what I wanted this encounter to portray.

 

      2012-05-06 13.05.38  At this point, I made the model of the owl with suspended ceiling wire and duct tape and the rabbit was band sawed from a scrap piece of a treated 6×6. The cherry wood I chose to use for this sculpture is the 30 or so inch diameter log that I had purchased for the Hungry hawks sculpture, but didn’t use because I found a more suitable log the day after I purchased it. (Detailed account in the Hungry hawks story). Here is a picture of the log and the model I created to get this carving started.

With my model beside the log, I started with my chainsaw roughing out, cutting as needed to remove the excess wood. As a matter of fact that is what I’ve been doing throughout the whole process, using all the tools at my disposal, removing the excess wood, to get to the action, “the work of art.”

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As I have said the purpose of this website is to share my love of God as well as my passion for woodcarving, so as I was eliminating the excess wood to get to the art, my thoughts prompted me to think about my spiritual walk with God and how I could relate the two.

I think it easy for those of us in this kind of craft to relate to God; at least it is for me. I often think that God is the potter and I am the clay or I’m the wood and God is the sculptor and I’m constantly striving to become that “work of art” that God wants me to be. I’m glad that we have a patient and merciful God because it is tough to consistently do battle against evil. In Matthew’s gospel, we hear “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” We can attempt to eliminate sin from our lives, and we should, but even with God’s grace, we struggle and fail. We are sinners and as King Solomon said “all is vanity” or as some saints have said “all is temptation” and because sin has entered the world, even the best of us fall short of the finished “work of art” that God has in mind for us. That will happen in the next life, providing we are striving for that perfection in this life. This is a reality that we all have to live with, but it should not discourage us from wanting to get better for God, because as it says in Proverb’s 24: 16, “even the righteous man falls seven times, and with God’s grace rises again” and in 1 Corinthians 10: 13 “God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

God gives us his grace to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and pursue the virtuous life again. And in this grace we find his peace in spite of the adversity. We here in John 14: 27, Jesus say “Peace I leave you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

So, let us not be afraid to fight the good fight, recognizing through faith, his peace, joy and grace in our hearts, trusting that God is transforming us from a piece of wood, clay or stone into one of his “works of art”.

In my original design of this piece, I was too flamboyant (for the lack of another word) with what I will call elliptical circles around the creatures that I thought would enhance the presentation of the sculpture. Well I was wrong for a number of reasons. The quality of the wood in these areas was not sufficient, the circles limited my mobility to remove the excess wood with my tools and I think in hindsight that it took away from the movement that I was trying to capture in the sculpture. So when you look at these initial photos, you will see these circles which later are eliminated.

2012-11-14 21.31.48Yet another example how projects themselves often dictate outcomes. At this initial stage, I discovered a bad place in the wood of one of the owl’s wings, so I cut the bad out and joined a piece of cherry from the same tree back on. I was disappointed that I had to do that, but you have to do what it takes.

I literally have used most of the tools that I have in my shop in the completion of this project. It took a lot of time before I started noticing a real change in the initial rough out process to a more refined appearance. I was putting the work in, but the carving just didn’t change significantly over time, really trying my patience and testing my perseverance; (probably the way God feels about me on a regular basis). I felt it was kind of a ho-hum piece, but this is not surprising because I often feel this way at this stage of the process. But as I approached the end, I began to get excited because I could see the potential that I have been anticipating from the beginning.

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I decided to cut only the wing and tail feathers in on the owl and make the remainder a smooth surface, so as to enhance the movement of the piece. My thinking on this is that on seeing the action of the encounter, we would not see the small individual feathers on the body of the bird nor the fur or hair on the rabbit, therefore its surface is smooth as well. It also allows me to highlight the grain in the cherry wood, which is beautiful in itself. For those of you that don’t know, this type of surface requires lots of sanding.

 

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Here are some additional photos of the progress; I hope you enjoy this sculpture!

 

 2013-02-20 06.24.07  2013-02-07 19.38.39  DSC02490   DSC02488  DSC02491   DSC02486

 

The Pieta

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The Pieta’s Story

After a friend of mine’s father passed away, he was going through some of his things and found a Catholic calendar dated 1943. The front cover hosted a picture of a round relief carving of the head of the Virgin Mary resting next to the head of her son with her hands holding his lifeless head, representing the point in their lives when he was taken down from the Cross and laid in her arms. A representation of this moment was made renowned by the “PIETA”, a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo, housed in St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City . As soon as I saw the picture on the calendar, I knew I was going to attempt a similar piece, because I have always been fascinated with the Pieta sculpture because of the content and the emotion exhibited. I wanted to try to capture that emotion, especially on Mary’s face, as she lovingly embraced Jesus’ tortured body; … a lofty ambition.

I chose a piece of clear poplar that I had reclaimed from an attic of a house of a friend of mine’s, during a total rehab many years ago. I had kept the lumber in my shed all this time just for something this special. I glued two 1 ¼” x 17” x 17” together to get one 2 ½” x 17” x 17” piece of stock to begin the carving. Our priest made a copy of the picture for me and I sized it for the poplar stock.

I originally intended it to be a deep relief carving, but it turned out to be what I would call three dimensional deep relief. During the initial cuts with my router I actually cut part of Mary’s forehead off, a big mistake that I almost did not get over. I persevered because of the nature of the carving and the quality of the wood. I did not want to waste such a beautiful piece of wood.

