"Fluid by Nature"

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Project by mpounders posted 07-01-2010 09:46 PM 5273 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,

55 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3672 days

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


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

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 2964 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

434 posts in 3560 days

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

Great job

-- Rob — I've cut it off twice and it's still too short!,

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3551 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


1622 posts in 3315 days

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

Captures the spirit of a difficult contest theme perfectly.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3139 days

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

amazing catch
thank´s for sharing


View owenusa's profile


13 posts in 3119 days

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

Oustanding. Remarkable work.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3042 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


875 posts in 2919 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,

View ddockstader's profile


156 posts in 3285 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


116 posts in 3100 days

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


View spclPatrolGroup's profile


233 posts in 2918 days

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

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

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3327 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 got my vote…..

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

View Woodwrecker's profile


4153 posts in 3599 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 !

-- Eric, central Florida / Utor praemia operibus duris

View Jason's profile


659 posts in 3532 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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