Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wedding Cake Toppers

How often someone deviates from mainstream standards when it comes to the cake toppers? I don't know, but I was taken by the request to design such toppers inspired by a particular Caribbean bird species, the bananaquit. I started with sketches and shared them with the bride to be, just to be sure we shared the same vision...

Then, after we settled the conditions, I embarked in this new adventure...challenge...these two birds required very long anchoring prongs which needed to be strong and concealed...the challenging part.

...and it took time, and time...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Marriage of an Old House and a Dilapidated Shed

Well, I had lots of materials salvaged from a couple of old structures and these materials were taking too much space inside my woodcarving shop and wood storage shed, so instead of crying about it, I set off to build me a chicken coop and garden shed combo. The footprint is exactly 5' wide x 16' long x 10' to ridge. The windows were also salvaged from a sunroom someone upgraded, they are crafted from white cedar, nice!  I set them up on pivots, so no frames required, just swing out and fresh air blows throughout the room, nice.
The Skeleton

The Rooster that Won't Crow

So yeah, every chicken coop should be ruled by a loud beaked rooster, but in this case the Rooster will be a silent sentinel mounted atop a prominently display beam. The one I set here in the photo is not the final one, just a test. I still have a lot of interior work to do and some exterior detailing and painting before Winter's arrival. Hopefully I will be able to get it all done and have it ready to house  the "ladies" 

Cardinal Pair Prep Work and more...

I have been "mentally sketching" out the general details for another Cardinal woodcarving job, basically, a pair perching close together, attentive to their surroundings. Not yet settled on any solid idea. Also awaiting completion is the sitting Eagle and more recently, the prospects of another Chickadee Nestbox composition. So it's time to get busy with these, before my workshop gets too cold to hold carving tools on my hands. Will post the sketches at a later time as well as updates of work in progress. 1/31/2017 update....unbelievable almost two years since I posted about the Cardinals...which aren't yet completed...why? Too busy with other bigger$$$ projects and life.

I did work on another Chickadee Nestbox, actually, I completed two, one went off to California...the other one I kept.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Americana Black Walnut Bald Eagle 

Half Spread Sitting Eagle

A project that had been on hold for over a year now, awaiting for visual signs of wood block drying behaviour. The now stable thick block of Black Walnut had been cut from a large tree felled in a Pulaski, VA church parking lot about 11 years ago. I had cut the log in sections 5 to 6 foot long for easier transport and storage. I wanted the "Eagle" to be "accurate", yet resemble the old Americana and German styled eagles often depicted in seals and statuary in a sitting pose with half spread wings. Due to size, both wings required to be separate component in a double mortise/tenon keyed arrangement I had developed before for another large scale "bird".

                                                                           Head Detail

 This photo shows the
oversize tenon required
for holding the right side
wing in place.


         The photo above shows the full body, one piece block of black walnut wood, well dried and stable.                                                                                     

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lots to Do...

The Art Studio

For quite a while now I've been working to restore an old (1870's) doctor's office which stand next to the old Colonial home he had built for his family, our presently renovated home. It's a good size building with a simple old times charm and original materials that are in great shape, which makes for a less costly undertaking. I began by leveling the structure, removing all the wood siding and insulating the walls from the outside, then replacing and adding additional windows to allow for more light to reach into the interior and to help with ventilation. A wall towards the back (the doc's office) was removed and the wide horizontally configured planks preserved for future reuse. Most of the work has been done with only the tedious trim painting and new roofing.

