Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Case XX Seahorse Whittler

I really like my Seahorse Whittler. I purchased it a couple of years ago on a visit to the Case/Zippo headquarters in Bradford, PA. (About one hour south of Buffalo.) It's a nice drive especially in the fall. The Zippo/Case museum is well worth the trip.

The Seahorse comes equipped with three blades: a pen blade, a coping blade, and a wharncliffe master blade. The master blade does the heavier carving, while the two smaller blades are excellent for detail work and for getting into tight spots such as carving a ball-in-cage.

For this knife Case uses it's "tru-sharp" surgical stainless steel, which is as good as any stainless I've used. I find it easy to sharpen and maintain, and while I'm not as hardcore about steels as some people, I do wonder what a difference a Seahorse in Case's classic Chrome Vanadium might be. They have yet to release a CV Seahorse, and there's no word of any plans to do so.

I've done plenty of carving with my Seahorse and have few complaints. The master blade's wide spine gives my thumb a comfortable place to press, and it's straight edge is a snap to sharpen. It is a folder, so it's grip size is small compared to my larger fixed blade knives. Small grip size can contribute to hand cramping during long-term use. My solution to this is simply to take frequent breaks for stretching. Also, holding a hot cup of tea or coffee seems to ward off muscle fatigue.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Sharpened Axe

The Sharpened Axe just hit 50 followers! Congratulations Mike! One of my favorite bushcraft blogs, The Sharpened Axe focuses on the essential skills of axemanship and basic bushcraft. Mike invites frequent guest writers, so there's a nice variation in subjects, voices, and opinions.

If you're not already following his blog, Mike is holding a celebratory contest with some nice prizes. Visit The Sharpened Axe for details.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fridge magnet: Rumor from Imaginary Monsters

The Imaginary Monsters webcomic is up to #129! Imaginary Monsters is a quirky, silly, fun story with tons of wild visuals and dungeon adventures. I'm a fan.

In a comic series full of crazy characters, it can be tough to pick a favorite. Mine is a little guy named "Rumor." He's a minor supporting character with only a handful of appearances, but something about him just tickles me. I carved a Rumor figure, glued a magnet on the back, and gave it to Pete Lazarski, the creator of Imaginary Monsters.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Moonshiners (part 4) Completed!

"Swing to the left, swing to the right,
The excise men will dance all night,
Drinking up the tay till the broad day light,
In the hills of Connemara.

Stand your ground it is too late
The excise men are at the gate,
Glory be to Paddy but they're drinking it straight!
In the hills of Connemara."

So in the end, the excise men are won over by the magic that is homemade whiskey. Whether moonshiner or government agent, all are united in friendship and joy until the next day's inevitable splitting headache.

As far as design, the still is one solid piece with most of it's weight on the bottom. Each of the figures has some item or items (barrels, jugs, etc) at it's feet in order to make the base wider, and give it a low center of gravity. They stand very well.

Everything is non-toxic and play safe. Experience helped me to design short, blunt noses, hat brims, and other features that will resist breakage and wear. Sure there will be some dings and chips eventually, but this play set should last for years. Some day when Murphy is all grown up, he may even hand it down to his own kids.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Carving Resolutions for 2011

I've decided on some carving goals for 2011. This year I'd like to:

-Carve a nativity scene (including at a minimum the Holy Family, a cradle, and one donkey.)
-Make more walking sticks. Maybe even one for myself!
-Teach basic carving to at least two other people.
-Try different carving woods such as tupelo.
-Improve my photography skills. This should help the blog as well as sales on Etsy.
-Carve more moving parts such as rattles, ball-in-cage designs, chains, etc.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Moonshiners (part 3) -The Still

"I've been a moonshiner for many a year
I've spent all me money on whiskey and beer
I'll go to some hollow, I'll set up my still
And I'll make you a gallon for a ten shilling bill"

I designed this whiskey still to be rugged and play-safe, yet look fairly realistic. A one-piece carving, all the edges are blunted and sanded smooth before applying linseed oil, acrylic paint, and a few coats of shellac. All non-toxic and safe for tiny hands.

As the center piece of the Moonshiners Playset, the still is very important. I'm happy with how it turned out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Moonshiners (part 2) -The Excise Man

"Now keep your eyes well peeled today,
The big, tall men are on the way,
Searching for the mountain tay
In the hills of Connemara"

Here's the Excise Man, all carved and ready for sanding. I suppose he's the bad guy, at least until the fellas share their booze with him. At that point, he forgets all about arrests or fines, and focuses soley on sampling that sweet potcheen from Ireland green.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Moonshiners (part 1)

"Gather up the pots and the old tin cans,
The mash, the corn, the barley and the bran,
Run like the devil from the excise man,
Keep the smoke from rising...Barney!"

So goes the traditional Irish song "The Hills of Connemara." It tells the timeless tale of illicit booze-making, running from the authorities, and bribery. Inspired by this and other songs of Poitín, especially "The Rare Old Mountain Dew," my current project is a set of moonshiners. This set will consist of four pieces: Two happy moonshiners, one whiskey still, and a stern-looking excise man (aka a revenuer to our own Southern Highlanders.)

To add weight to each figure's base, I've designed them with a barrel, jug, or sack of grain by the feet. At this point they're still pretty rough, but they should look fine after sanding and finishing. This set will be a 1st birthday present for my friend's son Murphy.

(Also, Happy New Year!)