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Cottonwood bark treehouse

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  • Glenn Jennings
    replied
    Hi Claude thanks for that mate. If I was able to find some I probably wouldn't be allowed to import it as our customs are paranoid on diseases getting in and ruining our farming and horticulture industries. The bark being thick and porous would probably be seen as a microbe time bomb by our customs people. It would have to be chemically nuked to even have a hope of getting into the country.

    Cheers
    Glenn

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  • Claude
    replied
    Glenn: The Australian forum has some posts about cottonwood bark in AU.
    https://www.woodworkforums.com/f10/c...ottonwood+bark I can't find the p-ost at the moment, but someone on the AU forum found some cottonwood along a small stream and got some great bark off of a downed tree.

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  • pallin
    replied
    Jim - The Harbor Freight lathe is okay for what I do. First, I bolted it securely to a strong bench. Then I fitted it with a Nova chuck. I have used it to turn plate blanks for chip carving and a few bowls.

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  • Sharon of the Dell
    replied
    Nice work Jim!

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  • jmischel
    replied
    Originally posted by pallin View Post

    Jim , you may not need to replace the switch. Assuming it's the same as mine, just take out the mounting screws and disassemble. It gets clogged with sawdust, but works fine when cleaned. When remounting, put a flap of clear plastic under the upper screw so that it drapes over the toggle. It will keep out the sawdust.
    Interesting. Yeah, it's pretty sticky. I'll see if I can clean the switch. Good idea on the dust protection.

    How do you like that lathe? Most people I've talked to online say that I should "get a real lathe," but a few seem to think it's a usable piece of equipment. I really have no need to spend $1,000 on a new midi lathe right now if this one will get me started with simple things.

    Jim

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  • pallin
    replied
    Originally posted by jmischel View Post

    I actually mis-spoke when I said that I don't own a lathe. I forgot that somebody gave me an old Harbor Freight 10-20 lathe a few years ago. I put it up on the bench last week. It needs a belt, and I need to replace the switch. . . .
    Jim , you may not need to replace the switch. Assuming it's the same as mine, just take out the mounting screws and disassemble. It gets clogged with sawdust, but works fine when cleaned. When remounting, put a flap of clear plastic under the upper screw so that it drapes over the toggle. It will keep out the sawdust.

    Leave a comment:


  • Glenn Jennings
    replied
    Hi Jim

    I put it in "New projects and works in progress." under the heading below on page 2 . Was a dead boring piece of wood except for a tiny bit of burl. haveing dug down to get to the burl I turned it into a small bowl like your knot bowls.

    The artwork I threw at it to make it interesting could be applied to any project.

    Am in the process of doing a 3 piece laminate bowl that I hope to fit a bald eagle carved in contrasting wood to. Will be golden colour top and bottom with dark brown blackwood in the middle with the eagle made of Kahikatea which is a bit like basswood to look at. Should make for an interesting piece. The blackwood has a crack through to the centre of it that had rotted out a little so have had to work a fix on that by cutting and gluing a piece in. Will use the eagle and maybe some other artwork to hide the worst of the fix. Was just too nice a piece of grain wood to throw away.

    My new lathe is just belt drive and it doesn't take long to change speed. As long as the bearings are all good on your old lathe it might turn out to be just fine. Looking forward to your next item post!!!!

    Cheers
    Glenn
    Last edited by Glenn Jennings; 07-15-2020, 02:41 AM.

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  • joepaulbutler
    replied
    Yes, you have to keep strop handier

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  • jmischel
    replied
    Originally posted by tbox61 View Post
    Those are just too cool! I started carving bark in the last 6 months, and it is a blast. It is however, a very filthy enterprise, and i have purchased a couple of .50 paring knives I have re-purposed into my bark carving knives. My good tools don't hit the bark until i get down past where there could be bad stuff!
    Filthy enterprise is right. You should see the mess you can make with a power carver on bark.

    I have a roughing knife that I use specifically for doing the initial cuts in bark, and another I use for rough shaping. Don't kid yourself: there can be, and is, "bad stuff" all the way down through the bark. I've run into some good sized grains 1/4 inch or so that were buried an inch inside. Even carving the inner sections dulls tools. Lots of bad stuff throughout. I've found it especially hard on my detail knife, and I ruined a micro gouge on a piece a few years back. Of course, those micro tools are really fragile. My solution was to learn how to carve the stuff without needing the micro tools.

    But for all its drawbacks, cottonwood bark is just fun to carve. If it requires a little more work maintaining my tools, so be it.

    Jim
    Last edited by jmischel; 07-09-2020, 12:52 PM.

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  • jmischel
    replied
    Originally posted by Glenn Jennings View Post
    Hi Jim
    Well you got a real fine look to the ones you have done, And with stocks on hand you will be busy for some time. Be sure to post them all as I will enjoy having a good look at them. Happy carving!!!!! I posted a piece on how to make boring stuff look good to see if that might change your mind about getting the wood lathe you were thinking of getting. Hope it is of some use to you. Looking forward to seeing the gnome multi story project. Can you post some progress photos??

    Cheers
    Glenn
    Hi, Glenn

    Where did you post the piece about making round stuff look not boring?

    I actually mis-spoke when I said that I don't own a lathe. I forgot that somebody gave me an old Harbor Freight 10-20 lathe a few years ago. I put it up on the bench last week. It needs a belt, and I need to replace the switch. Then I need to figure out if it's worthwhile keeping or if I should spring for a decent midi lathe with electronic speed control and all the other modern conveniences. Not sure I want to mess with trying to recondition a 30 year old lathe that wasn't particularly good even when new.

    I'll post some progress pictures on the multi-story project.

    Jim

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  • Glenn Jennings
    replied
    Hi Jim
    Well you got a real fine look to the ones you have done, And with stocks on hand you will be busy for some time. Be sure to post them all as I will enjoy having a good look at them. Happy carving!!!!! I posted a piece on how to make boring stuff look good to see if that might change your mind about getting the wood lathe you were thinking of getting. Hope it is of some use to you. Looking forward to seeing the gnome multi story project. Can you post some progress photos??

    Cheers
    Glenn

    Leave a comment:


  • tbox61
    replied
    Those are just too cool! I started carving bark in the last 6 months, and it is a blast. It is however, a very filthy enterprise, and i have purchased a couple of .50 paring knives I have re-purposed into my bark carving knives. My good tools don't hit the bark until i get down past where there could be bad stuff!

    Leave a comment:


  • jmischel
    replied
    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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  • joepaulbutler
    replied
    oops, should have tried it longer

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  • Brian T
    replied
    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.

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