Some people have asked me how I make wooden flowers like the ones in my spring bouquet. I hope that this tutorial helps those of you who want to make your own flowers. I’ll try to add to the blog as time permits and when I have something that I feel might be useful to add. Your comments are appreciated!
Step one – Make the Wood Shavings
I have been using basswood as my preferred wood for flower-making. It’s a relatively soft hardwood and has very little grain so it can be shaved into paper-like sheets with comparatively little splitting. It also absorbs water quickly and holds the moisture which helps it to stay pliable during flower construction. I’ve tried other wood (i.e. cherry, ash, etc.) but I find that, because they are denser and harder, they don’t absorb and hold moisture as well.
I’ve been using a 60 year old Stanley No. 7 Jointer plane to make my shavings. You might notice in the small inset in Figure 1 that the sole plate of my plane was broken just behind the blade mouth at one time during its 60 year life (before I owned it). In spite of that, it still does the job. More critical is the need for a sharp blade.
I take the shavings from a block of basswood about 1 3/4” wide and 8” to 10” long . The width is sufficient for the sizes of flowers I’m currently making. The thickness of the shavings can vary. I’ve worked with shavings that are quite thin and wood which is closer to the thickness of light cover stock. If the shavings are a little on the thick side but still workable, it will probably help in avoiding accidental breakage. Experimentation and experience will teach you what works best for you.
The petals (and leaves) made from this material are quite fragile, especially after they dry. At the end of each project, I use many coats of clear spray to give the flowers strength. More on that later.
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- Notes on my Plane
I have no particular expertise when it comes to the tuning, adjusting and using a hand plane. You will find many experts elsewhere who have more to offer than I will ever know. My comments here are offered only insofar as they might be helpful in obtaining good shavings to use in this project or others like it. If you have more informed wisdom regarding the subject, please chime in.
In my experience, when I use a plane a in normal situations, I am concerned with the workpiece (i.e. the big piece of wood from which the shavings are being removed). While the shavings can help me diagnose a condition that needs attention, in most cases I’ll probably be getting results that are “good enough” to get the job done. In that case, I’ll leave things alone and continue with the project. However, when the shavings themselves are the workpiece, my plane needs to be working better than “good enough” or the results will be disappointing and the tasks that follow will be difficult and frustrating.
In my experience, two items regarding my plane are critical in order to obtain the best results for this project: 1. a sharp blade and 2. accurate blade alignment.
- Blade Sharpness
It is critical to have a sharp blade in your plane. The best way I know of determining if the blade is sharp enough is to look at the shavings themselves. The photo below shows two shavings from my old Stanley No. 7. I’ve sharpened the detail to show the fibre breakage that occurs when the shaving is sliced from the blank and forced through the mouth and over the chip breaker.
The top shaving is closest to what I’m looking for. Fibre breakage occurs in very small increments and the curl is tight and uniform. Pieces made from this shaving (petal, leaf, etc.) will be uniform in appearance and resistant to breakage.
In the bottom shaving, (made before I sharpened the blade) the fibre breakage is in larger increments, indicating that the blade pushed through the wood instead of slicing it. Although this shaving could be used, the results would be less impressive and the item would be more prone to having pieces break off.
The photo below illustrates the influence of blade alignment. These two shavings have been flattened (procedure described in part 2 of this blog). The goal is to create shavings which are uniform in thickness like the one in the bottom of the photo. This requires that the cutting edge of the blade be parallel with the mouth of the plane. I also find it helpful to keep the cutting edge of the blade at right angles to the length of the wood blank rather than angling the plane as in some other operations.
-- Ron Tourangeau, Ottawa, ON – www.generationstudios.com