Allen Stichler – Wood Carving

Bespoke Ornamental Wood Carvings & Tree Sculpture

   Jul 29

Final Scawby Sculpture, Part 1

After the three benches it was time to move on to the “Toblerone-esque” sculpture, a double-sided piece which is to be set on a corner and be viewed from two directions; there was a little more freedom for me here, as benches have a slight restriction with designs ~ usually requiring simple, bold images which don’t impose too much on the comfort of those sitting on them!

The starting point for the design was a book entitled “Stepping Back in Time” by 5th-generation Scawby resident Greta Burkinshaw, which shared memories, history and photographs of the village. Greta was kind enough to help with ideas and her input was invaluable, and very fitting given her association with Scawby;  a poem included in the book was the basis for the design, and a couplet was chosen for each side of the sculpture.

The first side I tackled illustrated the trades of the village ~ the blacksmith , joiner, forestry and farming, with the text from the verse weaving amongst the carvings.

 

The first few hours was used to set out the design from my preliminary drawings, and to level out the face of the timber to some extent, as the surface was quite uneven after the chainsaw work.

 

I then worked on getting the cows established ~ they were to be looking over a wall, representing the village Pinfold, which still remains. Real cows have been a fixture during my time in Scawby, with them regularly watching me over the fence of the adjoining field.

 

Carving the joiner’s plane, the woodsmen’s saw and axe, and the blacksmith’s anvil and furnace. I was honoured to visit Mike Chatterton’s workplace, “The Forge” ~ just a few yards away from where I was carving. I took some photos of the anvil and tools and it was a wonderful experience ~ like stepping back in time, as the forge has been here for over 200 years.

   

Mike’s father and grandfather were blacksmiths, as are his sons and grandsons ~ and while we were there we witnessed Mike’s three year old great-grandson trying out his new hammer on a horseshoe!

Adding Greta’s words.

 


   Jul 10

Cemetery Seat for Scawby

The third and final log bench for Scawby ~ this one for the village cemetery; the simple design of ivy leaves and Forget-me-nots was decided on after studying Victorian Plant Symbolism, and framed the words (again chosen by the Parish Council) nicely.

 

Up until now the cedar had been a dream to work with, soft, dry and able to take a fair amount of detail; the outer sapwood edge of this log though was very fragile, crumbly and hard to carve. Luckily, with such a design there is a bit of flexibilty, and if a corner breaks off a leaf  it can be reworked without much upset.

 

 


   Jul 10

Scawby’s Second Seat

On to the second log bench, this one with a design to tie in with the text “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think” (chosen by the Parish Council). Such sentiments always bring nature to mind, so I decided on a hare and owl in opposite corners of the bench back rest.

I tackled the owl first, sitting in the top right corner…

…then the hare, which had to be set in quite deep due to a gouge from the chainsaw being in an awkward position.

 

There was a check and a bit of rot around the hare’s back leg which I had to get rid of too, meaning there was more work than anticipated. I think it worked out well though, the depth means the hare is revealed gradually as you approach from the side and gives the carving a bit more interest.


   Jul 09

Work Starts on Huge Scawby Cedar Logs

A huge old cedar tree was due to come down on the Scawby Hall estate ~ not far off four feet in diameter, and over 100 years old according to a rough count of the rings, it had stood dead for the last four years until the opportunity for a second life came along. The Parish Council had asked me to carve three rustic log benches plus a large “Toblerone”-shaped sculpture to be placed at various sites around the village, and the cedar was earmarked for the job.

As my chainsaw skills are limited to providing logs for the wood-burner, the task of taking a quarter-wedge from these 5ft- long logs was passed to local tree surgeons Alpine Tree Care.

 

 

It was a real battle for Dan of Alpine, the sheer size of the timber plus the awkward positions he had to get into made a hard job even harder; we were successful in rocking one of the logs over, enabling him to cut down vertically rather than horizontally, but the other two were situated on slight slopes or had lumps and bumps that meant they had to stay where they were.

 

Sanding down the surfaces after the chainsawing.

