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Living Tree Woodspirit

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  • Living Tree Woodspirit

    No doubt about it, spring is in the air when the temperatures reach into the low 70's (F) and the carving bug starts biting hard! All of my woodshop classes were unexpectedly canceled today so I finally had a small window of opportunity between necessary catch-up chores and decided to take about 45 minutes this morning to experiment with carving a woodspirit into a live tree... like the one's that Colin Partridge (of WCI board fame) carves all the time.

    I was infatuated with the idea of carving into a living tree when Colin's article came out in WCI several issues back and I immediately invested over $100.00 in the Sikken's Cetol 1 & 2 (cedar) as reccomended for the stain and preservative. Unfortunately, I never got around to trying one until now but better late than never I suppose!

    For my first "living tree" woodspirit I chose a small persimmon tree right outside of my woodshop class building. I say "small" referring only to the diameter because that tree must shoot 90 feet into the sky! We built the shop 12 years ago and it was literally carved out of the forest here on our 900 acre wilderness preservation so the area was thickly wooded with a lot of tree competetion for a limited amount of sunlight thus the trees remaining are quite tall even if the diameter of their trunks are relatively small.

    Anyhow... the persimmon carved like a knife in hot butter... ah, so smooth and sweet to the blade! The surrounding vegetation and trees are still dormant in their winter rest so the inner wood was rather dry with absolutely no sappy wetness. Carving it was quick and so enjoyable since I'm much more used to carving completely seasoned wood. What a joy!

    Upon completion I applied the required layers of stain and preservative in time intervals during the course of the day. I recall Colin advising someone else on the forum a couple of years ago that he'd reccomend carving in live trees during the heat of summer since that would allow the Sikken's to dry and cure properly, which I'm sure is good advice. Well, I just couldn't wait when the temeratures went into the low 70's today and the spot where I carved the woodspirit had full sun exposure for most of the day so I think that it'll be ok. Plus the next few days are forcasted to be quite warm.

    I'm glad that I finally got the chance to use my expensive Sikken's formula and I'm sure that many more woodspirit's will follow! I'll also be interested to see how this first "experimental" carving in a live tree comes along over the next few months and years. I carved it in a small "cluster" of persimmon trees so if it were to get diseased from the trauma then there are several other trees only a foot or two away to take up the slack and it'd never be missed.

    This warm Carolina mountain weather has got me itchin' to carve like a 'possum in corn!
    Dave Brock

  • #2
    Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

    Dave -- I enjoy the way yoy write and the way you carve. I sure wish I were closer.
    BTW .... I have lots of persimmon to share.

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    • #3
      Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

      Great job on the woodspirit Dave,keep them coming.
      Mark N. Akers
      My Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/KarolinaKarver

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      • #4
        Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

        Dave it looks good.You are off to a good start.Where are you located in North Carolina?Are you going to the show in Gray Tenn. this weekend?Oh, by the way,did you use a chainsaw to rough it out or strictly chisels.

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        • #5
          Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

          Dave ,
          Awesome ! Real trees give a whole new concept of found wood. I love doing it and finding the wood that is hiding. Remember the 1/3 2/3 split and your trees will do well. Nice job Baby .

          Ash

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          • #6
            Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

            I like your woodspirit Dave. I'm yet to try carving into a living tree...but hope to this summer.

            Ash, could you refresh our memories of the 1/3 and 2/3rd split please. I am assuming it has to do with the stain/perservative mix.

            Patrick

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            • #7
              Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

              Nancy: Thank's for the persimmon offer because that's another wood that I like to carve. We have quite a good stand here in western North Carolina where I've seen some of them sawing log size, and that's somewhat unusual for a persimmon tree! Raccoon's clean up the fallen fruit after the first frost each fall too as soon as they (or sometimes before) they hit the ground.

              As for the writing, well, that's something that I've alway's enjoyed about as much as carving. Since humans seem to compensate very well for their weaknesses, I guess what that means in my case is that I'm a very lousy public speaker! Oh, well.

              woodtrapper: I'm located in the northwest corner of N.C. very close to the Virginia state line in Surry County, right in some beautiful mountain country! Unfortunately, I don't make it to many carving shows since I'm still working a very full time job and most of my time-off I presently recharge best by spending most of my time around the homeplace.

              I've been carefully planning an early retirement for most of my life by working hard, investing well, and actively staying healthy so perhaps in the next 2 to 4 years (current prediction) I will have a LOT of time (like the rest of my life) on my hands to do more traveling, carving, farming, you name it. Gosh even Bob Squarebriggs has offered me an invitation to carve with his gang in New Brunswick so maybe I'll even have time for that in the near future. Thumbs Up Or maybe he'll let me just camp in his yard on one of my cross country bicycle trips and I can add a few woodspirits to his yard!!

