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American Girl Doll Bed

Most young girls have heard of an American Girl Doll or even own one and once purchased the inevitable catalog will find its way to your mail box. This is what happens in our household and of course our daughter likes to see what new clothing and furniture is available. She always gravitates to the beds and bedding and once asked “What do you like,” she replies, “An American Girl Doll bed,” so that Julie had somewhere to sleep. Julie is her American Girl Doll, so my first step was to check the website and find out what price we were looking at and if there were by any chance, a sale going on. Further research showed the price was in the range of $125.00 with bedding, I liked what I saw but I felt that the quality, though good, was very basic, and for me a nice woodworking project!

I said to my daughter, “Would you be interested if I made the bed for Julie?” And with a sparkle in her eye she said “Only if it is can be like my bed!” I already had the basic sizes that were given in the catalog to give me a general feel for what I was taking on, but I decided to measure my daughters bed anyway, to compare sizes. The bed in quarter scale came very close to the manufactured beds in the catalog so using these two sets of dimensions I set out to find suitable wood to start the project.
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Twin Hearts

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted an article mainly because of being mentally drained from excessive driving on one of the most congestive motorway systems in the world, Los Angeles, but that’s really no excuse, so having said that, I just need to dig in and post!

One of the latest carvings that I’ve embarked upon was a combination of designs that I had made for various people. I wanted to reuse some of the elements to provide the basis of this new lovespoon. In this particular design I had previously developed a twenty fifth wedding anniversary lovespoon that also had roses and hearts surrounding the pair of hearts. The center heart had the number twenty five carved internally so with that basic image I decided to eliminate quite a few of the elements to get back to basics to provide the foundation for this lovespoon.

Twin heart lovespoon.

One of the favorite elements for my lovespoons is a flame design that adorns the top, this adds an attractive end to the carving and also provides a way of displaying the carving by way of hanging it on the wall or in a cabinet, so with that in mind that was where I would start, that was a given.

The spoon end would be in a heart shape as this always carves nicely and gives a good balance to the flame at the opposite end. The Celtic theme would be displayed by the Celtic knotwork that would extend from the spoon bowl, leaving just the pair of hearts to nestle between the flame and the Celtic knotwork.

With the theme completely worked out, the tracing was transfered to the basswood blank ready to embark on carving out the shape. My first job is to drill each corner with a 1/16 inch drill bit so as to be able to fit the blade of my fret saw and to create a clean cut in those awkward areas.

I had given up with using a power fret saw a long time ago, much of the time was wasted on breaking blades and continually threading the blade into small areas. Most of my designs would amount to little sawing in a lot of areas so I’ve opted to using a manual fret saw. I find that during the process of cutting out the design I can work out in my mind how I will carve certain areas and how I will resolve any mishaps if they should occur.

With the blank set up in the woodworkers vise a steady sawing motion eventually cuts out the excess stock leaving just the outside shape to be cut on the bandsaw. With all the profile cut, now was the time to get comfortable and sit with carving gouges, chisels and sanding blocks around my oversize bench hook and carve away at the spoon bowl. Next would be the back of the spoon and then onto the Celtic knotwork. A methodical process that eventually takes that flat piece of timber and turns it into a three dimensional, visually pleasing piece of art.

The final process is to sand out as many imperfections as I can. This stage of the process equates to 50% of the time starting with coarse sandpaper and working through the different grits until the superfine paper is vitually polishing the wood. (Continued)

The Sparring Sudden Death Round

The Jimmy Kim Invitational Tae Kwon Do Championship at the Walter Pyramid had seen the end of the Poomse part of the program and we were deep into our sons sparring where he had gone two, one minute rounds with the score cards at two points a piece. His opponent was a red belt and Jackson at present was a brown belt, theoretically this should give his opponent the edge with the more experience.

Victory Tae Kwon Do club starts their students sparring at the point when they reach orange belt status so if this is the same for most clubs his opponent would have four to six months additional experience with sparring even though their ages would be very close to each other. For Jackson to gain a win he would have to be quick on his toes and mindful of what his opponent was up to.