This carving has been one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever done because of that mistake, the angle of Mary’s head in relation to Jesus and the fact that it was not a full in the round carving, but the three dimensional deep relief. During the carving process, I often thought that this was too hard and I wasn’t sure if I was going to salvage anything good from this piece. I really did pray often before I picked up my tools, asking the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother to guide me and help me.138 (2)

Just today my own mother who is staying with us, woke up crying, in a great deal of pain in her hip due to arthritis and was in need of a particular shot of medication that she receives every few months for that condition. I felt really bad for her because of her pain and the only thing I could do was pray for her, which I did. My wife and I were not able to take her to get this shot because of our responsibilities at work.

My daughter, Lindsay, still lives at home with us and this was her day off and she volunteered to take her grandmother to the doctor, who was more than an hour away. This is so typical of Lindsay because this is not the first time she has helped my mom and me out with transportation issues to and from mom’s home and our home. And it is not just transportation help, she genuinely loves and cares for her and will occasionally travel more than an hour to her home to visit with her and sometimes take her out for dinner. She also did these same kind of things for her other grandmother before she passed away.

As a father, I’m so grateful for all my children because they are all really awesome (their mom did a great job raising them), but Lindsay has a special ability to relate and connect with people and do things for people that most of us won’t or can’t do. I love Lindsay so much and the fact that she helps my mother when she is in need, allows me to love her more. This love she has for my mother makes my appreciation of her even greater. I would do anything I could to help my daughter, not just because she helps my mom, but in addition of her love for my mom.

The reason why am I sharing these intimate details about our family (I’m sure your family is similar to ours) with you is to get you thinking about the relationship of Jesus and his mother and us, their spiritual children. How much more will Jesus, who is perfect love, love his mother compared to me, a sinner who loves his mother and daughter with an imperfect love. How much more appreciation and love will God have for his children who love, care, and venerate his Holy Mother. God chose Mary to be the mother of his only Son, she had to be more than special and full of grace; She who it is that magnifies the love we have for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This explanation does not need high religion or theology; this is common sense because God has told us that we are made in his image. I don’t think that just means in the physical sense, but more importantly in relationships; loving, caring and sacrificing for those loved. We Catholics adore, venerate, and ask the Blessed Mother to pray for us to the Lord, our God. We do not worship her as many non Catholics believe, but we allow our relationship with her to bring us closer to Jesus, her son, much like the relationship I have described above with my mom and daughter (and much like the relationships in your family as well). I thank God for my relationship with His Mother and this carving is one of the ways I can show my appreciation.

I mentioned the struggle I encountered with the initial bad cut, so I want to try to explain how I overcame this difficulty. After I determined that I was cutting the background out to make it a deep relief three dimensional piece. I cut and glued a piece of poplar into that spot, which prompted me to use some color on the hair of both figures to cover up the joints created by the glued addition. This was the first time I have used any color on any of my carvings. I always chose types of wood to be the color because I liked to see the grain and the natural features of the wood. I mixed oil paint with a Danish oil treatment on a palette to get the desired color that was just dark enough to cover my mistakes so they weren’t visible. The hair on both figures was painted and the rest of the carving was finished with the Danish oil.2013-07-25 16.35.56

Another feature of this carving that is novel to my work was the addition of another medium, the cloth that served as a mantel to Mary’s head. I know a young lady from our parish, Ann Marie, who is looking to start a sewing career and I asked her to get involved by creating several mantels for Mary that we could change for various Marian feast days, such as the Annunciation, the Assumption, and the Visitation, etc. I have liked the decision to bring someone else into the completion of the project because of her expertise and it is something we can share.

This sculpture was donated to our parish  a year or so ago after I had made a few additions to enhance it’s presentation and to my surprise at the beginning and throughout Lent this past year, Sister Shirley, our PLC, placed the sculpture on the left side of the sanctuary as a reminder of God’s great love for us and the sacrifice He and His mother made so that we may be reconciled with God, the Father. Here’s a couple of pictures with the additions of the cross, a crown of thorns and if you look closely, one of the nails that held Him on the cross.

photo (20)  photo (21) photo (65) Recently it was decided that the carving would be available to St. John the Baptist parishioners  to take home for short periods of time to assist with special prayer. This can be done by going online to the parish website, filling out some basic information and picking it up and dropping it off at the parish office during regular parish office hours. We hope it will be a blessing to you.

 

 

Hungry Hawks

hungryhawks A  cherry log  found along the side of the road has proved to be a wood of best quality used to carve the action packed “Hungry Hawks” sculpture, a piece that has been inspired by a couple of my favorite woodcarvers.

The Story

This carving was inspired by two of my favorite sculptors, Grainger McCoy and J. Christopher White, both who excel in bird sculpture. One of Grainger’s early works (1974) inspired the design and the motion study and the buffed oil finishes of Mr. White inspired the movement and the finish.

