|Project by Mark A. DeCou||posted 08-18-2011 03:58 PM||6720 views||1 time favorited||11 comments|
This project posting is a Commissioned Hand Carved Shepherd’s Staff, to commemorate a 50th Wedding Anniversary.
WOW, What A Summer:
I’ve been swamped with work this year (2011), and then I had to take most of May, and all of June to prepare for and travel to North Carolina to teach a woodworking class at the John Campbell Folk School. This put me waaaay behind, and I’ve not even had time to post a Blog about the Class and the Trip, which I hope to do some time before I forget the details. I agreed to teach a class next summer at the Folk School about Powder Horns and Scrimshaw, and I’m going to have to force myself to prepare throughout the year, instead of waiting until the last minute like I did this time.
I’ve been so busy with other projects this year (2011), that I surprised myself when I went to my Cane Log to get a serial number for this Carved Shepherd’s Staff and discovered it was #01 of this year’s Cane/Staff work. I have so many custom walking canes on order this year, that if I’m going to get them all done, I’ll need to really get after it.
Lumberjocks has been such a blessing to me, offering Google places for searchers to go who want a custom made walking cane. The average waiting period for me is about 9-12 months now, and probably closer to the 12 months than the 9. I sold out my ability to do Christmas Time gifts this year in early April, the earliest I’ve ever had to say “no” to Christmas Time gift requests. God is Great, and thanks for Lumberjocks.
An Illinois family wants to Celebrate a 50th Wedding Anniversary, which they should, as should the rest of us, as there are fewer and fewer 50th Anniversaries these days. The Wife ordered this Carved Shepherd’s Staff for her husband, a Pastor, contacting me sometime early this year, or late last year, asking for a mid-August delivery. At the time, August seemed a long ways off and I added it to my list. Then in July she reminded me of it, and suddenly August didn’t seem to far away. I shipped it this week, and if UPS does their usual job, she’ll get it at home a day early—whew!
She picked out several symbols that she wanted to portray her husband’s passions, his work, and their life together. She had this idea after doing an internet search, and found my Bishop's Crosier project that was commissioned previously. She decided on “color” for the paint instead of using all Gold Powder Paint like I did on the Bishop’s Crosier. This piece arrives at the customer’s house today, and I can’t wait to hear what she thinks, and how her husband responds on Saturday at the big family Celebration Party. It is truly an honor to be selected for such heart-felt projects as this one.
How Did I Do It?
To build a piece like this I start with a 2” wide x 2” thick x 72” long walnut stick of wood that is free of faults and has fairly straight grain lines. I then cut it in half, and mark the points where the grain line will meet back together at the cut in the middle where I install the threaded brass coupling piece. I want the grain lines to run straight through the threaded connector when it is tightened in place, a painstaking detail, but one I like to do. Then, I remove all of the extra wood until what emerges is a straight, tapered shaft, with the carving ovals raised above the surface of the tapered shaft. I file and sand the tapered shaft smooth, and then I carve each picture on the carving oval. I transfer my hand drawn paper artwork to the wood with carbon paper.
I often receive emailed questions from people asking about whether I use a CNC machine for work like this, or if the carvings are glued on, so I decided to share how I do it to answer those that are curious. None of this work is done quickly, just take a big long stick, and remove everything that doesn’t look like what I have in my mind. I start with a scaled drawing provided to the customer before I start to cut the wood, to make sure my concept meets what they are expecting.
As each carving has been roughly carved onto the Shaft, it gets more and more scary for me, as any mistakes will result in having to start over. When all of the carvings are roughed in, I go back and start adding in detail, and end with painting and lacquer finish that I spray on. Fortunately, no mistakes were made on this one, and no blood was let, which my fingers enjoyed. I appreciate projects like this where I get to meditate and ponder on Scripture the entire time I’m designing and working on it.
For Instance, the Customer says, “I would like ‘Worshiping Hands’ to be carved…..” and then I have to interpret what that looks like in a picture, that I can carve on a small diameter round background. I’m not the most gifted carver, so I’m limited by my abilities and the medium, and I do the best I can. All of this time sitting on a shop stool carving these Christian-themed art images gives me a lot of time to think through the work of Christ on the Earth, on the Cross, in Heaven, and in His soon return, and I appreciate that opportunity for meditation, as much as the chance for paying work that helps me feed the kids and keep the house running and gas in the cars.
Making the Crown:
The customer asked for a “Tilted Crown on the Cross….”. I worked and scratched my head, and thought about that for quite awhile, and I couldn’t figure out a plan for that one. I started praying every night for inspiration, and then it hit me one morning, ”Hey there, you build jewelry for folks, why not just make a small brass crown with some decorative highlights to make it look like an old handmade crown.”
