Making Quiet Contemplation of a Sandwich

In April I am making a revised version of my most popular pieces - Quiet Contemplation of a Sandwich.
Here I document the making of 3 examples. 1 is already pre-ordered but 2 are still available.

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    Originally I carved all parts from the block of lime wood by hand. Although each part would look good it was difficult to be consistent so I bought the plans for a copy carving machine on the internet. This worked well, copying an original carving with a router on a pantograph but was a noisy, time consuming job. I am now digitalising all my pieces using Blender and producing the base carvings on a computer controlled router. Complicated carvings such as heads can take a full day to draw in 3D.

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    This gives an exceptionally high quality and repeatable output. 3D routing of a shape can take several hours. The piece having to be registered and turned over to carve the reverse side.

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    The output is very consistent but raw. It could be equated to a metal casting and needs a lot of finishing.

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    Several hours later the results are worth all the effort.

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    These heads are coated with artists gesso in preparation for air brush painting.

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    I use a former to accurately place the holes in eyes.

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    The eye sits in a brass ring the is inserted into the eye socket.

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    Eye in ring. The pin is superglued in place and filed flush with the ring.

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    Detail being carved into the body parts.

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    Boots after carving.

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    Joints are individually cut and fitted. Here I use a Hegner fretsaw (scrolls) that I have had since 1985. This was the first piece of machinery that I bought and I paid for it with prize money won in a magazine toy making competition.

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    Knee joints fitted to check for free movement.

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    The arm joins are also hand marked and cut. Here the wooden actuators are made from boxwood. This is very strong with a very tight grain.

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    Arms carved and fitted.

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    Parts carved and fitted.

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    I have used this set of carving tools for many years. They are very high quality and retain an edge for a long time. I have a second identical set for if these ever wear out and also a set of bigger ones.

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    Hands are particularly difficult to carve freehand. (They are also difficult to draw in 3D.)

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    Detail being added to the hands.

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    Brass pin for shoulder turned from 3mm brass rod on a Sherline lathe. Sherline lathes are excellent for small work in brass.

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    The end of the pins are shaped with a file by hand in the lathe.

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    Finished shoulder pins

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    Test fitting of parts prior to painting.

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    Parts ready for painting.

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    First layer of gesso is applied. This raises and fills the grain in the wood leaving a smooth foundation for painting. I usually apply and smooth 2 coats.

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    The gesso is a mixture of acrylic medium and fine plaster. It gives a hard, smooth finish to the wood.

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    Painted parts test fitted.

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    Box parts. 1 set cut from ash wood, the other from oak. The oak has the birch ply inserts fitted. The ply inserts prevent any shrinkage of the wood from affecting the mechanism.

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    Oak box assembled.

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    Box with birch ply inserts loose fitted. The inserts are left loose to enable fitting of the mechanism.

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    Beech wood axles with brass ends. Note the longer brass ends to attach the crank handle.

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    Drilling holes in the brass axle ends.

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    It is most efficient once the lathe is set up to make a supply of brass axle ends.

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    Axles with cams and gear fitted. All parts are painted with 2 coats of acrylic varnish.

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    Axles fitted in nylon bushings for smooth running.

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    The geneva wheel is contracted as a separate module.

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    Cam followers are made in 2 halves that are glued together for strength.

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    Finished cam followers with brass rollers.

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    Small wrist parts to facilitate positioning of the hands.

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    The wrist parts are turned from small lengths of box wood.

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    Wrist parts test fitted.

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    The linkage attachment for the legs, cut from brass.

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    These are small parts!

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    They are held in a small vice for filing.

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    A swiss needle file is used to finish them.

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    Crank handle ready for fitting.

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    The handle is made form a block of hardwood mounted on the lathe between centres.

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    A profile is turned to fit a collet chuck.

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    Mounted in the collet chuck the axle hole is drilled.

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    The profile of the handle is turned.

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    Bees wax is applied as a finish.

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    Handle parts. The hole is threaded to fit the axle.

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    The crank is screwed onto the axle. This arrangement has the advantage that a pulley can easily be fitted if it is desired to motorise the piece.

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    Painted heads following the second coat of gloss varnish.

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    The gloss is flattened with a final coat of flat varnish

  • To be continued . . . . . .