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"Fluid by Nature"

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Project by mpounders posted 07-01-2010 09:46 PM 4470 views 5 times favorited 55 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well, if no one else wants to go first!

The dictionary defines fluidity as “the quality or state of being fluid; the physical property of a substance that enables it to flow”. I have thought a lot about this contest and this category and how I might interpret it, in my own way.

I love the many beautiful examples of woodworking artistry and skills displayed on this forum and I thought about how different forms might display fluidity. Certainly, all forms have the capability of flowing or having flowing lines. But as I thought about my project, it seemed (to me) that furniture is somewhat stationary by nature. You carefully place it somewhere and then you admire it and occasionally dust it! Bowls and boxes find their special display spaces, occasionally moving from room to room, but their basic design as containers, as holders of something, seem to limit them in some ways, and seem to make them static, no matter how flowing or beautifully made.

Ah, but a cane or a staff is art that you can take for a walk! The entire function of a cane is to go, to move, to climb a mountain, to ford a stream. You don’t just look at a cane and admire it; you interact with it. You hold it, carry it, lean on it, and use it in many different ways and in many different locations and adventures. A cane is a valued companion for many people.

I often make canes using wood that I have found while walking. I like the contrast between the organic, natural shapes of a piece of wood and a turned and carved handle, but I also find the bark on some wood can be as colorful, and interesting as some exotic woods. This oak staff was twisted and shaped by honeysuckle vines as it grew in the woods of northwest Alabama. The bark was interesting and it had a nice flowing, sinuous shape that seemed perfect for some type of cane.

Snakes also have a flowing movement, whether on land or in water and they have always fascinated and amazed me. They can be quite beautiful once you get past the initial fear and shock (although some are best viewed behind glass, nice thick glass). This piece of wood appeared to really, really want to be a snake. Because I am an admirer of David Stehly, I wanted to carve a very realistic snake, flowing with the shapes created by nature, but carved to appear as a separate piece from the tree it encircles. The species I carved here is a Buff Striped Keel Snake, a non-venomous snake that hunts by sight.

It would seem such a simple thing to carve, but it is quite challenging to get the head and body shaped and sized correctly and in proportion. This is all carved from a single piece of wood, so you don’t get “do-overs”! I can’t just cut another piece if I cut off a leetle toooo much! And then the work on the scales started. I penciled in the shapes and used a utility knife and a detail knife to cut them in. There are approximately 2000 scales of differing sizes on this snake and each scale requires a minimum of 4-6 cuts. I also used a wood burner and a flex-shaft rotary tool to outline, texture, and shape each scale. (Somehow, checkering a gunstock doesn’t seem as intimidating as it used to!) The glass eyes are epoxied in place and the snake was finished with a lacquer sealer and gesso undercoat before painting with acrylic paints and ink. The entire staff was finished with satin polyurethane for a durable finish.

I left the bark on and left some branches sticking out a little to give it a natural appearance, like it was just out of the woods. It may appear un-touched, but the ends of the limbs have been subtly rounded and the entire staff has been lightly sanded with a 320 grit sanding mop, so it will feel comfortable in your hand. You will see several spots where branches were sanded flush in order to make the grip more comfortable. The bark has subtle gray, green, and brown shades that are quite nice. I have noticed that people handle and grip sticks in different places, depending on the person and the terrain. This stick is 60” tall and can be gripped comfortably at the “thumb-stick” area at the top and other places along the shaft. A taller stick like this is really designed more for hiking than city streets, and it seems appropriate for it to return to that environment.

So there you have it. My vision was to create something that that was fluid, which flowed and moved, both in design and in function. I wanted something that appeared natural and realistic, despite the hours of work in creating it. There is still a sense of wildness in this wood….no kilns, no special techniques, nothing squared or fitted to 1/64th precision. In this piece, you still see the tree that it was, the tree that was the inspiration for this piece. The tree that was fluid by nature.

Thank you for looking. (and for voting for me, if you like it!)

-- Mike P., Arkansas, http://mikepounders.weebly.com





55 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2372 days


#1 posted 07-01-2010 09:48 PM

beautiful!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Div's profile

Div

1653 posts in 1664 days


#2 posted 07-01-2010 09:58 PM

Fantastic work, unbelievable detail! You must be a very patient man with very good eyes! The writing is very good too!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Rob W's profile

Rob W

424 posts in 2260 days


#3 posted 07-01-2010 09:59 PM

Great job

-- Rob — I've cut it off twice and it's still too short!, http://www.witzkewood.com

View mtnwild's profile

mtnwild

3474 posts in 2251 days


#4 posted 07-01-2010 10:00 PM

Incredible!! Wow, trying to get a coherent thought. That is awesome…................

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View JJohnston's profile

JJohnston

1589 posts in 2015 days


#5 posted 07-01-2010 10:05 PM

Captures the spirit of a difficult contest theme perfectly.

-- "Sometimes even now, when I'm feeling lonely and beat, I drift back in time, and I find my feet...Down on Main Street." - Bob Seger

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1839 days


#6 posted 07-01-2010 10:22 PM

amazing catch
thank´s for sharing

Dennis

View owenusa's profile

owenusa

13 posts in 1819 days


#7 posted 07-01-2010 10:23 PM

Oustanding. Remarkable work.

View Bearpie's profile

Bearpie

2591 posts in 1741 days


#8 posted 07-01-2010 10:26 PM

Wow, such details and wonderful work. I believe you are in first place and it will be tough to top this and the only way you can lose is if the judges are squeamish of snakes! You set the bar way high.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View mpounders's profile

mpounders

746 posts in 1619 days


#9 posted 07-01-2010 10:35 PM

LOL…I got it made for sure, as long as no one else enters! But I suspect that won’t last long.

-- Mike P., Arkansas, http://mikepounders.weebly.com

View ddockstader's profile

ddockstader

116 posts in 1985 days


#10 posted 07-01-2010 10:41 PM

OK, fess up. How did you get the snake to pose? You can’t convince me it’s not alive. I’m waiting for the tongue to stick out.

Really incredible.

View AngelofDeath's profile

AngelofDeath

116 posts in 1800 days


#11 posted 07-01-2010 10:47 PM

awesome

View spclPatrolGroup's profile

spclPatrolGroup

231 posts in 1618 days


#12 posted 07-01-2010 10:57 PM

You fooled me, I thought that was a stuffed snake until I read your description.

-- Dave, from ND "The mind is an infinitely long workbench, and its cluttered with half-finished thoughts and ideas, sometimes we need to clear off the workbench and start again from step one."

View grizzman's profile

grizzman

7151 posts in 2027 days


#13 posted 07-01-2010 11:19 PM

that is just amazing to me…id swear it was real…you did a fantastic job..i cant say anymore then that…just that unless something else comes along that wows me more then this..you got my vote…..

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Eric in central Florida's profile

Eric in central Florida

3665 posts in 2299 days


#14 posted 07-01-2010 11:27 PM

That is incredibly realistic looking.
THAT is going to be tough to beat Mike!
Great Job !

-- All glory comes from daring to begin.

View Jason's profile

Jason

655 posts in 2232 days


#15 posted 07-01-2010 11:36 PM

That is incredibly life like. Snakes give me the creeps and thus so does your cane, but your craftsmanship is to be applauded.

-- Jason - Colorado Springs

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