The wood that this sculpture is carved from is wild cherry and the procurement of this material has a peculiar story. After deciding that I wanted to carve these birds fighting over a snake, I decided I wanted to use a hard wood like cherry or walnut. It was going to require a seasoned log so I called around to several saw mills to find some that I could look at. Well I found this piece of cherry approximately two and a half feet in diameter, about four feet long which costs me $60. It took a machine to get it into my truck and it was everything I had to maneuver it out of my truck onto the ground next to my shop. The very next day I’m driving down the dead end road that I live on and I noticed this down tree laying there from a recent storm. I thought I would check it out to see if it was suitable for anything. It turned out to be a seasoned on the stump dead cherry tree. I felt like I hit the lotto because I was able to get three good sized logs from the down tree for carving purposes. After looking at one of these pieces for awhile, I realized that it would be more suitable for the “Fighting Hungry Hawks” carving than the piece that I had purchased the day before. I can’t help thinking that I was lead to that downed tree by God because I had been driving by that tree for I don’t know for how long and hadn’t even noticed it, but as soon as I decided I was going to carve these birds and had made the effort to find and purchase the cherry wood from the saw mill, this downed tree captures my attention and becomes the stock from which I have carved my most interesting and challenging piece yet. And who would of thought that one of these pieces would be the correct size and the quality of wood would have been almost ideal for this intricate carving from a dead tree along side of the road. Well as I have mentioned before, I don’t believe in coincidence and I trust in God and his providence, therefore the Lord has blessed with me with not only the desire to attempt this carving, but has provided the material to do it and has been with me throughout the four months of work. Thank you Lord! I’ve included a picture here of how the cherry log looked before I started the carving.

As I was contemplating this work, I began with a rough sketch and from that drawing I knew I would have to build a model of some kind, (which I had never done before), so I ordered some modeling clay which I actually did not use. I decided to cut some cardboard to the size and shape of the birds and bent wire (wire used for suspended ceilings) roughly into the shape of the birds and wrapped duct tape around the wire to form a model for the birds. (I know the bird looks more like an airplane than a bird). The wire ran through the birds and extended from the model birds approximately a foot and a half from two different points so that I could suspend the birds in the air. I did that by drilling 1/8 inch holes into a log base that approximated the size of the base of the carving log and inserted the ends of the wire to support the birds. I maneuvered the bird models and bent the wire to the position I needed them to be to fit with the actual carving log. I started the carving process with a 041 Stihl farm boss chain saw and moved to the 025 Sthil chainsaw with the dime carving tip as needed. Because of the complexity of the carving, I did a lot of moving of the log, cutting in from a lot of different angles trying to keep in mind the exit cut as well as the entrance cut if you know what I mean. At this point in the carving, in addition to the chain saws, I was using a 4 ½ grinder with a medium cut holy galahad cutter where necessary. While talking about tools, I wanted to mention that I’m the kind of woodcarver that uses all the tools that I have at my disposal. On this particular carving I have used just about every wood removal tool possible including rotary tools, orbital sander, chisels, knives, files, rasps, 100 to 1500 grit sand papers, including jewelry’s rouge. Other tools include measuring tape, dividers, squeeze clamps, shop vac and probably a dozen other tools that I can’t think of just now.

As the carving progressed, I continued to have the model side by side the carving stock to visualize where to cut and or grind. Emotionally, I was very excited about this work; if I wasn’t carving on it, I wanted to be. It’s like I couldn’t take my mind off of it, so much so that I had to pause and think “what are the most important things in my life”, certainly not woodcarving. I appreciate the enthusiasm that God has graced me with for this work, but sometimes I have to step back and reassess where my time is being spent because where we invest our time, there also is our heart. God tells us in his Word that if you give him priority in your life all other things will be added unto you. I believe that, but it is easy to get off track sometimes and we need to step back occasionally and look at what is important. So that is what I did and often do and I thank God for this grace in my life. I would like to challenge you to take a look at what you have invested your time and treasure in because these will be the priorities in your life at this time. Perhaps with this self examination, you will realize, yes I’m a little off course and if so make some adjustments especially with God, family and God’s people. If you are on course, which I pray you are, God continue to bless you. This sculpture is close to being completed and I hope you enjoy it. Let me know.hh4

Indiana Woodlands Mantel

DSC02353This carving was inspired by Jerry Mifflin, a well known woodcarver and one of my favorites who displays his work at Jerrymifflin.com. I encourage anyone who has a desire to carve a relief scene in a mantel to visit Jerry’s web site and there you will see that he details, with pictures, the work as it progresses to see each step. I gained confidence from a small piece and from other relief carvings that I have done in the past and so I decided to give a 6 ft. long by 7.5 in. tall by 4 in. thick piece of basswood a shot.

Of course if you have done any woodcarving, you know that there is a lot of preliminary work before the carving begins. For me, I had to call around to several saw mills to find the basswood,  find someone to kiln dry it at a reasonable price, spend time looking over the stock to find which piece would be suitable, saw and plane the stock, determine which side would be the face, and etc. Then one generally doesn’t just start carving, (although I have done this, see the story of the cedar eagle); we need a design or plan to work from.

The reason I’m sharing this information with readers is there might be someone out there that wants to do something like this but don’t know where to start. The design of the Indiana woodlands mantel took some time and a lot of that time was procuring pictures of the animals, mostly from the internet and then sizing the animals to fit proportionally into the design. I drew the design on a type of clear see through architectural plastic paper and then transferred the design to the wood. I used regular carbon paper placed under the design and on top of the wood and used an ink pen to do the tracing. I was surprised at the amount of time it took to complete the transfer;  I’m sure there are more experienced carvers out there that have better ways to do this process, but I was flying by the seat of my pants and I was learning as I was doing. These were the practical steps that were accomplished before any tool, other than a pencil and a tape measure, met the wood.DSC02354

The spiritual dimension was well under way before, during the design process and throughout, until the completion of the carving. In the beginning, I wanted to make sure that this was of God and not entirely a project of personal pride. Just from the preliminary work, I could tell this was going to take some time, so I often prayed for discernment and I was convinced after wrapping this project in prayer that God was with me on this. As I thought about what the Holy Spirit would have me say about this carving and how it relates to the spiritual life, the issue of time became prevalent and a thought about whom do we compare ourselves to.

