Finding the right piece is equally important as the rest of the process. The more I go looking for these creatures the harder it seems to get. I guess as I start to carve and whittle I get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. The orchard I used had been grubbed up and was scheduled for burning to make way for a more modern orchard. It’s not easy because it’s so overgrown with brambles and the roots are covered by grass. As you can see below, you literally can’t see the wood for the trees.
Here’s me hard at it.
This piece ended up as Cervus Malus.
You really have to keep your eyes open, sometimes you spot something that has potential, but is frustratingly out of reach.
Or is too high and heavy to cut with a hand saw and no ladder.
Below is what they call the head of the tree, where branches are repeatedly pruned and grow back again.
These are often trimmed and turned into beautiful bowls because of all the knots and branches.
Below you can see a grubbed up tree leaning over, which sometimes helps with your access, but quite a lot of the branches end up lost in the brambles and undergrowth making it very hard to spot anything.
The ends of the branches where you get the twist and turn of the branches are often where you find something to work with like the one in the foreground above.
Sometimes pruning scars help because as they heal over they make great eyes.
Not everything is at the end of the branch, sometimes they’re hidden away in the middle, which often takes a fair bit of cutting to get to (especially with a hand saw).
Spotting the potential in a piece can be a hit and miss. You think you see something, cut it down and find out it’s not that good. On other occasions you cut it, flip it over and see something entirely different.
The secret is seeing through the bark, that often gathers thickly around features disguising their potential.
One interesting discovery I’ve made is that the wood can be too young or old. Too young and it’s too fresh, the grain is hiddn as if it hasn’t developed yet. It really smells of apples when you cut through the bark too. When it’s too old the bark drops off but the wood is too light and thin. It powders under the blade, it’s as if the life force has gone totally. Get it right and you get the power of the wood frozen in the grain. You can often tell when would is turning because you get black streaks in the grain.
From the orchard, they end up in my storehouse where they’ll dry out and the bark will start to crack.
This part is only the beginning of the discovery, next you have to get the bark off and uncover the beast – see my next entry ‘Uncovering The Malus’.