I’ve decided to finish the eagle in gold leaf. The smoother the surface the better with gold leaf. But I really don’t want to do any sanding and lose the crispness of the carving. So the first thing I did was to dye the wood with a water based dye. The water raises the grain. Once dry I go over it lightly with a red scotch pad to get rid of the whiskers and make it smooth again. As you can see, basswood does not take stain or dye well. I stained it in case I decide to age it. Any worn away paint or gold won’t have bright, clean, new looking wood showing through.
It’s been a long time since I posted something. I’ve been busy carving commissions, all of which are eagles I’ve already posted photos of me carving them. ZZZZZZZ…. Finally, I’ve caught up with orders and I’m going to carve something for myself, a large Bellamy Eagle I’ve never carved before. Though, it will be for sale if someone wants it.
I first saw this eagle at an exhibition of John Bellamy’s work. It is large and impressive. I’ve wanted to carve one ever since, but haven’t had the time. I now have the time. Let’s get to work.
Recently a customer dropped of a crucifix for some repair work. It was somewhat small for a wood carving, but beautifully carved. It was carved in Europe from Lime wood, something similar to our bass wood. I can’t tell how old it is. The carved Jesus seems old, with a lot of patina, but the cross looks fairly new. This is how it looked when it came to me.
The Air Arms TX200 is a great air rifle, but is does have a couple of issues. The most common problem is the failure to cock or it cocks but the safety doesn’t catch. The internet is full of talk of this problem. In an earlier post I show how easy it is to fix.
One issue that is not easy to fix is the poorly designed safety. The photo above shows what the safety looks like on a stock rifle. Cocking the rifle automatically sets the safety to the “ON” position. That’s probably a good idea, but most firearms don’t work that way and it takes some getting used to. I’ve missed more than one squirrel because I forgot to push the safety off before squeezing the trigger. After some practice it becomes automatic. But what if you can’t take the shot and you want to continue looking for something to shoot at. Every other rifle I’ve ever handled allowed you to put the safety back on.
This rifle is British made, and is of the highest quality. What were they thinking when they designed the safety? Amazingly, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for most owners because no solution or aftermarket parts have been designed or sold to make the safety functional. I got tired of waiting for someone else to come up with something so I sat down and figured it out.
I had a nice piece of wood leftover from a customer job and a couple of free days so I did something I seldom do…I made an eagle for inventory. The blank was an odd size so I decided to enlarge a standard 25″ Bellamy. This eagle is 43″ long by 8″ tall and 5″ deep.
I originally tried using imitation gold leaf as a finish. I’ve never tried it, but it is much cheaper, so I figured I’d give it a try and give my customers another choice of finish that was cheaper than real gold leaf. What a disaster. Imitation gold leaf is much thicker than real gold. It didn’t stick and made a mess of the eagle. My only option was to paint over it. White is the most common color the original eagles are found in, so it is fitting. It is lightly aged and for sale at $750.
I like to look through old auction catalogs to see what antiques are selling for and to get ideas for carvings. I was shocked to find a two headed Bellamy eagle that was sold several years ago. It’s a weird looking thing but I liked it so I decided to carve one for myself.
Instead of painted pine I carved this eagle from mahogany and left it in natural wood. I will have a pattern available for sale soon.
I recently bought a very nice federal period mirror at an antique shop that was desperately in need of some repairs. Atop the mirror sits a hand carved urn and swag. It is a very fragile carving that has deteriorated and has been broken and poorly repaired. Here is a short photo essay showing the steps required to repair and conserve the carving. I have tried to maintain the aging and original patina.
Here is what the mirror looked like when I purchased it.
I bought this gun new in 1988 and carried it for years before retiring it to my safe and replacing it with a .45 ACP. It was a great little pocket pistol, but being a .380, it was considered too under powered for a safe carry gun. It also suffered from poor accuracy due to terrible sights.
The price of used Colts has gotten crazy in the past few years. I think I paid about $300 for the gun new but they are selling used for about $650. Advances in ammunition technology has made the .380 a much more effective defense round than when I carried the little pistol. Pistols chambered in .380 are some of the most popular carry guns right now. All this new interest in these little guns got me looking at my old Mustang again.
The gun looked dated now. It needed an upgrade. I’ve been fiddling with the thing for about a year now. I made a lot of changes both cosmetically and functionally. Here is what it looks like now.
I’ve finally finished the Marine emblem. The finishing part went smoothly, as is usually the case when I am not trying to age or distress the surface. The eagle, continents and rope are covered in 23k gold leaf. The rest is painted with flat, acrylic paint. This creates a strong contrast with the gold. All the colors were chosen to give a lightly aged look without having to do anything else. If you know any marines who would like one, please share this post.
If you want to try to carve one yourself, I now have a pattern available.