I always find it interesting and comforting how the Holy Spirit moves in my life and I’m sure that if you’re a person of God you feel the same way. For you that don’t have that experience in your life yet, let me give you a practical, hands on, personal example how that works.DSC02356

A friend of mine, Bob, took a six month leave from his successful cabinet making business and hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2002 at the age of fifty something. A spiritual experience on the trail changed the course of his life. He came home, sold his business, and enrolled in a seminary studying for a doctorate in theology. After his hike and before he was enrolled in the seminary, he was ministering to a young man, Jim, that had a rare case of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Jim was thirty something and couldn’t move a muscle in his body, couldn’t even open his eyes, was on a ventilator and took his food intravenously, yet the doctors said that he could hear and was aware consciously of what was going on around him. Bob would go to see Jim once a week to talk, pray with him, read the Bible, and just be with him. I knew Jim because the Building Trades class I taught built a wheelchair ramp for the family as a community service project so they could get Jim to and from the doctor. I also knew the family because we all attended the same church. Bob did this for six months to a year before he went to the seminary to study. I had been down to Jim’s house several times dealing with the ramp and actually went to his bedside one day to meet with him personally. Shortly after this time, Bob stopped me after Mass one Sunday and said he wanted to talk with me about something. At that point the Holy Spirit moved in me and I knew without Bob saying anything to me that he wanted me to take his place ministering to Jim. And I told Bob, I already know what you want to talk to me about and I told him that I would take care of Jim.DSC02353

Bob went to school shortly after that and I began a seven year ministry and friendship with a man that never said a word to me or ever looked me in the eye, yet with the Grace of the Holy Spirit, we truly became brothers in Christ. I was at his bedside with his family when he died.

This is just one example of many movements of the Holy Spirit from my life that I could share with you and I know many of you have had different, but similar experiences. I don’t believe in coincidences, I trust in God. Where do you put your trust?

So time is the spiritual reflection, probably because this carving took many hours to complete and I know I had at least as much time thinking about the carving as the actual tool time. From a material point of view, time is the great equalizer in our lives as we all have twenty four hours a day. How we use our time and what we think about determines the path and quality of our life. If we could look at people’s thoughts or their actions for a period of time we could tell a great deal about their life without ever meeting them. Actions and thoughts are like peas in a pod; action generally follows thought. The spiritual life parallels the material or physical dimension in that you are what you dwell on. If your mind is wrapped in dissension and turmoil throughout the day, guess what, that is your fruit. However the opposite is also true, if you acknowledge God, ask him to forgive you for your transgressions, praise and worship him and ask him for guidance, he will bless you. I have learned about the importance of obedience in one’s life. Jesus, God himself, was obedient even to death; He chose to die rather than be disobedient to the Father’s will. God has certain rules to follow; not to limit us, but to make us whole and to allow us to be all we can be. If we are obedient to these rules (the Ten Commandments), we will share in his bounty. It is important to us, eternally important, that we follow Jesus’ example of obedience so that we will bear good fruit. I appreciate the simplicity of my life in that I can recognize these truths and choose the path that will bring joy, peace, and eternal happiness.

What about you? Are you happy with the things that your mind dwells on and the fruit in your life? If your answer is yes, that’s great as long as you choose to let God have a part in it, however, if your answer is no, and you are not happy with the path your life is taken, may I suggest Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Just spend time with Him and you will be amazed at the transformation in your life. Go to Him and let Him bless you.DSC02350

The next step in the process of carving the Indiana Woodlands mantel was to determine the different levels of the different design features to gain the feeling of depth and being drawn into the carving. The maximum depth of the Indiana Woodlands mantel is one and half inches, at the deepest level. At the time, that was the deepest I could go with the tooling that I had available. Subsequent carvings, (The Covered Bridge, Lindsay’s graduation gift, The Pieta) have more depth to them and reflect more the quality of the much admired deep relief work of Jerry Mifflin. That was the other thought I had about this carving and the spiritual life. Who do you compare yourself to?  I obviously chose Jerry Mifflin as someone to emulate for this particular carving because I think he is the best at carving deep relief mantels.

A teacher friend of mine, Bradon, is an avid hunter and makes custom turkey calls in his spare time and sells every one he produces. He has been thinking about expanding his part time business so he attended the national turkey hunting conference in Tennessee last fall and he was going to check out the custom turkey calls that were being produced and sold at the show. Before he left, I suggested to him to find what he thought was the best custom turkey call at the show and compare his calls to that those. That’s what he did. If you want to be good at something or at least want to get better at what you are doing, compare yourself with the best.