Downy Woodpecker Woodcarving (Finished)

A few days back I received a request for a Downy woodcarving and so have been working a few hours per day getting it ahead for delivery June 9th. It's not a complex project, but one that requires time and detail work. Trying not to miss on the nice weather opportunities for outdoor fun, while my son is back from college, I have been working on it mostly at night. The 3 most recent pictures show the finished work, kiln dried Eastern White Pine was used for the bird, a pyropen to detail all feather groups and Jo Sonja acrylics to apply the color markings of the species. Quality glass eyes are inserted and eyelids created/molded by hand to add realism and to serve in securing the eyes permanently. The display was set of a split branch of Oak that was extensively worked to show the best grain patterns.
Downy Woodpecker
 Carved from kiln dried Eastern White Pine, pyrographic pen detailing of feather groups and final application of color. The bird will be mounted on to a wooden substrate to be hanged on a wall, a more suitable display option for these type of birds.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Art & Design...a great source of inspiration for those of us who can't have enough of it all...check it out: Design Milk or their Blog

Monday, April 7, 2014

Woodcarving Restoration and Repair Pictorial

Two of the bird woodcarvings sold at auction on April 5, 2014 had sustained damage that required serious
work. I had offered the new owners the option to get the bird woodcarvings repaired before they took them home, at no cost to them, as I always do with those customers who purchase my birds. So they both made the trip back home with me. All the repair work was completed today and so only the finishing, painting and cleaning work remains for tomorrow.

2005 Chickadee nest Repair

Soldered flattened copper wire loop anchor view inserted into body

 Epoxy "bark" exposed copper wire frame that forms the external branch which supports the Male Chickadee. This branch had to be removed to allow me to gain easier access to make the necessary modifications and repairs to reattach the Male Chickadee.
The exposed portion of copper wire shown is the point chosen to solder a new copper loop directly into the nest cavity to get a stronger attachment point.
 A view of the working zone and tools on the kitchen table.

 Photo of interior of nest enclosure showing new copper anchoring point covered in epoxy clay. Also, a new
guide restrict the drop rate of the box lid to prevent recurrence of breakage.
 Freshly reattached male Chickadee awaiting epoxy curing.
 A more clearer view of new interior anchor point and lid retainer. Female Chickadee has been permanently secured by wire inserts into body, instead of using acrylate, which failed to keep bird secure in the box as was originally intended.

Chickadee Nest awaits painting work


2006 Cardinal Woodcarving Pair

 Edge of tail damage repaired with epoxy clay.
 Female Cardinal crest loss repair is shown at right. Slivers of pine wood were inserted to extend the sections missing. Acrylate glue was then used to secure the wood slivers. Shaping them into form was achieved by pyrographic pen.
 View of feather extensions as the slivers of pine wood are applied and shaped.
 Also damaged were the thin copper sheet hand stamped leaves inserted into the wooden branch that supports the male Cardinal. These two leaves needed to be soldered at the proximal end towards the branch.

 Reinforcement to second leaf by soldering damaged edge of leaf.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fine Furniture by James Sheppard


The bold stepped cornice above a raised panel door and single door flanked by hand fluted quarter columns is a stunning sight. Fully hand crafted from beautifully selected figured Tiger Maple, each board and wood moulding hand planed and rubbed to a finish that demands to be felt by the touch of a hand to fully appreciate. I always nursed the dream of rightfully owning this particularly glorious fine cabinet beauty ever since I first saw Jim selecting the wide boards that he had stored for years in a shop. I am now the proud owner. This particular one is the last of 3 Jim crafted from stunningly figured Tiger Maple. It is signed, inscribed and dated "James Sheppard / Tiger Maple # 3 / Green Bank, W. V. / 1-11-06 / MMV I". Circa 2006. Dimensions are: 35" H, 25 1/4" W, 15 1/4" D. This incredible cupboard is a structural replica of the famed Spitler paint-decorated hanging cupboard (see last photo below). Jim Sheppard hand crafted a number of these cupboards in exact detail, both in painted pinewood and figured Tiger Maple. 

Provenance:Collection of the late John and Lil Palmer, Purcellville, VA. Purchased from the cabinetmaker in 2006.

 Important Shenandoah Valley Johannes Spitler (1774-1837) Decorated Yellow Pine Hanging Cupboard, Circa 1800- Sold $962,500, November 13, 2004, lot 237, for a Page Co., VA estate.