I have been carving a Marine Anchor and Globe emblem since the beginning of August. The carving part of the project is now done. This is what it looks like in bare wood. It’s almost a shame to cover it with paint and gold leaf. I’ll post a final photo in a week or two once the the finishing process is done. This was a fun project. I’d love to do another one in walnut or mahogany.
I carve a lot of eagles so it is a welcome opportunity to do something different. I have the honor of carving an early version of the US Marine Corp Anchor and Globe emblem for a Marine. I’m just getting started. Here’s what I have so far.
A few years ago I carved a human skull as a personal challenge to learn a little about human anatomy. It took a lot of work and I wasn’t completely happy with result. So when I received a commission to carve another one I did some more preparation by studying as many different photos of real human skulls.
Last year I got the opportunity to repair three old carved eagles, all belonging to the same collector. Two of the eagles were genuine John Haley Bellamy eagles and one was an old copy. One of the genuine Bellamys was an example of his early work. It gave me a rare chance to study the originals up close, and take them apart. I’ve seen dozens of genuine Bellamy eagles up close, but this is the first time I got the chance to remove the head. It was interesting, and a great opportunity to closely examine the master’s work and techniques.
Following are photos of those eagles and their repairs.
Some of my favorite projects are designs created by a customer. It gives me a chance to do something a little different. This one of those instances. Though the design incorporates one of my often carved eagles–a copy of a Boston Carving Company eagle–it is only part of the project. Building the frame was easy. Simple woodworking that I’ve done many times. The real challenge was the stars, 18 of them. Each one was cut from 3/8″ pine. But then I had to carve each one. They are only 1.5″ so holding them while during the carving was tough. I ended up using double-sided tape to hold them to my bench. It was time consuming, tedious work. It wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t have to make another one.
Feel free to design come up with your own idea and let me create if for you.
I finally had the time to finish the project I’ve been working on for several months. It took about $300 in 23k gold leaf to finish it, but it was worth the expense–it looks great. I made a pyramid base using some 200 year old cherry wood I salvaged from an old desk I salvaged. Here if the finished project.
I’ve always wanted a Saber Tooth Lion skull. I don’t know why, maybe I’m a little weird, but the first time I saw one in a museum (I think in the Natural History museum in DC) I’ve wanted one. Real skulls are rare and extremely expensive, but there are companies that make high quality casts from the originals. Trouble is these aren’t cheap either. One of these skulls has been on my list of carving projects.
Now I don’t have to go to the trouble. During a recent trip to Mexico I happened across a very high quality reproduction at a Mayan ruin. Among the cheap crap being sold by the countless pests that follow you where ever you go in Mexico, with the annoying, “Senior, you buy. Cheaper than Walmart. Almost free. How much you pay?” was this beautiful reminder of the times when humans were not at the top of the food chain. After some haggling, I managed to talk the young Mayan entrepreneur into accepting $50–a great buy. Here is what it looked like when I bought it.
The skull I first saw in the museum was found at the La Brea tar pits in California. Spending thousands of years immersed in asphalt created a beautiful patina and rich color. I used a combination of dyes and linseed oil to create a look that is very close to the real thing. I had a scrap piece of birdseye maple laying around that was just the right size for a base. I used a water based finish so the color wouldn’t change. I like the contrast.
Now I have a good model should I ever want to carve one.
I’ve finally finished up with a bunch of customer work and had some time to work on my in-the-round eagle. I was planning on carving feathers on the back of the wings and body. But I visited an exhibition of John Bellamy’s carvings in Massachusetts over the summer and liked what he did to the back of one of his large eagles. The photo below is my interpretation of his technique. It was quick and easy to do, but I like the effect.
After a busy summer carving for other people I was looking forward to taking a vacation and coming home to work on some of my own projects. My Mexican vacation was great. I left the cold Connecticut weather behind and bathed in the tropical sun and ocean. Unfortunately, while I was away, my father died. He had been sick in the hospital for about six months, so it wasn’t a total surprise.
If you own an Air Arms TX200 MKIII and are having a problem cocking it completely, for example, the auto safety is not engaging or the anti bear trap device isn’t releasing, there is probably an easy fix. I bought a new TX200 recently and immediately began having problems. Once cocked, I could not get the anti bear trap device to unlock the cocking handle. I would have to hold the cocking lever as far as I could push it an then release the beartrap device and let up on the cocking handle. Also the auto safety wasn’t engaging. I searched online and found a lot of similar complaints but only one solution that didn’t involve sending the rifle back for repairs. The one solution I found involved taking the trigger assy completely apart and soldering a piece of metal onto one of the trigger parts. That’s a job too difficult for all but the most daring do-it-yourselfer. And after looking closely at the rifle and its superb quality and engineering I found it implausible that the Air Arms Trigger would need such altering.