With the conclusion of the second round the referee conferred with the judges to decide which course of action would decide the outcome of this bout. From our position in the stands I could only conclude that when the referee brought the two coaches together it had been decided that there would be one more round and the person who scored the first point would win the match. With this information the coaches strategized with their students and for me my nerves were going haywire so I can only guess at the state of mind for the guys on the mat. (Continued)

Sparring at the JKI Taekwondo Championship

With the first part of the JKI tournament under his belt Jackson was now in a waiting game until his group number would once again be displayed. We could tell by his uneasiness that this was the one part of the competition that he was most nervous about. The display board highlighted group numbers 300 through 307 and with his at 346, there would be a while to go before he’ll make his way down to the holding area.

We decided to watch several sessions of the sparring to see how quickly they would call the group numbers, then knowing the time lapse we found it an ideal time to get something to eat and drink and at the same time it would reduce the stress level for both him and us. The usual selection of event food was available so we opted for the pizza with Gatorade which would give him energy when the time comes.

Once he started eating he definitely started to perk up, he needed that energy boost and not a moment too soon as we noticed that the groups were moving a lot faster than before and it was time for him to don the protective pads. The gum shield had been reformed during the past week since his adult teeth were in and all other pads had had their day with the washing machine as they had taken on a distinct gamey smell after all the practice during the previous weeks. A quick trip to the bathroom and fitting of the groin protection cup hid nicely beneath the uniform giving little indication to the spectating public, unlike some of the competitors who opted to display their cup outside their uniform! (Continued)

Jimmy Kim Invitational Taekwondo Championship

The last weekend of September was a major event for our son Jackson, it was his first Jimmy Kim Invitational Tae Kwon Do Championship at Long Beach. This annual event takes place at the California State University, Long Beach at the Walter Pyramid, this was its 20th year.

He had gone last year just to see what the expectations would be and it had left a lasting impression on his young mind, for one he had only been at the club for a total of 4 months and he was a yellow belt. He had watched the Poomse part of the competition but once the sparring started that was when the image left a lasting imprint on his mind. The black belt competitors had been super aggressive and it had frightened him to the extent of never wanting to compete in that part of the program.

Now a year later and attaining the level of brown belt he was going to be part of that event but would he enter for both sparring and Poomse. (Continued)

Rustic Wood Planter Box

In my previous post I had completed the job of cutting back the soil to four inches below the previous level leaving plenty of room for a good rock base that would allow rainfall to drain away easily. My focus now was on purchasing the supplies to construct the raised planter bed.

I had calculated that I would need a total of twenty lengths of 4″ x 4″ x 8′ pretreated lumber and twelve lengths of half inch by six foot rebar. The rebar would be cut in to three to provide two foot lengths to pin the lumber in to place. I already had a spare can of the green wood preserve so I’m going to use that up first before purchasing anymore, afterall it was my mother-in-laws budget and I was trying to get the job done at the best price possible. As far as my labor cost, that’s a no brainer, that’s traded off by looking after the children! Once complete there will be some kind of oil based stain that will cover the whole construction but the tone or color can be decided upon later.

Planter retaining wall.

With the materials in tow and a selection of power tools, chop saw, electric drill and numerous hand tools my first job was to map out the boundary of the planter box. The patch of land behind the mobile home was pie shaped to a certain degree meaning that the planter box could be slightly wedged shaped so as to reduced the effect of the angle on the remaining land between the mobile home and the planter box. I needed to know to what degree the angle would be and the person best qualified to decide that would be my mother-in-law, afterall when all is complete she would have to live with the end result.

The block wall that seperated the mobile home estate from her trailer was approximately eight feet tall with a concrete base that spread loosely below. This in effect reduced the growing room so we had to make sure that there was enough soil at ground level at the small end of the wedge so that the plant roots could travel deeper if required. Another requirement was to leave enough room between the planter box and the mobile home, so the placement of the first stake would be at this critical point. With string attached to the first stake, the second stake position and angle of the planter would be determined by the taut string once hammered into place. (Continued)

Summer Landscaping

Well, the summer project is underway and this is by no means a small one. The main emphasis is on landscaping my mother-in-laws yard at the mobile home that she now lives in. Her house of near on 40 years was far too big for one person and the stint at the senior living complex was not conducive to “living” so here we are at a scaled down version of her previous home.