Again, in my humble opinion, the spiritual dimension follows the physical, in that, if we are comparing our preparation for eternal life with the un-churched or even the average Joe in the pew, good luck; but however if Jesus, his Mother Mary, Saint Joseph, the apostles, and the countless other Saints of the Church are our role models, we are well on our way. Jesus sets a higher standard when He says in the Gospel, “Be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”. However, in order for us to strive for this higher standard and for the Saints to have an impact on our lives, we need to read and reflect on Jesus, the Bible and the lives of the Saints to get an understanding how they in their particular circumstances strove to become all that God was calling them to be, many times overcoming great difficulties to do so. This helps us find our way, following in their footsteps and while doing this we are putting in our minds in tranquil places, (as we reflected above about time) and we can’t help but reap the rewards.DSC02352

When I completed the actual carving of the Indiana Woodlands mantel, I then framed it in oak and used pieces of   ¾”x ¾” oak inside corner to trim the carving out. My choice of finish was three coats of Penofin, a natural penetrating oil finish, a product that I have used extensively throughout the years.

This mantel sits on the rock wall that encases the fireplace in my home.

Cedar Eagle

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Here is another example of finding the carving wood while walking in the woods and using another element to enhance the overall outcome of the piece. Read the interesting Cedar Eagle story  

 This carving followed and was unlike the Walnut Eagle (the carving that the original idea didn’t work out and became a bird), because I started with the butt of a red cedar tree and had no idea what I was going to carve, and it became a bird.  I was walking through the woods looking for potential stock from overturned trees with the root system still attached.  I was still enamored with the success of a similar type of downed wood that became the Walnut Eagle (read the story of the walnut eagle) and I thought I might be able to create another interesting carving, although I didn’t have a bird in mind at that time.DSC01602

 The Cedar Eagle was one of the few carvings that didn’t have an idea, model, picture, or a design to begin the carving process. I just started my chainsaw with the carving tip and began cutting away all the dead and unusable wood. Then I moved to a 41/2” grinder with a holy galahad carbide cutter to begin to shape what I decided about that time was going to be a bird. I finally had a basic plan and it continued to evolve as I was working. There was a feature of the tree trunk, the three roots that protruded from the base of the trunk that I wanted to incorporate into the finished piece to make it interesting. I accomplished this by carving them to look as they had grown around a rock and as one of my nephews pointed out to me was that they also kind of became an extension of the bird’s claws.   OK …….. Although you can’t see it in the picture of the carving, I detailed the feathers in the cedar eagle and put three coats of penofin on the piece for the finish.DSC01604

 As I was reflecting on this carving, the idea of not having a plan stuck with me and I started thinking about the plans we have for our lives. I’m talking about those deep and almost all purposeful plans that we as young people only seldom think about but we know are there; those nebulous dreams about vocations, marriage, and family.  It’s almost like when we become aware of them we find that that they have always been there. Where do we want to live, do we want to be married and if so the kind of person we want to marry, how we are going to raise our family, how many children, what values we will stand for, what do we want to do with our life and on and on.

We didn’t seem to have a recollection of making these plans, but they were there. Anyway, as I look back on my own life, that was the way it seemed to me. It was like that God had a plan for me and I slowly became aware of it as I got older. I know I was a slow learner, hard headed and selfish, and because of God’s great gift of free will, I ran into countless detours and road blocks for many years before realizing what I believe to be God’s plan for my life.  DSC01533A key component of that plan is an awareness of the relationship God wants to have with all of us.  I had my own agenda and I wanted to do it my way, not God’s way. My independence and my dependence on sin were more important than submission and obedience to God. What an idiot.

My prayer for you, the reader, is that you allow God to love you sooner than later and let him be the pilot of your life so you can learn to fulfill a heavenly plan for your life. It will be far greater than any plan you can imagine for yourself.

The Assumption

The Assumption of the Blessed Mother

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This carving is in process and it is a result of my great love for the Mother of God and an attempt at portraying motion and emotion at the moment of her Assumption into heaven.

The purpose of this writing about this wood sculpture is an effort to explain how the idea came to be and how the idea became reality through the process of eliminating the excess wood around it. I often feel how Michelangelo felt when he wrote, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” But more importantly, it is an effort to bring you, the reader closer to Christ and to do this I will share with you more than just the physical tasks that this carving required, but also the mental and spiritual wanderings of my mind as the carving has progressed. At this writing, this carving is still in process.carvings 102

I have realized at the beginning of this project that the Holy Mother has been the subject of four different carvings in a two year period, this being the fourth. I couldn’t help reflecting on how that has happened since I was a Protestant growing up and accepting Jesus as a Methodist Christian. My experience of Mary was she was the mother of God and we thought of her only briefly in the Christmas season, celebrating Jesus’ birth. I became a Catholic Christian shortly after I met my wife who was Catholic and we were eventually married in the Catholic Church some 30 years ago.

Although I joined the Church, I had a problem with a couple of the major tenets of the teaching of the Church and one of them was the emphasis on Mary and the other was Confession. At that time a Catholic friend of mine gave me a statue of Mary and I couldn’t bring myself to put it in my yard. I am sharing this because I know there are Christians out there who have the similar reservations about the Catholic faith as I did, but I would like to share with you briefly, if I can, how I now venerate the Blessed Mother as my Holy Mother and how I’m completely enamored by her, that I consecrate myself to her Immaculate Heart, pray a daily rosary, read about her frequently and am using her image as my fifth major carving in two years; quite the turn around. carvings 099

I can’t point to one event that has made the difference but I have immersed myself in the Word and Catholic theology, frequenting the Sacraments, including confession and subtly I’ve come to realize the significance of Mary’s role in salvation history. Mary’s yes, the “Fiat” at the Annunciation changed the course of history and there is no better advocate for us than the Mother of God to help us exclaim our “fiat” to God as we journey toward full participation in his Kingdom.

