Introduction: Martin the Lumberjack & His Friend Rebecca - Theatre Dolls
This weekend's woodworking project was Carving. Last weekend we made the Scarf/mitten/hat rack
which could be considered fairly utilitarian, so we had planned to do something whimsical for our second project. Besides my daughter's once-in-a-while whittling with her swiss army knife, we have never carved anything out of wood, so we assembled all the tools and books to help us noobs and we dove right in.
Step 1: Sticks and Knives
A couple of weekends ago we gathered some branches for this project. They were of varying thicknesses, some straight, some curvy. We scraped all of the bark off and let them dry in our wood shop for two weeks. Now they were ready to be cut and transformed into dolls!
We drew out some rough sketches to get the proportions for all the segments. We each had 3" bass wood blocks we would be using to carve our heads out of, so we used those as a guide. A body is 7-8 heads, and the other parts are just multiples of that. Our carved heads ended up shrinking a bit from the original size, so we had plenty of room for error from what we had originally cut.
We tried to use the larger, straighter pieces for the legs and the thinner, curvier pieces for the arms. We broke each into two segments as we wanted to hinge them for movement. A miter box, vice and a fine quality pull saw made quick and easy work of all the cutting.
We took a break from the wood shop and moved our operation upstairs to the house to spend the night carving the heads. This picture shows everything we thought we'd need. We discovered that we really only needed the x-acto knifes. They were super sharp, thin and nice to hold. We clamped a vice for each of us to the table and went to work.
Step 2: Carving Is Hard!
Seriously, you want to cut out the rough shape on a band saw, but we are starting from scratch so that we can graduate to the power tools. I think it is important to start primitively and work your way up to the precision tools that technology has to offer.
After hours of carving...
"Gosh, this sure would be easier with some sort of mini power cutter," uttered my daughter.
"Oh, you mean our brand new Dremel Station downstairs.... now, now, you'll have plenty of time to become a master with that. We're starting from the basics."
(After more hours of carving away, I was thinking that my advice to anyone would be: Please cut out your rough shapes with the bandsaw. Eff the basics; we're not living in Johnny Hart's B.C.)
The difficult part was in transitioning what started off looking a bit Australopithecus to then stubbornly Neanderthalensis to finally a somewhat Sapien-looking head. Jawline. Temple. Personality. I'm not looking for a chiseled stud here, but come on!
We stopped at 4 a.m., or something like that, and finished them up the next day. We sanded them a little. Carefully. It's the final moves that can knock an eye out(his, not mine) or a lower lip(eh, that was kinda protruding out a bit much anyway)
Step 3: Eh, It's Time to Take the Christmas Tree Down
We needed the torsos next. I was thinking it would be funny to use the bottom part of the Christmas tree trunk for our two bodies. We have never undecorated a tree so quickly!(our theme for this year's tree was the song "Favorite Things" - we made several of most of the items from the song, even the Schnitzel!) Besides being funny, and recycling and all that good stuff, it was also practical, sorta; there is a lotta snow blanketing over everything. I'm not going out there in the dark looking for a small-ish log to cut up.
The thickest part of the bottom of the tree wasn't quite as thick as proportion would dictate, but again, no way I was gonna go hunt out in the cold dark for a Perfectly Proportioned torso. Although, as I was holding true to my motto of not using power tools while I was sawing the waterlogged trunk, I half-considered going outside hunting for a thicker, drier limb. Sawing that tubular sponge was kinda un-fun, but I managed(I cut small wedges). They sure smelled great, though!
After dinner, we headed back down to our work shop to assemble the bodies. We re-figured the segments according to the new head size(smaller) and cut accordingly.
I pried open the small openings of some tiny screw eyes to join together and then closed them back up. These would be our joints/hinges.
We drilled very small pilot holes into all the areas where these screws would go into.
(Drills don't count as power tools. There is pretty much no learning curve. It's about as easy as you can get. Besides, I don't have an auger hand-drill. Phew!)
This turned out much easier than I thought and the results were very gratifying!
Next we cut up some small pieces for the hands and feet from soft maple leftover from our last project. Those we attached with long, thin nails.