The idea seemed so simple when it came, why did it take so long to get the inspiration? I guess the reason is that I have to wait and pray long enough to insure that I can’t take credit for the idea, and I’m OK with that. I realize that this Lumberjock’s site is a secular internet location, and you may not like hearing about “prayer”, but this has been a consistent theme to my work over the years since 1997 when I quit my first job to pursue Crafts full time. I quit a great paying Corporate Office job to pursue Woodworking full time, without a shop, without any tools, without any customers, and no woodworking for 15 years since I had graduated High School…..Now, that will get a guy to learn to pray. If you want more of that Story, you can visit here
I get into a pickle with something I’m trying to accomplish, I’m just stumped on what to do….and after giving up on my own mind to solve the problem, I take the matter to prayer. What emerges has always been more interesting, and better than any idea I could have come up with on my own. If that offends you, I’m sorry, it’s just a piece of me, and how I work.
Once the Brass Crown idea was “given” to me, it was all pretty simple from there, I made a small cardboard template to get the size right, marked it out on a piece of brass, and cut out the zig-zag pattern with a jeweler’s saw, hammered it, rolled and soldered the joint, and added the Fine Silver bezel decoration, added the rivets, and then just polished and waxed it. It all took a little time, but it was easy to do after I had the idea.
To solve the problem of how to attach the Crown, I decided to make little rivets out of round headed brass nails, and put them in holes drilled around the circumference of the crown, but to keep three holes open for nails. The idea seems so simple in hind-sight, but before this concept came to me, I was quite stumped on what to do.
To make the rivets, I cut the little nails short behind the head, and then filed the cut straight, and then used a sharpened nail punch to tap the nail tip, making it into a rivet on the Crown. For the three open holes, I place full brass nails through, into the wood. This holds the Crown in place, and yet doesn’t look obvious, or different than the rest of the riveted heads.
My daughter visited me out in the shop while I was working on the Crown, and she has now “ordered” two of them for her Barbie & Ken Dolls. When questioned about that, she said, ”Well of Course Ken is King and Barbie is Queen, and they just must have Crowns…..please.”
Thanks for looking at the photos, and reading my dribble,
Note: All designs, photos, artwork, and text are the exclusive property of the Author, M.A. DeCou, and is protected by copyright 2011, no unauthorized use in total, or part, is allowed without expressed written permission by the Author.)
Cane Sample Slideshow: To hear Music, click the Speaker Icon
More Walking Sticks & Canes:
If you go to my Mark DeCou Website you won’t find very many canes pictured there. I do realize that I need to invest in improving my website, but until that is accomplished, here are few more of my canes posted at lumberjocks, thanks for your patience.
Handmade Finished Canes For Sale, Ready to Ship Now:
ETSY.com Online Shop Inventory: Click Here to Visit my Cane Inventory Page
- List of Other Canes I’ve built:-Folk Art & Pop-Art Carved Canes
- 50th Wedding Anniversary Staff
- Carved Face Life-Story Cane
- Motorcycle Biker's Walking Cane, Carved Flames
- Elk Antler Handle, Carved Twisting Oak Leaves
- Bishop’s Carved Walnut Crosier
- Nascar’s Jimmie Johnson Themed Walking Cane
- Carved Oak Leaf Walking Stick
- Folk-Art Smiling Wood Spirit Face Cane w/ Elk Antler Handle
- Folk-Art Carved Wood Spirit Hiking Stick
- Folk-Art Pirate Carved Face Cane w/ Deer Antler Handle
- Cartoon Character Taz, Folk Art One-of-a-kind Art Cane
- Sculpted Wood Spirit Face Cane
- Folk-Art Wood Spirit Cane w/ Elk Antler Handle & Scrimshaw
- Folk Art Mountain Man Face Cane
- Shamrock Wood Spirit Irish-Theme Face Cane
- Walnut Wood Spirit Face Cane with Antler & Turquoise
- Collection of Face Carved Canes
- Moses-Inspired Face Carved Cane w/ Antler & Turquoise
- Shepherd's Stick, Carved Border Collie Welsh-Style Dog Show Trial Stick
- Carved Oak Leaf Walking Cane with Scrimshaw Artwork
- Amazing Grace Music Notes Carved Cane
- A Lady’s Elegant Red Long-Stem Rose Carved Cane
- Prairie Fire Hand-Carved Hiking Thumb Sticks
- A Folk-Art Carved Albatross Head & Snake Walnut Cane
- Carved Folk-Art Walking Cane; 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' Story Stick with Scrimshaw Artwork-
- Apache Chief Geronimo Folk-Art Face Cane
- Folk Art Native American Face Cane Set
- Apache Chief Cochise Folk-Art Face Cane
- Folk Art Carved Cane of Shoshone Chief
- Indian Guides Chief Big-Red-Cloud Hiking Stick
- Apache Chief Cochise #2 Folk-Art Face Cane
