A carving friend, John Carriere from Darwin, Australia, emailed me that he recently had completed carving his “found wood.” When I imagine drift wood, it isn’t anywhere close to the 90 lbs., 15’ length of John’s found wood.
Of course, I had lots of questions; the first of many being what “shore” was he walking along when he discovered it. I knew you’d be interested in all of John’s answers and his terrific photos of this massive carving.
Darwin is at the top end of Australia so the shore here would be the Timor Sea being part of the Indian Ocean. The eastern part of Australia is where the Pacific Ocean is and Darwin is close to the western part. I don’t know where this tree floated from but it did not appear to have been rooted here. Indonesia is north of Darwin so there is a possibility it came from there.
I have finally finished the large carving. The photo does not do it justice as a lot of carvings, within the carving, do not show up very well. As it is drift wood, there was a bit of rot in some places.
(Click the photo for a larger view — use your web browser “Back” button to return)
I found the trunk on the shore during a lunchtime walk about three years ago. Most of the tree was there, about 15 feet long. The flare or skirt at the bottom that helped to support the tree was what drew my attention to it. It was about a yard wide and tapered up like a triangle. It was too tempting so I came back on the week end with a saw and a dolly. I cut out the tree and other unwanted parts. The part I wanted was very heavy, about 90 pounds and I had to tumble it up a bank of about 8 feet. I got it on the dolly and wheeled it to my car. I was in the process of getting a hernia trying to tumble it into the trunk when a jogger came by and offered to help. I graciously accepted it and we got it in the car. When I got home, I had to carefully tumble it out of the car. I then blasted it with the garden hose and got most of the mud and mold off of it. The rot in some areas got softer but remained.
I left it outside for about a year as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to carve on it, but it lent itself to being a mountain. It got rained on for a wet season of harsh tropical storms which additionally cleaned it but progressed the rot. Some sections of it were hollow so rain got in there.
I carried out more pruning which reduced its weight considerably and brought it into my workshop. I was still unsure of what to carve on it until I received my copy of the May-June 2014 issue of Chip Chats Magazine. The carving of a mountain scape by Dylan Goodson gave me the idea of doing something similar. I copied the house on his carving but the rest of the carving is from my imagination.
I did a lot of homework on off cut pieces of wood to practice carving flowers, vines, shrubs, trees, etc. before carving these on the blank. It took from mid February to mid May, about 350 hours to complete it.
I have attached additional photos showing more detail of the individual carvings. There is also a photo of the back so you will have a better idea of what I had to contend with. So it stands by itself as the base of it is like a third of an upside down cone. I worked around and included some of the rot in some of the individual carvings. I made liberal use of plastic wood when required. It took the stain quite well and is hard to notice. There is a round area under the house which was rotten. There was nothing I could do with it other than to carve an imitation boulder in pine and glue it in.
I carved some of it as it stood and laid if flat on my workmate bench for most of the carving. My edged tools were used for most of the carvings. The exception was the stone work on the house where I used a Dremmel with a small bit. I didn’t sand between the carvings in order to maintain a rough surface similar to grass, weeds etc on the surface of a mountain. The trees were sanded to 180 grit but then roughed up with a v tool to simulate bark. I have it on a wood box in my workshop. The box is about 3 feet off the floor which is a good height for a line of sight to it.
The finish is Cabot oil based stain and varnish (satin tint) followed by carnauba wax applied with a shoe polishing brush. It was then polished with a combination of a shoe brush and a tight fibre polishing cloth used to polish limousines. It’s a hard wax to polish and your arms are considering claiming a divorce from your body, but the finished surface is worth it.
My daughter, Tanya, has helped me with these photos. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to let me know.
Take care, John
John, I doubt many of us will ever find, much less have the opportunity to drag home 90 lbs. of Indonesia drift wood. Thank you so much for sharing the information and photos of your massive carving project. What a great carving adventure!
Until next month, gentle reader, may your wood be plentiful and your tools stay sharp. Take care, carve lots, and always remember to smile.