The idea of doing this carving came after the “Hungry Hawks” sculpture where I tried to capture movement with the birds in flight fighting over a snake and after the “Pieta” sculpture of Mary and Jesus that was all about emotion.

In this carving I wanted to tackle both, the movement and the emotion, both challenging concepts in wood. The idea was in my head for about a year before I actually thought I might be able to do it. After the decision was made, I started looking at pictures that I could find depicting the Assumption and I created a rough drawing. I had some cherry wood from the same tree that I carved the “Hungry Hawks” that I used as the medium. (See the interesting story of how I came across this tree in the article about the “Hungry Hawks”).

I proceeded to scale my original drawing to the size of the log and then created a model using ceiling tile wire, duct tape, and clay. carvings 064This was the second model that I had built with similar materials, the first being the “Hungry Hawks” model. It’s interesting to note that when I was building the armature for the model and using the modeling clay, I thought how much easier this would be to do if I would use clay to make this sculpture. I might do something with clay in the future. And I also thought of Michelangelo and marble and how difficult that must be.

So I start with my chainsaw with the log and model side by side. I think the process at this point is pretty straight forward meaning that I moved the log around with the model and took off the largest pieces that I could. I really think that if you have basic tool skills and you have thought about a carving as I had, created a drawing and had fabricated a model, that you could do this as well. I think it starts with desire to create. I think this is how God has blessed me. Not so much that I’m a gifted woodworker, but I have the desire to create, and the God given ability to figure out how to do it. carvings 065I try to take pride out of the picture so that I can give God the glory because I realize that I could not do this without his grace. I recently read a sign, “Excellence is the difference between what I do and what I’m capable of”. I don’t know if my work would warrant the word, excellent, but I do know that when my work is wrapped in prayer and thanksgiving, God gives me the grace to do more than I’m capable of.

As you can see from the accompanying photographs, during the roughing out process, Mary starts out rather rotund and I was always working on thinning her down, trying to keep her anatomy proportional. I changed the positioning of the angel on the right side of Mary from the drawing, which ended up making the carving more difficult, but perhaps more interesting. I usually try to stay with the drawing and model because when I start freelancing in mid stream things can go wrong in a short time. What you see at the top of Mary’s head is what I hope will appear to be her wind blown mantel.

You can begin to see the angels on each side of Mary emerging. I have noticed that with the addition of the angels, rather than one carving, there really are three carvings within the one carving, which makes it obviously more difficult.DSC01904

But when I reflect on the difficulty and the time involved, I’m reminded of a trip to Europe when I was a young carpenter where I visited several of the Catholic cathedrals built in the 15th or 16th century. Many of them took a lifetime or better to build and the quality of the structures were and are superb. Not only the structures, but the ornaments and the art that came from the Renaissance period has always fascinated me, especially knowing that power tools had not yet been invented.carvings 082

So when I approach a difficult piece, I don’t think about the time, but the quality and beauty of the piece because as I have said elsewhere in this document that the best enjoyment of the carving is in the doing of it, not in admiring the final outcome. Although when I look at the final work, or at least one that turned out good, my first reaction to it is, my God has blessed me and has allowed me to do this and I thank him. I have come to realize that my very next breath is a gift from God, and to put it another way, everything that happens in my life is a blessing from HIM. I’m trying to become the person He wants me to be and I pray that you can do the same.

The Covered Bridge

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About fifteen years ago, I was doing a total rehab for a client and during the demolition of the upstairs ceiling’s old lathe and plaster I found in the attic two pieces of 2” x 17” x 4’  tulip poplar. At the time the wood was all gray, but I could tell these were nice pieces of wood, and God only knows how old they were, so I stored them for many years in an outdoor shed until recently. When I planed the wood, neither piece of wood had a knot in it and they were a deep yellow color. It was awesome. I knew I wanted to do something special with these pieces of wood and this carving is one of the two carvings that I am in the process of creating from this stock. A friend of mine, Caroline is a very special lady that I worked with for years, was wearing a sweatshirt,( that she later told me cost her one dollar at a yard sale), one autumn day and there was a picture of a covered bridge on it. For some reason it caught my eye and I asked Caroline if I could borrow her sweatshirt so that I could make a copy of the picture, which I did. By the way, I think I had that sweatshirt for a year or so before I got it back to her because she was only working as a substitute teacher at that time and I didn’t see her very often and it seemed I never had it with me when she was at the school.DSC01488

Anyway, this picture of the covered bridge became the focal point of the carving in the tulip poplar. I loved how the stream meandered through the valley and the scene was a natural for my first deep relief carving. Some may say that the “Indiana Woodlands Mantel” was deep relief, but the mantel at its deepest point was only an 1 ½”; the covered bridge carving is 2 ¼” deep, which I consider deep relief. You’re probably wondering how I made a 2 1/4“deep carving from 2” thick stock. Well, obviously I didn’t; I glued two pieces of the poplar together to get a finish thickness of 2 ¾ “.  Because of the various levels of the carving that glue line is virtually impossible to see. Some of you may want to try this technique sometime to get extra thickness for deeper carvings, but I want to caution you that if the carving has a smooth sanded surface, that glue line may be noticeable as I found out in another carving.

