I was contacted a while back by a lady in California who had seen the cane I carved from a Bradford Pear branch. She rescues and has raised monitor lizards and was interested in buying a cane from me. I came up with a design and she approved it. She did want the head lifted a bit and she especially liked the “expression” of the other lizard. Here is the design I came up with.
She wanted something that looked like the lizard was sitting on the handle, rather than part of or as the handle. This wasn’t totally practical, as the handle would be extremely large and unconfortable in the hand. Sometimes compromises are necessary for a design to work as a cane and I think this will have the appearance she desired and the functionality needed.
I already had turned a shaft that would be suitable, so I bandsawed a blank out of some 2” basswood leaving about an 1/8” all aroung to allow the edges of the blank to be rounded over. My sketch was actual size, so it was easy to copy it and use it for the pattern.
You can see I left some additional wood so that the head could be lifted up a bit. I drilled the shaft and the handle for the steel rod that will join them, in order to make sure things are aligned properly as I carve the handle and the tail wrapping around the shaft. I use knives and my larger gouges to roughly shape the handle, trying to block in the basic shapes of the handle and different parts of the lizard.
I really want to get the handle down to a rounded shape and then I’ll carve the lizard down to fit it. And the whole thing must be comfortable for a lady to grip (I’ll test the fit with my wife’s hands). I try to rough out the piece as a whole before starting to add any details.
Referring to photos, I start refining the shapes, carving them down closer to the proper sizes. I draw in the features, trying to get them placed properly. The customer doesn’t want this piece painted, so I carve the syes in. If I were painting it, I would prefer to use glass eyes set in place. But I can’t disguise the putty unless I paint it, so I’ll just put a dab of clear epoxy on each of these, to give them that glisten of realness.
I use my rotary tool to sand and refine the shapes. I want the “handle” portion to be smooth, as a contrast to the lizard. And I need to smooth the lizard,to make it flow. And also, as a preparation for burning /carving scales. Any shadows that are carved in, need that smoothness, so that it creates a contrast.
He still has that bulky look of a monitor lizard, but is small enought to grip comfortably now. I like the way the head and eyes are looking…still need to refine the feet a bit more. But I need to remeber that this is a cane and details need to be able to hold up to use….nothing too delicate or fragile!
I want to do as much carving as possible before permanently attaching the handle to the shaft. It can be quite exciting, waving a three foot long stick around as you twist and turn it, to carve and detail a handle! Hazardous for on-lookers and light fixtures! Thanks for looking!
-- Mike P., Arkansas, http://mikepounders.weebly.com