Horn Man

A year ago I got the bug to make some Christmas gifts. I began a project in late November to make twelve Intarsia flowers for the women in the family. I struggled to complete five in time. The project over whelmed me. This year, I began making gifts in September thinking it would be enough time. Except, the people I made gifts for had aged and I no longer felt comfortable making teddy bears for my grand kids. When I began Intarsia, my oldest grandchild was four. Today that same child is nineteen. When it all started as a hobby, I set a goal to make an intarsia piece for each grandchild. I managed to give my first three kids a hand-made intarsia art piece. Then there was a lull in grandchild production. By the time new kids were born my life had changed dramatically. Four more kids came. Dan was a toddler when my wife Barb had her heart attack, and my drive to make intarsia art faded to zero. Barb died, and three more kids came during my grief. I lost the idea, until last summer when I realized my life calendar is running down. The idea of making Dan a teddy bear didn’t compute because he is thirteen now. The same went for the rest of the kids, they are eight and ten. I took care of my ten-year old grand-daughter last year with a flower. The two youngest are brothers and are avid fisherman, each got an intarsia fish, Brad got a largemouth bass, his brother Ben a stripped bass. So that left me with Dan.

Most Intarsia wood workers are craftsmen not artists. They make the art from pre-designed patterns. I did this for the flower and the two fish. I bought pre-designed patterns and made the art-piece as a craftsman. I decided to design the last work from scratch. I had made enough art-pieces to feel comfortable with the art form and needed to jack up my experience a level.

I thought long and hard about what kind of piece to make for Dan. He is not a fisherman like his cousins, he is a swimmer, and a very good one. I couldn’t imagine how to design a piece of art made from wood to depict swimming. I am not creative enough, but I did vision him playing his trumpet.

I called his father and asked him to photograph Dan while he practiced. I received two photos and chose one to work with. At first, the project excited me, then fear took over. I froze with the fear of actually designing a piece and executing it. For two months, I could only think about how complicated a work I had decided to take on. I procrastinated by making the two fish ahead of the one I designed. My design would be the reward for completing two projects ahead of time.  By the time I got started on the Horn Man it was November which is a short month in the wood shop because of Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations.

I finally began with my grand-daughter who helped me transfer the photo into a line drawing. Once I had the line drawing it took a couple of days to decide where the cut lines would be, which colors of wood I needed, and which direction the grain would run.  Actually, this was the easy part since I have spent over forty years in a business which relied on my visualization and transfer of designs into workable drawings.

With the baby steps initiated, I began to gain confidence in completing the piece. There were several set-backs along the way. The largest cost me too much time. Originally, I decided to make the piece a traditional two-dimensional intarsia piece. There was no way for me to execute a two-dimensional design easily. I needed to shim some parts and to slab cut others to create the third dimension. Making the trumpet was one such set-back. I scrapped what I was doing and chose to make a three-dimensional trumpet, except I didn’t have enough information to make a 3d horn. I spent time on the web searching for images of trumpets and printed out several pages of trumpet details to study.

It became clear that the Christmas deadline could not be met. Lucky for me that Dan lives in Texas and I was going there in January, so the deadline moved to mid-January.

I finished the Horn Man a week before Peg and I were leaving for the West. Just before the final glue together, I felt the piece needed something else and I decided to add the musical score. A month earlier I acquired a piece of wood which was perfect for the music, it is so dark it looks black. The wood was a nightmare to cut. It is so dense I wore out many saw blades before I finished the music lines and the notes. Four days later I finished it, then I scrapped it because it overwhelmed the piece with its size. I was now three days away from leaving for Texas. They say necessity is the mother of invention and I redid the music using some very thin plywood that cut super easy enabling me to finish the music in four hours. The end result turned out to my satisfaction.

The photos tell the story.

DSCF0515

Dan Practices Trumpet

The Photo Transferred to a Line Drawing

The Photo Transferred to a Line Drawing

IMG_0898

Lots Of Loose Pieces With Some Minor Shaping On Some.

Starting To Take Shape

Starting To Take Shape

Facial Detail

Facial Detail

Hand and Valve Detail

Hand and Valve Detail

What's A Horn Without Music?

What’s A Horn Without Music?

The Music is Too Loud!

The Music is Too Loud!

Horn Man

Horn Man

 

An Art Piece Turns Into a Rant

Simple Flower by Garnet Hall

Simple Flower by Garnet Hall

I have not been posting more often because I am preoccupied with an artistic project that consumes my entire energy. Several years ago, I began making Intarsia pieces for my grandkids. Intarsia is a form of artistry using woods of different color, grain and shape. Think of it as a picture made from wood.  At the last-minute I decided to give Christmas gifts that come from me, and not from my pocket. I won’t make it. At a minimum, I need twelve Intarsia pieces to give the people on my list. So far, I have completed one. That means I have to make one piece a day from now until December 19 to make it happen. So far, the first piece has taken me twelve hours of labor to complete.

Yes, there is a learning curve, which I am quickly re-learning from my last Intarsia project.(about ten years ago) but I have a lot of work ahead of me. My body doesn’t like the long hours spent cutting, fitting, carving, and sanding each piece of wood into a work of art. At the end of a session, my neck hurts like hell, my feet are tingling with needles, and my back aches beyond belief.