After all the sanding I made a start on the first bench, with a design of Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin; I found suitable images from Beatrix Potter’s illustrations and made a start. The main theme of the bench designs, plus the text that was to go on each of them, was decided by the Parish Council.

 

This was probably the easiest of the benches, so it was a nice one to start with. Three coats of oil and on to the next one!

 


   Jun 05

Carvings Installed at Jubilee Park

The handrail and panels have been installed at Jubilee Park, Woodhall Spa, with work on the Sensory Garden well under way.

The panelling looks fantastic, Mick at Jubilee Park has made a brilliant job of the installation.

The artist’s impression shows how impressive the sensory garden area will look ~ the panelled  wall is over on the right of the picture. I can’t wait to see it all finished.


   Jun 05

Sensory Garden Carvings at Jubilee Park, Woodhall Spa

This was really something different ~ I was asked to carve a long handrail (almost 4 metres) for a new sensory garden at Jubilee Park, Woodhall Spa, making sure the design was as tactile as possible and incorporating lots of elements from the site and the history of the village.

Jubilee Park has heated outdoor pools, cricket, bowls, croquet and tennis teams, and an impressive bandstand; nearby is “Kinema in the Woods” ~ dating from 1922, it’s the only fully functioning cinema in the UK to employ back projection ~ and in addition to all this there is the part that RAF Station Woodhall Spa played in World War 2. So…plenty to go on!

Mick at Jubilee Park had organised the timber for the carving ~ Siberian larch to match the wall cladding in the garden area ~ and initially I thought it may restrict any amount of detail in the work; once the rough-sawn outer layer was sanded down it became apparent that with some care and attention to grain it would be a pleasant carving experience. More often than not I work with rock-hard seasoned oak, so the nice soft Siberian larch made a nice change and gave my wrists and elbows a rest!

  Sanding back the rough outer layer of the larch.

  Preparing to scale up my drawings and transfer them onto the timber.

  Once the design was drawn on, I cut the profile around all the shapes on the top edge to give the handrail an interesting look ~ and to make the surfaces as tactile as possible.

  Chipping away! It was relatively quick work to rough out big areas, especially with a mallet; most of the finishing carving could be done with the gouges alone.

Lots of different textures, shapes and depths.

We’d decided to also have two pairs of vertical panels at either end of the handrail, again as tactile as possible ~ but also the aim was to have something to lead the viewer’s eye around the corner to the sensory garden. I started on the right-hand panels first, with a design based on the Lancaster Bomber.

  The two panels will be fixed next to each other when installed . The Lancaster Bomber was to be left as a silhouette with the cloud plumes  swirling in the background.

For the left hand panels I came up with the idea of a small boy peeping around the corner towards the garden, and a roll of film relating to the Kinema in the Woods.

  Cutting around the profile gives the impression the boy’s looking around the wall.

   

  Almost finished …

…just the addition of some bowls and croquet on the film cells.

Mick taking snaps of the finished handrail. He’ll oil it all when it’s installed.

 


   Mar 18

No Strings Attached

South Yorkshire musician Ben Paramore contacted me with a plan to transform his electric guitar into a dragon (as you do!), and sent me the instrument separated, sanded and stripped of its electrical elements. This unusual request excited me, being someone who has made guitars do unusual things in the past (almost coming close to producing a tune once or twice).

 

 

I designed the dragon head first and got cracking with that ; the body and guitar neck were to be covered entirely with dragon scales (although carved quite shallow on the neck so as not to interfere with playing).

 

The scales proved rather tricky ~ not the carving as such, but the positioning of them; the contours of the guitar body and the wavy edges threw the symmetry out and required a bit of head scratching. I found the best approach was to centralize the scales on the front and back of the guitar and join up the sides as best as I could. I’d toyed with the idea of starting on say, the front right, and working round the guitar as I went, but I’m sure the scales would have ended up going off in some peculiar directions.

All the finishing was to be done by the customer ~ either some sort of stain, lacquer or spray ; I can’t wait to see the results.

