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Cottonwood bark treehouse

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  • Cottonwood bark treehouse

    Continuing to clear the unfinished projects shelf. I came across this bark house that I bought the blank for in the fall of 2010 after I took Rick Jensen's bark carving class. I started carving on it in 2012 or 2013. I don't remember why I stopped, but I found it when I moved everything into my new shop about 18 months ago.

    I also completed another cottonwood bark house that I started in 2016. That one I carved all with power. Not real happy with the way it turned out.

    I tried a new finish on the treehouse. Usually I just apply Minwax paste finishing wax, let it dry, and then buff it. Today I applied the paste wax and then spent some time warming it up with the heat gun. After it cooled, I buffed with a nylon brush on my Foredom, and then with an old toothbrush. The other house I just applied the paste wax and buffed. Heating did darken the treehouse, but not as much as mineral oil would have. I might have to experiment with multiple finishes on a single piece to get color variations.

    th1.jpghouse1.jpg
    Attached Files
    Last edited by jmischel; 06-29-2020, 02:13 AM.

  • #2
    Hey Jim Awesome Job I think what you have done with the one on the left with the tree stump is really clever.

    I should have something for you to have a look at in 3 or 4 days. You got me thinking about the "round stuff" being boring so have put together a piece that is based on one of your knot bowls. Was about to throw a piece of walnut in the new lathe to do a test "round thing" to modify and saw a bump on the side of it that could have been a bit of burl. So decided to modify that instead.

    Trimmed a slice off the wood that would have been turned down anyway and turned it into a knot type bowl. Just a tiny bit of burl in it but not too bad grain so decided to do a piece to show different types of work like I mentioned in a previous post that should give the piece a bit of a boost.

    This one will have different woods for contrast, silver wire inlay. pyrography, different texture, and relief scroll carving and cut to a shape to be pleasing to the eye. Well, if all works out that is. Went through the side of the burl and had to do a fix. Made a feature out of a calamity by applying a pyrography "fix" to both the inside and the outside of the bowl part.

    All will be revealed in a few days. Hope It gets you fired up to hit the workbench hehehehe. That will be a bit of payback for you getting me all fired up with some good ideas. hehehe. Have a good day!!

    Cheers
    Glenn

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    • #3
      Excellent carvings and I am also partial to the one on the left, Jim. Nice composition and appeal.
      Bill
      Living among knives and fire.

      http://www.westernwoodartist.com

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      • #4
        Hi Jim , definitely Conversation Starters . Good Job . Merle

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        • #5
          Heck, I'm not going to spend my time trying to pick the favorite, I like them both!
          . . .JoeB

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          • #6
            Nice looking houses. I use pased wax on some projects also. I use a cheep hair dryer. It melts the wax in but will not scorch the wood.
            We live in the land of the free because of the brave!

            https://www.pinterest.com/carvingbarn0363/

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Randy View Post
              Nice looking houses. I use pased wax on some projects also. I use a cheep hair dryer. It melts the wax in but will not scorch the wood.
              I've used a cheap hair dryer in the past. But I was in the shop, where I have a variable-temperature heat gun. I set the temperature pretty low, and kept it moving around the wood so there was no risk of scorching.

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              • #8
                Hi Jim
                How thick does that bark grow?? I dont think we have anything like it over here. Looks like neat stuff to work with.

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                • #9
                  Glen, it depends on where the tree grew. When I first heard about CW for carving I went to the Truckee River here in NV and found a large downed tree. The bark was about 3/4" thick. Since the CW I've gotten from Alaska can be 3 to 3-1/2" thick.
                  . . .JoeB

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                  • #10
                    Depending upon who is counting, there are 5-6 species of cottonwoods native to North America.
                    We have big cottonwoods (Populus trichocarpa) in low wet sites, usually along river bottom land.
                    4-6' in diameter and 100-125 feet tall. Self-pruning, the branches may be 12" diameter when they come off without a sound in a wind storm. Killed a friend of mine.