              As for the carving this was a very small woodspirit and was thus an easy chiseling job.

              Irishman: As for the 1/3 and 2/3rd thing I think that I recall it meaning that you shouldn't carve more than 1/3 around the diameter of the tree or it can cause too much trauma to the living tree... or is that 2/3 the way around?? Perhaps Ashbys can clear this up.

              Thank's everyone!
              Dave Brock

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              • #8
                Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

                Dave,
                Really well done sir and you have finished it perfectly. I am pleased to see that you didnt go too deep or interupt the sap flow. That tree should be fine. The only problem you may have is that the tree seems really young and as it grows the carving will heal itself and grow over. I am glad to see you took the initative and tried one. I am in total agreeance that it is really rewarding to do those tree carvings. I cant believe that people pay me good money to do them I love every miniute I spend carving trees. I regard them as free outdoor canvases that people provide for me to do my art. Again great carving and I look forward with anticipation to your next carving.
                Colin
                Jim - The Doing is as much fun as the Viewing!
                Jackson, MS

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                • #9
                  Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

                  The 1/3 2/3 rule never remove more then 1/3 the bark of the tree to work on if you have doubt take a tape around the tree and divide by 3 then reduce that number by 10 percent for safety margin.

                  In a living tree the majority of the water to the tree is in the sapwood just under the bark layer. Removing too much bark around the tree will kill the tree.

                  So I guess what that means if you want a large carving ...use a large tree .

                  hehe

                  Ash

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                  • #10
                    Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

                    that carving looks great, but can you imagine how it is going to look in 10 to 15 years. it will be awsome when the tree grows around it and gives it a whole new feeeling. i can imagine many a young child will be in awe of this one.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

                      Thank's for the encouragement Colin. I was a little hesitant on this first live tree experiment on making the beard a bit shorter that I usually do, but I'm sure that my courage on carving live trees will gain momentum the more exerienced I get. This was definitely a very shallow carving more on the lines of a relief carving I'd say so I agree that it should be ok. I now find myself looking all around on where another such spirit would fit in.

                      Thank's too for the "scientific" confirmation on the 1/3 rule Ash. Now I'm gonna have to find me one of those BIG trees I suppose!

                      Jim: From my experience with persimmon trees it seems like as a general rule they usually don't develop into big logs, although I have witnessed a few exceptions. I think that this particular tree has a good chance of "carrying" my carved woodspirit for quite a few years especially considering that it's in a very forested part of the mountains with an exceptionally high canopy level that causes the trees to grow tall and straight and also very skinny.

                      I will continue to re-apply the Sikken's preservative as needed in the coming years since I believe that Colin once explained how this coating also acts as a "band-aid" or artificial skin that protects the tree from various insects and disease. I look forward to watch it during the next several years, like watching a garden grow, I think that I'm gonna learn a lot from this experiment. But, like Colin said, it's bound to fold over the spirit at some point in the future. It'll be interesting to observe.

                      Meantime, like you said, a lot of kids are going to enjoy it too!
                      Dave Brock

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Living Tree Woodspirit

                        It's been a few months since I did my first carving in a live tree so I thought that I'd give a little update FYI. The attached pic's tell it all but it has been an interesting experience watching this little experiment in carving madness! There are two very interesting developments:
                        1. Just as I finished the carving and the trees began to get their leaves I noticed that a sprouting of stem n' leave's had burst through the bark of this persimmon tree directly below the carving. Now just how interesting is that may I ask?!? I wonder if this was in any way caused by the trauma of the carving itself or would that growth occured if I hadn't done a carving? Either way, such a contrast of living leaves against the backdrop of a carving sure does bring home the full meaning of carving in live trees!
                        2. Also notice how some dark spots have developed in the woodspirit's face. Once again, how interesting. The tree and the carving as a whole appear to look healthy and there has been no "bleeding" around the carving itself. When I run my hand over the surface of the carving it still feels like a good solid seal remains with the Sikken's finish. The dark spots developed early and it doesn't appear to be changing any further during the last couple of month's. I imagine that this could possibly be the result of the tree not being completely mature but I'm not a doctor of plant's so I'm just not sure. I sort of like it's unique look nonetheless.
                        Perhaps I'll post another update somewhere further down the road if anything else develops. Sure has been an interesting experience!
                        Dave Brock

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