Some days before Valentine's Day I noticed that it has already been some time since I last gave my wife I self-made, personal present. So I decided to use the opportunity and combined two symbols of Valentine's Day into a useless but romantic present: a heart carved out of ice which reveals a rose when melting.
My wife loved it.
Step 1: Tools and materials
For this, we will need the following tools and materials:
- A rose. It should be big and in full blossom.
- A working place that may get wet. There is a certain amount of melting involved.
- A bowl in which we will freeze the water containing the rose. Since we want the rose to be completely contained in the ice, the bowl should be large enough such that we can suspend the rose such that there remains some space (at least 1cm) on all sides. The bowl I used (see the pictures) was borderline, a somewhat larger bowl would be better. (I do not give measurements, since the correct size of the bowl is relative to the size of your rose).
- Some wire to suspend the rose in the bowl (step 2). My wire had a diameter of 0.5-1mm.
- A freezer for freezing the water (step 3). You will probably find one in your refrigerator.
- A sharp knife or paper cutter. Used for cutting away the stump of the rose protruding from the ice (step 4).
- A flat screw driver. This one is never mentioned in any of the steps, but it is occasionally useful when the heart gets frozen to some other parts and you have to detach it.
- Several rough rasps for carving the ice (step 6) and also for preparing the wooden socket (step 7). Probably any rasps will do, but see step 6 for some information which shapes turned out useful.
- One or two sheets of paper and a pair of scissors. The paper will be used to mark the rough form of the heart on the ice (step 6).
- A piece of wooden board for the socket. It should be at least the size of the bowl, and it should be unfinished wood. Of course, it should also be as beautiful and elegant looking as possible.
- A jigsaw for cutting the wood to the correct size (step 7). Other types of wood saw (electrical and manual) will do as well. (But a chainsaw will probably be unsuitable.)
- Some rough abrasive paper for polishing the edges of the wood (step 7).
- Coffee for colouring the wood (step 8). This is only necessary, if you want the wood to get a little bit darker (since in my opinion, dark wood looks more accomplished). Instant coffee is best.
- A brush for applying the coffee to the wood (step 8).
- A nail for mounting the heart on the wood (step 9). The nail should be approximately 15mm longer than the wood is thick. But the exact length is not important.
- A hammer, otherwise the nail will be of no avail.
- A Valentine/wife/girl friend or the corresponding male form (for simplicity, I will assume that the recipient of the present is female throughout this instructable). See step 10.
If you have all the tools, the costs for this project should be minimal. I only had to buy the rose, the remaining materials could be found at home.
Step 2: Suspending the rose
For this, first cut off the stem of the rose (but leave a bit for attaching the wire. Then wrap the wire several times tightly around the bowl and try to somehow attach the rose head-down to the wire. I my case I got additional stability by piercing the end of the wire into the rose (see the last picture).
There are several things you should consider at this point:
- The rose should touch the bottom of the bowl. Instead, there should be at least 1cm between the rose and the bowl, since you will later carve away some of the ice covering the rose.
- If you leave several centimetres of stem, attaching the wire is easier. But you should check first how high you freezer actually is. Mine turned out to be too low, and I had to remove part of the stem after I already attached the wire.
Step 3: Freezing the water
Now wait until the water is completely frozen. How long this takes probably depends on your freezer and the size of the bowl. I waited approximately 24 hours. (If you are running low on time, while waiting you may start on the wood, see steps 7 and 8.)
And please, resist the temptation to prod and check the ice every half an hour. I did it, and once almost dislodged the rose.
When your water is completely frozen, it should look somewhat like on the second picture.
Step 4: Cutting away the stump of the rose
To cut away the stump, you will need some sharp knife. I used a paper cutter, but any sharp knife should probably work.
Since the rose is frozen, too, you will not be able to cut off the stump in one clean cut. Instead, you will have to scrape and cut off little bits of the rose until you have a flat surface like in the last picture. To not invest too much work in making the surface completely flat; when working with the ice later on part of it will melt anyway, so it will not stay exactly as it is now. All we need is a roughly flat surface.
In case you are not sure whether your knife is stainless, do not forget to wipe it dry afterwards.
Step 5: Removing the ice from the bowl
On the second picture, you see the resulting block of ice. The heart painted on the ice was just a failed attempt of mine to mark where to carve later. The ink turned out to smudge much too quickly.
In case you want to have a little pause before the hard work begins in the next step, do not forget to put the ice in the freezer.
Step 6: Carving the ice
The actual form of the heart is up to you, your creativity is required here. The only important thing is to remember that since you will mount the heart on a piece of wood, the bottom side of the heart should be flat. See the pictures for inspiration.
Nevertheless, I will try and give some hints on how I carved the heart, hoping that they might help you. Of course, the best technique also depends on your tools. I would be glad to hear your experience.
