Wooden Owls

I have been working on a series of wooden owls lately, mostly outside. In my back yard I have a picnic table, where I carve wood and make other objects. My interest in wood carving started several years ago, when I learned how to carve woodcut relief for printmaking. A couple of years ago, while visiting a friend in Northern California, I was introduced to chainsaw carving on redwood. I was given a large stump that later morphed into an owl. Nowadays, I don't use any mechanical devices for the sculptures, everything such as carving, sanding, filing, and sawing is done with non-electric hand tools.

When I visit Alki Beach or am driving around town I look for wood that I can use for the task. I use whatever is available, as long as it doesn't appear to be treated chemically, or is rotted through. Mostly I pick up rounded stumps, old 4X4's or 4x6's, and also I have used boughs and branches from trees in my yard.

To start, I use a hatchet to cut of the bark, remove rotten parts, or to round off the edges. Then I use a wide u-gouge to make indentations for the carving of the head and feet. Details are done with a v-gouge. I use a large u-shaped gouge with a mallet for the eyes. The wood chips and shavings are used as mulch for my garden.

To finish, I use wood files and sandpaper. I like the way the wood grain appears after this process. In older woods, especially pine, the sap seeps through to add a waxy polish. Lately, I have also used pumice sand and foam in place of the sandpaper. The pumice, is left from a boulder I am carving. Eventually I will have a series of stone owls too. Some of these owls I will leave unfinished, or perhaps add a light application of linseed oil.

On other owls, I like to use inks as a stain application. I use sumi and walnut inks to make details. I like how the ink soaks into the wood and bleeds a bit, similar to using oxides on bisque clay bodies.

I painted some of the owls with a combination of acrylic paint and inks. These tend to look more like my glazed ceramic owls.

One piece of wood I acquired, had old nails sticking out of it. I carved around some of the nails, and took some out while carving. When I was finished, I put the ones I had taken out back in their place. I also hammered in a couple of more and added eyes made out of old Washington State tax tokens. My grandfather, Pete Murray had found the tokens while working at the old Navy homes, in Pasco, Washington.

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