The deep relief required the use of long router bits and bearing collars as well as some spacers. If you need additional information about this, let me know.

I’m sure you can’t see these details in the pictures, but the work is progressing and I’m striving for the three dimensional with this carving. On a couple of the trees, you can actually see through the boughs of the limbs as if looking at a real tree and I wanted the stream to look as if it flowed under the bridge down into the valley.

The shape of this carving has a story as well. A good friend of mine, Lee, suggested to me that an oval shape was most pleasing to the eye, so although it is not a true oval, I tried to make the shape of it as pleasing to the eye as possible using a variation of the oval. I wanted to incorporate a different media for the frame and at the writing of this reflection the frame is incomplete, but I’m hoping that a brass frame will be possible after several considerations. I hope you enjoy this carving.DSC01489

Spiritually, I wanted to reflect on my friend Caroline from where the carving originated. She worked full time in the kitchen at the school as a cashier, cook, mentor, teacher’s aide and sometimes counselor for the many students that were enrolled in Culinary Arts program and really in an indirect way, all the students enrolled in our school. She wrote on a blackboard a positive saying every day at her cashier’s station that everyone who came into the cafeteria could see. I personally always looked forward to these thoughts for the day. As a matter of fact when Caroline retired, I asked her for her list of sayings that I could use and still today, I use the these ”thoughts for the day”  with my students. She, in my opinion, is unique, as we all are in the eyes of God, in that she seems to live life to the fullest. She definitely let’s you know where she stands on most issues starting with God. She is the person who dresses up for parades in pig and clown costumes to entertain young and old and really don’t care what people think. She loves God, family, people, and life in spite of the struggles that come her way.

I’m sure all of you can think of a person like her from your own acquaintances and I think we can learn from them. We are called to live in relationship with God and his people and people like Caroline are in my opinion, relational, unlike myself and many of us, especially men, who are task or project oriented. And of course that is not all bad because that is what makes the world go round, but when the achievement of our goals happen at the expense of our relationship with God and his people, we are missing the boat. DSC01706I have recently come to the conclusion that this is happening too often in my life and I hope that this testimony will help enlighten some of you about this reality in your life. Love is relationship, not meeting the next goal, climbing the highest mountain, winning the race, driving your dream car or truck, beating the competition, getting the best grade, taking the best vacations, fitting in your next workout at the gym, finishing your next carving, and etc. It is loving, honoring and obeying God and loving the people God has put in our life and in our path. God have mercy on us and help us.

 

 

 

Our Lady

Our Lady

This carving was at the request of friends of mine who share a great love for the Mother of God. This carving reflects the “Our Lady of Guadalupe”, a miraculous image imprinted on Saint Juan Diego’s cloak (image below) in Mexico during the 1500’s. This event literally changed the spiritual landscape in Mexico at that time and still today “Our Lady of Guadalupe” continues to bring souls to Christ throughout the world.

The story of this miracle is fascinating and it has had such an impact in the Americas that the Catholic church has declared that “Our Lady of Guadalupe” be the patroness Saint for the Americas. Visit www.sancta.org to learn about the entire account of this miracle and its effects.

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This carving, that was created from a 3′ by 10′ maple tree stump, is also fascinating because it has become an inspiration to many that drive by and stop to show their appreciation of not only the craftsmanship of the carving and the structure that houses it, but for the underlying sentiments that this image exudes.

Our Lady’s Story

This sculpture encompasses an amazing story of faith and empowerment.

I was on a Boy Scout Spring campout whittling a chain when one of the adults present said he knew that one of our parishioners wanted an image of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” carved into a tree that they had in their front yard. At that time, I thought to myself that I might be able to do that, and after thinking about it, I told the person who had mentioned the carving, Jerry, that I would be interested in talking to the family about carving the project. After some time, Jerry mentioned to it to the family and one Sunday I approached the parents of the family, Steve and Rhonda about the possibility of doing the carving. They were interested even though they had never seen any of my work (a leap of faith) and told me the maple tree was about 3’ in diameter and 10’ high and they wanted Our Lady’s image carved into the tree and they wanted the image to face the road. That was the extent of their instruction about the carving. I was honest with Steve and told him that I didn’t have any experience using a chain saw for carving nor had I done anything that big. This did not discourage him and so it was agreed that I would do the carving. He said that if it didn’t turn out it was no big deal; he would just cut the tree down and burn it. There was no pressure what so ever and I could do it whenever I could fit it into my schedule, so I told Steve that I would probably do it in the fall. This conversation was in the spring of 2010.

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It was providential I think because even though I didn’t have the experience for this type of carving, I was somehow comfortable with my decision and was confident that I could do it, based on other projects I had completed. Then, that summer I took my family to North Myrtle Beach and the church I attended had a stone sculpture of our Lady of Guadalupe outside its front door; ( I don’t believe in coincidences). I took pictures of this sculpture that would later become the model that I would use to make the full sized jigs I used for the carving.

