Monday 9 July 2018
I don't often get the opportunity to carve something that is inspired by the type of wood I am going to use. Generally, a commission comes my way and I then source the timber that would best suit the subject. This 'red squirrel' project was different. I've had in my possession a sizable lump of American cherry (Prunus serotina) that I have been itching to use for about eight years now. It is a wonderful wood for carving – it is close grained and therefore takes detail well, it has interesting figuring in the grain, and finally – most importantly for this piece – it has a beautiful red colour. It was this colour that suggested to me the subject of a red squirrel. If your local timber supplier doesn't have American cherry, you could try something that has a similar colour such as a good quality mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). Alternatively, you could forget the whole colour aspect and just go for lime (Tilia spp) which would carve well. I was further inspired by several good sightings of this more delicate cousin to the more common grey squirrel, on a recent trip to Scotland.
Enlarge the templates to the size required – mine was approximately life-size at 240mm (9 1/2in) in total height – by photocopying or scanning to a computer. Transfer the outline of one of the side views onto your chosen timber.
Remove the wood outside of this outline – I used a bandsaw – then, using the front or rear-view template, again mark the outline onto the relevant face of the wood block, and remove all of the wood outside of these lines. This means going right the way through to the other side, 90 degrees to the plane that the outline was drawn on.
After sanding the squirrel through grades 180, 240, 320 and 400grit – coarsest to finest – and you are happy with the tooled finish of the tree stump, oil with Liberon finishing oil. If two coats are required – this depends of the absorbency of the chosen timber – allow 24-hours between coats. After the oil has dried, a coat of wax can be applied.
I used a neutral coloured Liberon wax. This is applied with a brush and allowed to dry for 20 minutes before buffing with a rotary brush in an electric drill.