                    The cottonwoods here with the broken dead tops (lightning strikes?) have the thickest bark.
                    Away west of my place, Granisle, BC, there are trees with bark 6" thick.
                    Forget the name of the outfit that sells that xxx good carving bark.
                    Three carvers in this village do bark and nothing else. They don't even answer the phone.
                    Somebody is going around and carving faces in the living trees of the forest.
                    Does no harm to the trees, the bark is dead.
                    I know a place to find a bunch of dragons carved into the trees.

                    I really like the fantasy houses and faces that carvers do in cottonwood bark.
                    Like snow flakes. Similar but no two ever the same.
                    = = == = =
                    Two questions:

                    1. For carvings kept indoors, is there any reason for any kind of a finish at all?

                    2. Is it possible to face a bunch of pieces and do a big glue-up for a larger carving?

                    Brian T

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                    • #11
                      Brian, thank my thoughts for what they are worth .

                      I do some type of finish whether it be acrylic, very little, or Watco Danish Oil, In my opinion, it keeps the bark tighter and less chance of flaking on the fine point like the nose.

                      I've on a couple of occasions planed down the backs of two pieces, dowelled and glued them with good results, I always Like to have some of the rough outer bak showing on my carving.
                      . . .JoeB

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                      • #12
                        Would love to have a go at some of that 6 inch bark but we have nothing like it over here. Darn !! Love what Jim did with this.

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                        • #13
                          Cottonwood bark can hold some rather intricate detail. Quite impressive.
                          Hand carving and Dremel/Foredom power carving, too.

                          Holds absolutely no interest for me at all which is odd.

                          One of the local bark carvers gifted me a sack of really good stuff long ago.
                          I poked and prodded one piece for a few days and gave it all back to him.
                          Brian T

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                          • #14
                            oops, should have tried it longer
                            . . .JoeB

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Glenn Jennings View Post
                              Would love to have a go at some of that 6 inch bark but we have nothing like it over here. Darn !! Love what Jim did with this.
                              The cottonwood trees here in central Texas have bark that's not even an inch thick. But up north in Montana and North Dakota, the bark gets much thicker. I've seen bark more than eight inches thick, and have myself carved a few pieces more than four inches thick.

                              To the best of my knowledge, Rick Jensen developed the hollow treehouse idea. You face two pieces of bark and glue them together using something like Elmer's glue with a thin strip of cardboard between them. Shape the outside of the house, lay out the windows, and place the doors and windows. Drill holes in the windows to guide in hollowing. Then, separate the two pieces using a long, thin putty knife. Hollow the inside, carve out the windows. Face the two pieces again, glue and clamp. When it dries you now have a hollow house. On the house in this picture, you can see the seam. The first house I did, you can't detect the seam at all.

                              Ten years or so ago, I bought three large bits of bark from a carver who was cleaning out his garage. Two of them were about five feet long and two or three feet wide: whole sheets that somebody peeled from a dead tree. One of those two I split up into smaller pieces and carved a few dozen flat back houses: wall hangings, mostly. The other big sheet still sits in the garage rafters. The third piece is a triangle, about a foot wide at the base, and four feet tall. I recently began work to turn that into a gnome high-rise condominium. We'll see how far I get with that project.

                              I'm not much of a face carver, so I haven't tried a cottonwood bark face. Perhaps one day. But I really do like carving the houses.

                              Cottonwood bark is very soft, and fine detail takes a very thin and sharp knife. Or a deft hand with tiny diamond bits. I'm still learning. Getting better, but it's frustrating. You must also understand that bark is really hard on tools. Lots of dirt, sand, and who knows what all else in there that dulls tools surprisingly quickly. It does hold fine detail well, though.

                              I finish the bark mostly because I like the color and contrast a finish provides. Unfinished, bark is kind of a dull sandy brown, and it'd probably get stained from people handling it. Mineral oil darkens it to almost black. I prefer the paste wax. Just applied, it gives that orange-ish color you see in the second picture. The rich chocolate brown is due to me melting the wax onto the piece. Rick Jensen likes to use neutral shoe polish, which results in an almost natural color. He also will use colored shoe polish to highlight some areas. Green trees, for example.

                              Jim

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