Most commercial Intarsia Artisans are satisfied to keep their wood pieces flat with only the edges rounded. When I see work of that type, I cringe. My pieces need a three-dimensional reality. It takes time to make that happen.

I lost precious time just finding my carving chisels, my sand-papers, and setting up my band saw to cut precisely. At one point in the middle of an intricate curve, the saw blade stopped dead, yet the band saw motor kept running. I realized that the blade I was using had cut plastic, metal, frozen meat, and many other materials. The points were missing from the blade. I wound up replacing the blade. Thankfully, I had a spare on hand. The blade change took me an hour to accomplish as I had not done that in several years. When I began cutting again the blade wandered off the line causing me to lose time because I had to back up and restart the cut. The guide blocks needed to be readjusted closer to the new blade so it wouldn’t twist off course as much. I used a pencil to trace the design onto the wood. I could barely see the line. Little by little, I am regaining the Intarsia craft skill.

This afternoon, I went to the garage to find a box of wood pieces given to me by a friend from work. He is a furniture maker and uses a lot of mahogany, walnut, and oak.  The box weighs about fifty pounds. He gave it to me in nineteen ninety-five, and today was the first time I looked in it to see what kind of pieces there were for my Intarsia. I counted five different woods of various colors, shapes, thicknesses, and sizes. Some will be useful, but most will not. Some of the pieces may be worthy of wood carving projects.

The design I chose to make is simple. It uses ten pieces of two different color woods to create a simple flower. The most complicated project I have done is forty pieces which required sixty hours to complete.

As the project progresses, I think about the manufacturing process, and the cost of making things. If I were making the minimum wage of $8.25/hour, this project would already cost $99.00. In order to make a profit, pay for the wood, saw blades, sanding paper and such, I have to add another $99.00. The cost of this project to you would be $198.00. If you were to see this piece at a craft show and you fell absolutely in love with it you might pay $25.00 for it.

That is why manufacturers outsource work to countries where labor is cheap. In order to make this piece to sell for $25.00 my labor cost would have to be $1.04/hour. That assumes the materials and tool replacements were free.  Let’s face it folks, I can’t survive on $1.04 per hour. My lunch cost me more than my hypothetical earnings today.

What will we the sheeple of the Divided States of America have to do to create an economy that demands the hourly rate we expect and need to survive? The last input I had from experts was we need to become the information society. We the sheeple need to become the experts of the world who can charge an arm and a leg for the knowledge we possess. There is only one problem, the rest of the civilized countries in the world are on the same track.

Where will the knowledge come from? First there is education, then there is experience, then there is innovation. We the sheeple will not make it with our union burdened education system, and all of our experience went to China and other third world countries, so that leaves innovation. How will we get innovation? From ideas that we turn into products.

The former USA now the DSA is still very good at innovating and inventing. We are still capable of leading the world in this area, but there are fewer people who are able to do so. Wit a pissy-poor education system, we dumb down our young people. By teaching our people to depend on big government we numb our brains to anything but a handout. By dividing the country and demonizing those who become rich from innovation we kill any chance at new innovation.

Our Supreme leader realizes what he is doing, and yet he continues to dumb down the populace in favor of a one party system which will turn us into tax slaves who feed the elite.

Let’s face it, the current élite minds who profess to know how to save the world will be the reason for the end of the planet.

Simple Flower by Grumpa Joe

Simple Flower by Grumpa Joe

Hand Made In the USA

One of my favorite times at Mendel was the wood shop class. The class met three times a week for two hours. I had some exposure to woodworking from my grammar school experiences at the Tuley Park boat building shop. This class was different. Father Hennessey, my instructor, believed in teaching the basics. At Tuley Park, I jumped into a project and started cutting wood. At Mendel, I had to learn the name and function of every tool before Father let me touch a single one.

For the first assignment, Father H. gave me a block of maple wood to square up using only a chisel and a square. It sounded too easy, but I almost didn’t finish the assignment on time. Father H. came around the benches and asked for the piece. He inspected every corner, every edge, and every surface for square and for flatness. If any sliver of light showed under the square he bounced the piece, and sent me back to the bench to do better. The piece also had to be within the tolerance he specified.  Father Hennessey was a tough, but fair teacher.

The next project was a more complicated. We had to make a chevron-shield with separate wooden letter “M” applied to it. The last project was a table lamp that looked like a hand water pump. Pushing on the pump handle turned on the light. This little lamp was in continuous use over the years serving me well at all of my desks.

Fr. H. was a tough disciplinarian. If he caught you using a tool incorrectly, he jerked it out of your hand, and hit you with it. He also had a habit of squeezing the muscle on your shoulder, the one that stretches from your neck to the shoulder. It hurt so bad that I dropped to the floor to get out of the grip. Fr. H. hardly ever had a problem with anybody in his class.

Safety was paramount in the shop. During my semester there was not a single incidence of injury. Even though the school shop had all the power tools as I used at Tuley Park, I never got to use any of them.  Only Fr. Hennessey ever used the tools powered by electricity. The experience gave me an appreciation for the term “handmade.”

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