Monthly Archives: September 2014

Wood Spirits in Progress

Here are some wood spirits I’m carving.

unfinished spirits July - small  Unfinished wood spirits - September 2014

The two in the picture on the left were started in July. The ones on the right are from last week. The one with the knot hole in the mouth area is going to be smoking a pipe.

Just a few tweaks left, then I’ll be ready to move on to finishing.


Wood Porn

image of woodgrain

Forget exotic dancers – if you’re a carver, a block of exotic wood can set the pulse racing.

Say you’re at a show and you spy a piece of richly grained mahogany… Or a maple burl… Or, perhaps, a rare block of pink-toned pear. Your fingers start to twitch. Your imagination leaps like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. You think, that could be my masterpiece – and before you know it, your wallet is in your hands…

As with many other addictions, these days the internet makes it easy to get your fix. If you’re wood-obsessed, a few places to start are Rare Woods USA, Langevin & Forest, Exotic Woods and Century Mill Lumber.

Rare Woods USA was originally launched in South Africa 30 years ago and then established in Maine, USA. The company carries boards, blocks and burls from more than 150 species. You can visit their mountain-location showroom by appointment, or try to restrain yourself by ordering via phone or email (full-fledged internet shopping is to come).

Maine is right next to Quebec, so if you visit Rare Woods USA, you can easily drop in on Langevin and Forest too. And honestly – how can you resist a company that calls itself “les connaisseurs du bois”? Along with a seriously impressive stock of woods, Langevin & Forest carries an extensive collection of carving tools (along with specialist products like feet and eyes for bird carvers). And if you want to experiment with other activities, this company can provide the stock, tools and guidance to get you started on anything from marquetry to deck building.

Langevin & Forest is gradually building the English-language version of its website, and some products still come up in French. But you’ll get free shipping on orders over $100, as long as they can be shipped by Canada Post.

Finally, two southern Ontario options are Exotic Woods in Burlington and Century Mill in Stouffville. Exotic Woods serves a variety of customers, including luthiers and wood turners, but offers a broad selection of woods, plus glass eyes for bird carvers. Century Mill is a good source of domestic woods for carving, such as red alder, basswood, butternut and cherry.



Carving the “Maple Leaf Forever” Tree

On July 19th, 2013, a severe storm downed a 170-year-old silver maple tree in front of 62 Laing Street in Toronto. This tree is said to have inspired the song The Maple Leaf Forever, written by Alexander Muir in 1867.

The Maple Leaf Forever tree

At one time, The Maple Leaf Forever was Canada’s unofficial national anthem. Today it is still the regimental march of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the Royal Westminster Regiment.

Given the historic significance of the tree, many groups and individuals approached the city with proposals for using the wood. The Ontario Wood Carvers Association was among these, and eventually was given a section of the tree’s main trunk about seven feet long.

Working around creative challenges including holes, insect damage and wood that in parts is less than one-inch thick, project artistic director Neil Cox developed a design that features 35 maple leaves, each containing a relief carving of an important person, place or event in Toronto’s history. Historians from Archeological Services Inc. and Heritage Toronto chose the subjects.

Carving the Maple Leaf Forever Tree

Carving the Maple Leaf Forever tree

Alexander Muir

Alexander Muir, writer of The Maple Leaf Forever

The trunk was debarked, cleaned up, then moved to space inside the Ontario Science Centre. Carving officially began on Canada Day, July 1st, 2014 and will take about a year (roughly 4,000 carver hours) to complete. Visitors to the Science Centre can see the work in progress, and come back to see the finished sculpture when it goes on permanent display in 2015.