- Scrimshaw Art Trophy Buck Deer Head
- Scrimshaw Art Walking Cane: Praying Mantis Insect
- Scrimshaw Art Walking Cane: Floppy Eared Bunny Face & Walnut Barley Twist
- Big & Tall Barley Twisted Oak with Scrimshawn Handle
- Walnut & Curly Maple Cane with Scrimshaw
- Scrimshaw Art Walnut Cane
- Fancy Barley Twist with Scrimshaw Cane
- Lady's Dress Cane, Red Oak, Walnut, Black Lacquer, & Scrimshaw Artwork of a Purple Cone Flower
- Ash Sapling with Elk Antler and Inlays of Crushed Turquoise
- Knarly Cedar Driftwood Topped Sapling Stick
- Folk-Art Carved Wood Spirit Hiking Stick
- Nanny McPhee Movie-Inspired Crooked Walking Stick
- Naturally Twisted Tree Sapling Cane
- Naturally Twisted Tree Sapling Walking Stick
- Shepherd's Crook Hiking Stick
- Black Locust Tree Sapling Walking Stick
- Red BirchTree Sapling Hiking Stick
- Fancy Barley Twisted Ebonized Oak & Elk Antler Cane, Serial No. 2009-05
- Big & Tall Walnut & Maple Barley Twist Custom Cane
- Big & Tall Red Oak and Antler with Scrimshaw Monogram
- White Oak Barley Twist Cane
- Osage Orange Barley Twist Cane
- Walnut & Figured Maple Barley Twist cane
- Black Walnut and Spalted Sycamore Barley Twist
- Red Oak Barley Twist with Black Lacquer
- Red Oak Barley Twist with Walnut Handle
- Dress Cane, Oak Barley Twist with Walnut Ring
- Bryan's Cane, The Start of my Cane Journey
- Ribbed Walnut Cane with Camphor Burl Derby Handle
- African Blackwood and Lapis Lazuli Ball Walking Stick
- Pink Ivory and Elk Antler Dress Walking Stick
- Coiled Ribbon Twisted Spalted White Oak with Walnut Handle
- Polished Black Steer Horn Upright Walking Stick
- Mexican Bocote Wood, Elk Antler Handle with Hand-Wrought Fine Silver End Caps
- Fancy Walking Cane, Camphor Burl, Maple, Bubinga, Whitetail Deer Antler, Inlays & Silver End Caps
- Custom Dress-Up Walking Cane, Walnut shaft with a Camphor Burl Handle
- Walnut & Buffalo Horn Twisted Cane
- White Birch & Buffalo Horn Twisted Cane
- Walnut Bamboo-Style Cane with Chrome Ball Top
- Walnut & Buffalo Horn Dress Cane
- Bird's Eye Maple Cane
- Spalted Sycamore Walking Cane
- Walnut Tall Knob Top Opera Cane
- Zebrawood & Walnut Knob Top Opera Cane
- Dress Cane Set, with several Material Options Shown
What is Scrimshaw Artwork?:
A Scrimshaw Art Journey: What it is & How to Do it; Five Simple Steps to Success
Click here to go to My Website page with Walking Canes
- Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works in Wichita, Kansas
- Prairie Past Times Antiques & Crafts in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas
You can contact these gallery stores directly and see what they still have in stock. They will ship to you if you buy something. If you prefer, you can also email me, as I keep fairly current on what is “unsold.”
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Background: My Cane Making Story:
I enjoy sculpting walking canes. Some folks call them Folk-Art Canes, while others call them Artisan Canes, some call them Carved Canes, while others call them Walking Sticks. There is quite a bit of argument about whether something should be called Sculpture or Carving. They could be considered Functional-Art, which is the type of work that I am usually drawn to. No matter what these canes are called, they seem to bring joy to the owners, and I have been asked to make quite a few of them in the past 5-6 years.
I started making canes on the request of a nice married couple I met on a church-building short-term mission trip to Mexico City in the early 1990’s. Several years after our trip, their son-in-law was diagnosed with bone cancer, and so they wanted to get him a specially made cane that he would enjoy using. They had heard from others that I had quit my corporate office job and started doing woodworking full-time. So, they contacted me to make his cane.
Sadly, I also built him a casket, another first for me, about a year later
Since the time I did that first Cane for Bryan, I have enjoyed the work on the canes that I have been able to make, but more importantly, the people that I have been able to meet and help along the journey. I do make a bunch of unique items and furniture, but without a doubt, I receive more correspondence and thank-you cards from cane customers than any of the other items I make, combined. So, they are fun for me to build, and I look forward to each new person and situation.
To keep a handle on all of the memories, I engrave a small serial number on each brass cane tip, and then I keep a detailed database log of each cane, customer, and situation. The list always brings me warm memories each time I scan it and remember the folks that have supported my work over the years, and vice versa.
Still Want to See more of my work?
Start with each of these links, and they will take you to other organized lists of my other niche products:
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com