 


   Mar 18

Alver Valley Country Park Pictures

I finished the carvings for Alver Valley Country Park (Hampshire) around April last year, but as is usually the case with such things, the installation of the sculptures and completion of the play area took some time; I recently received some photographs of the totem pole and sign in situ ~ which was great as I hadn’t manged to get any decent pictures before they were transported to the site.

A couple of snaps taken whilst I was carving ~ I love the look of the crisp white sycamore when freshly carved.

 

   

 


   Dec 28

‘Twas the Ammonite Before Christmas

I was asked to carve a round sign in time for Christmas, bearing the words “Barrow upon Humber Geology Museum” and featuring an ammonite fossil; it so happened that I had a suitable piece of oak, big enough for a 14″ circle and at 3″ thick, deep enough to be able to make the fossil really stand out.

 

After some bandsaw calamities (my temperamental old machine finally gave up ~ luckily I had another in reserve, but without a blade…cue twiddling thumbs as I awaited delivery of a new one) I sawed the circle to shape. I’d drawn the area to be left raised for the ammonite and routed to half of the depth of the circle.

 

 

After drawing on the ammonite more accurately I tidied up the edges and the flat surface, making sure all the areas where they met were neat and crisp.

I then set about creating a bit of a Cumberland Sausage effect, lowering the coils as they turned into the centre and rounding them into a tube shape.

After that it was a case of creating the grooves and hollows that characterize the fossil:

 

The trick was to leave the finish slightly tooled, giving a better effect. After completing the ammonite I routed the outer edges of the circle and traced on the lettering. Once carved, a couple of coats of oil and the sign was complete.

 


   Nov 22

Leeches, Owls and Fairies? It Must be Anlaby Park

A large horse chestnut tree had stood in the grounds of Anlaby Park Community Library, Hull, for a number of years; it had been a real focal point for the community and the source of thousands of conkers for children spanning decades. The sight of the council turning up one day to drop it to the ground caused the volunteers at the library to race out and convince them to compromise ~ and leave it at a height of around 10ft, with the aim of it being given another life through being carved.

The Library members had specific ideas of what they’d like to see on the tree ~ an owl on the side facing the library, a small “fairy” door next to the path for the children, and a group of carvings illustrating the history of the library to be viewed on the approach to the building.

I began with the owl; there were a few tricky areas on this area, with a large patch of dark, soft wood running vertically through one side of the owl which restricted some of the work on that side. The rest of the timber in this area was extremely hard, so it was frustrating that a weak point had appeared in a prominent place; sometimes you’ve got to sigh and say, “It is what it is” ~ with trees you have lumps, bumps, rot and cracks and it’s part of the appeal and charm, otherwise everyone would have resin sculptures straight out of a mould.

  The owl, with some of the different shades of timber clearly visible

  The dark stripe of dark wood running through the left wing

I moved onto the Fairy Door next, at ground level it gave my sciatica a rest; this time the wood was very soft and crumbly in certain areas, so simplicity was the key. I’d positioned the door so I could utilise the roots for some steps, and a couple of large lumps for a lamp and some toadstools. Because the base of the tree bellied out, I had to resort to a chainsaw to flatten the area and then create the steps.

The actual mallet and chisel work was quite simple after that point, just shaping the lamp and toadstools and cleaning up round the hinges and handle.

  Note the conkers left on the step by local children!

The door was an instant hit, stories abound of small children knocking and waiting for it to be answered by the owl, and a regular pile of conkers appeared on the steps ~ a gift for the fairies?

 

Evidence of fairy inhabitants ~ tiny toadstools near the door, and fairy dust on the doorstep!

Lastly, it was time for the historical carvings ~ this time the wood was perfect, hard enough to take a bit of detail, but not too hard to make it a battle.

I started with the Leech Tower, which had once been a feature of Anlaby Park. Leeches were taken from an adjacent pond and cleansed in the tower before being used for medical practices, a piece of local history that not many were aware of.

 

The carving based on the one available photo of the tower.

Tennis courts had been a recent memory for the locals in this area, and that was the next subject, followed by some books to represent the community library.

 

I worked some scrolls into the design which would label the carvings, making it clear what each item represented.