The first problem I faced was how to sketch the outline of the heart on the ice. I could not draw on the ice, since the ink smudged immediately. The solution was to cut out the outline of the heart from paper and to place it on the flat side of the ice. (See the picture.) Since the ice is already getting wet, the paper sticks to the ice. However, while working the paper is often dislodged, so you have to take care to to reposition it regularly. Notwithstanding these minor annoyances, having an outline of the heart greatly helped while carving. (If the paper starts to dissolve, just take it as a template for cutting another identical heart of paper.)
I then started carving from the flat side by first removing the ice near the flat side (where the paper was sticking). The effect is that I quickly (more or less) had the outline of the heart on the base of the block of ice and then could get rid of the paper (which already started to dissolve for the second time). As soon as the base of the block of ice has the right form, I could continue to work upwards and give the upper side of the heart a gentle round form.
Concerning the tools, I used rasps (indented for wood, I do not know whether there are they special ice rasps, but surely they are not easy find). I used flat and slightly rounded rasps for the rough word, and a rod-shaped one for the incision between the two bulges of the heart. 'To make carving easier, I filled a pot with hot (but not boiling) water and immersed the rasps in the water. By changing rasps in a round-robin style, I always had moderately warm rasps, which probably makes carving easier. But be careful not to have too hot rasps, I fear that the ice might crack if getting too warm.
While working on the ice, you should wear (working) gloves for three reasons.
- First, the ice is very cold (as you probably guesses), and having gloves helps. Unfortunately, my gloves were not water-resistant, so they were quickly drenched in icy water. So if you have water-resistant gloves, use these!
- Second, when you do not touch the ice with your warm hands directly, it probably melts less quickly. And since you are going to work on that ice for a while, there is a substantial amount of melting involved. (But at least in my case not so much as to endanger the project).
- And third, although rasps are not the most dangerous tools, it is still can hurt if a slipping rasp takes away a bit of your skin.
Step 7: Preparing the wooden base
For this, first use a jigsaw (or a normal saw, if you do not have one) to saw out a square piece of wood on which we will mount the heart. The square should be somewhat larger than the heart of ice, with some space left at the margins not to make it look too crowded. Then saw off the corners of the square. (See the first picture.) This is a first approximation of rounded corners.
Now use a rough rasp to make the corners round. Then bevel the edges of the board. Now the does not look like a piece of leftover wood any more, but more like a custom made socket for the heart. (See the second picture.) Finally, use the rasp and abrasive paper too make the corners and edges smooth to the touch (you would not want your Valentine to get a splinter in her hand). The final result should look like on the third picture.
Step 8: Dyeing the wood
My experiments have shown that for dyeing wood, instant coffee is the best choice. However, normal coffee works well, too.
Make a very strong cup of coffee (the more concentrated, the better). Then immerse the wood completely in the coffee, or, if this is not possible, use a brush to cover it with coffee. Wait a few hours to let the coffee permeate the wood. You may repeat this step a few times to make the brown colour more pronounced. The amount of success depends on the wood you used. Varnished wood will repel the coffee, completely unfinished wood will work best.
In the end, you should have a result like on the third picture.
Step 9: Mounting the heart on the wood
For this, mark the position on the board where the bottom side of the rose will later touch the board using a pencil, and then drive a nail from below through the board and through this mark. I used a nail that protruded approximately 15mm from the board.
In order to give the heart a firmer hold on the board, we will use both the nail and frozen water to attach it. For this, slightly warm up the underside of the heart with your hands (no gloves this time) so that it gets wet. Then impale the heart on the nail (such that the nail pierces the bottom side of the rose), and force it down until the base of the heart touches the wooden board. It helps to turns the heart while pushing.
Now the present is ready. But the next step is nevertheless the most important one.
Step 10: Giving the present to your Valentine
I attached a few photos of the heart melting and the rose appearing. To heighten the suspense, I did not tell my wife what was enclosed in the heart.
Step 11: Outlook
The most obvious ones are not to make a heart but another form, and to enclose something other than a rose.
The technique of carving using the rasps the ice is probably not optimal. How do professional ice sculptors do it?
In my humble opinion, the most interesting variant would be to make the ice transparent, so that the rose is visible in its full beauty when handing over the present. However, I am not sure how to achieve this. I suppose that the ice is intransparent because the air gets out of the water, but cannot get out of the ice, because the upper layer of the water is already frozen (the uppermost 5-10mm of the ice where transparent). I see two possible approaches to solving this problem:
- While freezing the water, we could stir the water constantly. Then the water will cool down more homogeneously, and the air will get out of the water before the upper layer starts to freeze.
- We freeze layer by layer: We fill in 5-10mm of water at a time, and only when it is frozen, we add the next layer.