Mobile homes have come a long way and this one at barely 10 years old has all that you could get in a regular house except “it’s mobile” you can put it on a trailer and move it to where you want. Anyway, I don’t know too much about mobile homes so I’ll get on and we’ll talk about the plans that we came up with on the yard.

The first priority was she wanted a small raised planter that would give enough ground to plant tomatoes and perennial flowers. The rest would be colored pavers and rock to minimize the amount of maintenance required together with ornamental flower pots. The side of the property would be rock with strategically place pavers, flower pots and an arbor with a gate that would lead to the somewhat private back yard. This was all quickly sketched out on a piece of paper but the details would be left to me and as I have said in previous posts, providing you do have an idea the details will come as the job progresses.

This mobile home was situated on a plot that had an east west aspect, that is, the front was facing west so the sun would stream in the front at late afternoon. The back where the planter will be situated will have sunlight during the first half of the day before falling into shadow. The main concern was not having enough sunlight for the plants but there was little option for anything else, this was the only place it could go. A raised planter would give a little additional light to the plants before succumbing to the late afternoon shadow so we had to decide on how tall it would be. (Continued)

Having Faith in Your Carving Ability

Mahogany Lovespoon representing Love and Faith

Over the past few weeks I have been busy working on establishing some new themes for my carvings but I have also been researching other people websites. My conclusion was that I found many Lovespoon carvings would follow a similiar theme regardless of where you look on the World Wide Web and I have looked at many websites for inspiration but I find many to be repeats of the same but with different levels of carving ability.

There are many that are only carved or have relief on the front face with the back face flat or only have the corners taken off to give some dimension. These Lovespoons I felt would look often mass produced but the prices are so reasonable that it would be very easy for the enthusiast to start a collection but is this a course that I would want to take.

Close-up of the cross set within the heart

For me to try and establish myself as a carver of some sort, especially with Welsh Lovespoons most of the carvings that I make end up on eBay for auction and it is there that I try to gauge the feeling of how the design is perceived.

The amount of traffic or should I say small amount of traffic for this sort of carving is primarily from enthusiasts who are looking for a bargain and will frequently stop by. If the design is a success I would find six to eight watchers over the course of the auction and maybe six to eight bids at the end of the day, giving me a good sense of achievement. I like to think it is the quality of the carving and the unique design that sells the item and not purely the price but as we all know eBay is the site for bargains.

When I first started this type of carving I decided that both sides would have to have the same amount of detail so that the Lovespoon could be handled and not just be displayed on a board. It is only when it is handled that the true appreciation for the craftsmanship can be determined and the fact that it is hand carved, saying that it also brings the flaws closer to hand.

To determine the themes I have tried to align them with special holidays or occasions during the year such as Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and so on, that way I can focus on those particular elements that are relevant and meaningful. (Continued)

A Lovespoon for Spring Time

With Spring just around the corner the natural course for me would be to design a Lovespoon that represents those small details that we associate with that special time of year. The blossoming of the trees, birds vying for a mate and ourselves becoming more romantic on a daily basis. This Valentine’s day just past was the beginning as couples try to break from that wintery grip so what better than to share my thoughts on what I should carve.

For me living on the West Coast that wintery feel is only mild to what grips the rest of the country, so having said that, what should I offer in terms of elements for that special lovespoon? (Continued)

Wedding Favor Lovespoons

As you have probably noticed during the course of reading my Welsh Lovespoon carvings, almost all have been made what I call normal size, that is, six inches or larger but recently I have had several enquiries as to whether I make wedding favor size lovespoons. Of course most of these emails are from people who have seen items that I have been selling on eBay and are genuinely interested in the carvings that I do and that is as far as it goes but after reading one particular email it first sent me into a panic. This was a firm enquiry about making Wedding Favor Lovespoons.

Normally, Wedding Favor Lovespoons are offered by the bride and groom to their guests as a memento of this special occasion and as a blessing on their marriage. It is a memento that helps to keep the bride and groom firmly in their guests mind and an item to remember them by in their prayers but how many guests will there be for this occasion? (Continued)