That summer I also started doing my homework on chainsaw carving by searching the internet for carvings, tools, and events. I heard about a chain saw carving event from a guy who was doing some bear carvings at our local county park and my wife and I attended one day of that event. There were about 8 carvers there that represented a couple of the chainsaw companies and they carved everything from birds to bears. It was interesting and I talked to a couple of the carvers and learned some things about specific tools. I owned a Sthil 041 farm boss chain saw with a 20 inch bar that I have had since 1978, but that was it and I had never tried to carve with it. So, I decided to carve a smaller version of Our Lady in my shop out of a pine log that was about 1’ x 2.5’ as a practice and I found out quickly that the 041 saw was too big to be effective for the detail that was required. So I turned to my rotary machines to carve the detail for this image and it turned out OK. By doing this smaller version I learned that I would need a smaller chainsaw and that I would use the rotary machines for the detail work. During my research, I found the Sthil Company offered a 12” bar with carving tips for medium detail work that I was interested in and found some recommended safety items like chaps and ear protection. One Sunday at church that summer, I was talking with Steve and mentioned that I was going to purchase some additional tools before I got started, one of them a carving bar with the dime sized tip and he said he would take care of the costs of that tool for me, which he did. I purchased a Sthil 025 chain saw from a friend of mine, some chaps, and a Holy Galahad cutter attachment and chainsaw attachment that adapted to my 41/2” grinder and with the other tools that I already owned, I was tool ready. Now that deals with the practical, physical and some of the mental preparation, but I wanted to be spiritually prepared as well.

ourlady-chainsawOur priest, Father Shaun, was aware that I was attempting to do this sculpture, so I asked him for a special blessing for the success of the endeavor, so after the Saturday morning mass of the day I was to begin, Father gave me the blessing; the date was November 1st, 2010. I prayed a Rosary on my way to Steve and Rhonda’s house and when I arrived I asked the entire family (Steve and Rhonda and their nine children, two of whom were not present) to come outside and pray with me for success, Mary’s intercession, that those that who would look on it might be brought closer to God and that the entire endeavor would glorify God. These prayers added to the already numerous prayers that I’m sure Steve and Rhonda had prayed and the countless prays I made throughout the summer in preparation for this event wrapped the project with pray and put the success in God and Mary’s hands; I was the instrument.

ourlady-snow

And so I got started and I remember the first several chunks of wood I cut off were huge, (the 041 came in handy on these cuts). I had scaffolding built around the tree and I had to be careful that these 100 lbs plus chunks of wood were not falling on me or the scaffolding. I would cut nearly through the wood and then use a pry bar to dislodge it from the trunk so it would fall properly. The carving was progressing nicely. Each Saturday during the month of November, I would attend Mass and I would pray a Rosary on my way to Steve and Rhonda’s house before I would start carving. DSC01377I continued to thank God for the privilege of carving our Lady’s image and asked for guidance in my work. I know that the Holy Spirit guided me because the work progressed smoothly and I didn’t make any big mistakes and if you knew me that was a miracle in itself. The weather in December was horrible and a couple of days I built a wind and snow blind to work in.

The carving was virtually complete by the end of December and at the invitation of Steve and Rhonda and their family, our priest, Father Shaun, my wife, Roxanne and I were invited for dinner for the purpose of celebrating and having Father bless his home and a recent remodel that Steve had completed and a particular blessing on the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” sculpture.DSC01386

We treated the raw maple with pentacryl; a product made to prevent checking and splitting and covered the sculpture with plastic and a tarp. This is April and the carving is still covered and Steve has asked me to build a gazebo around it this summer. But I must say that this entire endeavor was blessed by GOD. The story will continue…

And so it continues……. It was decided over the winter that we would cut the carving from the stump to help preserve the maple wood from decay and infestation from insects. This past weekend, Steve and his son Anthony uncovered the carving of Our Lady and found a little mold on the surface of the wood. This has been one of the wettest springs in history, so that didn’t surprise any of us. We will deal with these small issues before the final placement and sealing of the wood.DSC02023

On Monday May 22, Steve and I set out to cut and move the carving of Our Lady; I, using the old 041 farm boss with a 20” bar and Steve operating his company’s crane. We wrapped a strap around the carving about midway from top to bottom and I cut for about 15 minutes before we could feel her move. Using the crane, Steve lifted her into the air approximately 25’ to swing her around for temporary placement and I took a couple of pictures with my phone as the carving of Our Lady was suspended in the air. We were joking about it being the second assumption.

We made two interesting conclusions; one, the maple tree was over 90 years old, based on the amount of annular rings and two, we estimated that the carving weighed approximately 4000 lbs. Wow! And so again….. The story will continue.

And so it continues ……The carving of Our Lady sat in that spot in front of Steve and Rhonda’s house for a little over a year when Steve and I again moved the carving to its permanent location on Steve’s property.DSC02026

Joe, a friend of the family and a landscaper, has designed a Catholic Rosary garden with a gazebo in the center featuring the Our Lady carving. Of course we had to set the carving on the permanent base and build the gazebo around her.

I started the gazebo in June of 2012 and it is now the end of October and the gazebo is officially complete. It has been two years to the day, that the carving was started. The Rosary garden features five large ever green plants for the mysteries of the Rosary and fifty smaller plants for each of the hail Mary’s for each of the five decades with additional plants for the introductory prayers. The three panels in the back of the gazebo reflect images of the seven sacraments of the Church and the eight stain glass in the top of the roof of the gazebo reflect the eight beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus. Rhonda, Steve’s wife, created these outstanding works of art. Here are a couple of views of the structure and a view looking up at the ceiling of the structure.