Step 4: Solving the Leg Attachment Problem
We needed a way to attach the legs to the torso so that the dolls could sit or stand. My daughter researched a bit with how they accomplish this with Marionettes. We modified one of the methods to make it work for what we had.
The pictures explain pretty well what we did: leather, holes, thread, glue and coated sinkers.
The sounds that these dolls make is very pleasing, the delicate clanking and clicking. Really fun!
Step 5: The Most Important Part!
The head! The head that took forever to carve. The Precious Head. We need to attach it.
Naturally, it needs to turn. I thought the best, least intrusive way would be to use a mini dowel, drilling small, short holes into the torso and skull, and fully through the neck. It worked like a charm.
Hair. I got a harebrained idea: I wanted to use paracord, kinda like hair plugs. : D
"I'm Sy Sperling. I should know, because I'm not only the Hair Club President, but I'm also a client."
I practiced on a bass wood block before I drilled a bunch of holes into my Precious Head.
I burned an end of paracord and tried a few holes until I found the right one, not too small, not too big. I then taped the drill bit to where I wanted the holes to stop. I took a couple of deep breaths, got my stance right and proceeded to turn his lovely, dimpled skull into transplant heaven.
Step 6: Time for Beauty
Malena couldn't wait to paint her head. For her, as an amazing sketch artist, this was the prize of the project, to bring her doll to life. Mine was more about the Hair. And the Axe. (more about that later)
She used oil paints, to bring her creation to life, thinned with a bit of Turpenoid. I used Tung Oil Finish to grease up my man.
I didn't realize in my drilling frenzy just how many holes I had drilled. I discovered that number soon enough when I had to cut many lengths of paracord for his hair strands. More than forty, but less than fifty. He's looking a little E. Scissorhands. Lots of Cutting and Burning and Twisting in.
A short trip to the Dining Table Salon to prick out his hair and Martin looks fabulous. And his friend Rebecca is So Lovely! She is an artist, just like the girl who brought her to life. She even drew a self portrait!
And yes, it may take until these final, most-important stages before the Dolls reveal to you what their names are.
Step 7: A Lumberjack Needs Threads
I made him a flannel top, some suspenders(yes, I made them out of discarded bra parts - sorry Martin!), some jean knickers, and finally put some color on his face. I am partial to green eyes, and when I saw Sap Green staring at me from the tray, I knew it was meant to be.
I discovered you need to apply the oil paints sparingly. My daughter warned me of this prior so I made out okay. But still, I was nervous, with my Precious Head and all, and the request was put out to discourage anyone from coming near me or the table while I was painting his visage. : D
Step 8: Paracord Paraphernalia
Naturally, Martin needed some rope, because he's a lumberjack. And heck, they obviously needed a rug!(What else can I make out of paracord...? Oh, did I mention that I entered this in that contest.. please vote if you like!)
The climbing rope was pretty straightforward. I just looped a few times, wound and tacked with some thread.
The rug was supposed to resemble a braided rug. I cut a large oblong-ish circle out of felt, drizzled a bunch of glue onto that and slowly began to spiral and press the cord on. I ended up using quite a bit of paracord. Maybe several meters. I laid some books on top and let dry for about 45 minutes, cut the end, applied fray check to glue that in place, then cut the felt away so it wasn't visible.I could have used maroon or brown.. I just had white. : ) It forced me to be more diligent about the spacing.
Overall, it was pretty easy, and looks great. A great alternative for dollhouses. Yup, a new use for paracord.
Step 9: The Glamour Shots
There's the rope in the first picture, along with an axe I made for Martin using a thin branch which I had sawed a thin slot into, of which I then put an x-acto blade into.
He's an Axe Man in his spare time also. ; ) (props to Michael Schenker)
Nice tool belt! Way to toughen up those knickers...
Oh, look, Rebecca has made for herself a paracord-strap messenger bag, and a beautiful journal, too!
Chatting it up, on their rocking chairs, enjoying the new rug.
"Nice tool belt, Martin."
Step 10: Slideshow Video
I would love a vote from you for the wood and/or paracord... Thanks!!
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.