Saturday, August 28, 2010

Animal Upgrades for Arks

3D Elephants

My typical style of animal is what I call a "flatty".  The animal shape is cut from 1 inch pine and painted with alot of detail to give it the illusion it's three dimensonal. When I started to  build my elephants a 1 inch flat elephant just looked ridiculous.  If I was going to glue two 1" pieces together then I thought I should make the legs in different positions so the finished elephant would look like it had 4 legs.  I further sanded the trunks and tusks with my Dremel so they had more shape.  Thus was born the 3D Animals.  The elephants were so loved that I started to work on the other animals and now have 3D Buffalos, Giraffes, Gorillas, pandas, buffalos, camels and kangaroos.

3D Camel
3D Gorilla
3D Giraffe

3D Panda

The kangaroos have one layer and their arms and legs are glued to each side.  I may rework this one as the way it's designed the arms could break off and be a choking hazard.  I'm still working on animals with big tails.  What do you think?

3D Kangaroo

My favorite right now is the Buffalos.  They have such big, shaggy heads so I added two more layers in the front and sanded them back to meet the body.

3D Buffalo

I also have been using the Dremel to give ears and horns a little more definition.  Paint is still what makes them look real and what I love to do,    I've got the moose almost ready and will be working on tigers next.  I've decided to keep the small animals one piece.  They "fit" in size and proportion.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where Wood Comes From

Living in central Arkansas means living in trees.  Blessed with plenty of water and mild winters trees are our weeds.  If you don't mow an area at least once a year a forest of oak, gum, pine and a few other hardwood trees springs into being.  None of our area is old growth forest.  People have cleared, farmed, logged and cleared again since the area was settled.  Naturally, beavers clear areas and move on but after their dams rot and break the trees quickly grow back.  We live near many acres of cultivated yellow pine grown mostly for paper pulp and telephone poles.  It takes only 10 - 20 years from planting to harvest.  If a road or building is constructed, trees are cut and sent to local sawmills.  Wood is truly a renewable resource here.  

Logging trucks are a common sight and it's easy to find someone who will harvest trees on your land.  These logs go to local sawmills like the one pictured below.  
I've passed this mill many times over the years.  From the road you see the huge pile of logs with sprinklers on them.  They water the wood to keep it workable.  Oak in particular will become rock hard when too dry.  I got to see this multigeneration family operation up close last week.  At this mill they rough saw timbers. They turn the main part of the logs into railroad ties and smaller slabs are sold to other mills that make stair treads, molding, etc., and they build shipping pallets.  Best Loved Husband has access to their wood and has been buying some for projects at home.  

When he gets the wood it's green - that means its full of moisture. If you don't dry the wood it will warp, shrink and even twist.  A friend of mine grew up close to our house in a cute home that her father built as a young man.  Her Daddy was hardworking but not rich and purchased a wooded piece of land and a portable sawmill.  He cut logs from their land, milled them into 2 x 4's, etc. and built their house.  Her Daddy didn't know he had to dry the wood.  The house finished developed cracks in the walls and around the windows, but my friend pointed out that her Daddy patched and fixed everything (including resetting windows) and eventually the wood dried and the house became stable.  

The mill will air dry their finished pallets or rail ties but BLH would have to stack his wood just so and wait for several weeks before he used it.  He's not that patient.  He searched for DIY wood drying ideas and found some but they wanted you to start with a storage container or a barn.  Undaunted, he put together a perfect wood dryer to do 10 or so boards

You're looking at a old food dehydrator (circa 1980) with some Masonite taped together in a tube to extend it's length.  (The duct tape on the food dehydrator has been there holding the sides together forever.)  
He got extra long boards this last time so he added some cardboard to the end.  Usually he just tapes the front of the dehydrator to the ends.  Wood is stacked carefully with small separator sticks of wood (stickers) and the dehydrator is turned on and you come back in a couple of days to have fine and exceedingly dry wood.   BLH then makes a lot of sawdust and plays in the garage happily for a while.  When he was done we had this beauty:
A king sized oak headboard for the Master Suite.  (Yes, I now need pillow shams).  He's drying wood now for a bench to go at the foot of the bed.  BLH is very tall and tends to kick a foot board.

Not only did he make it but the wood came from within 20 miles of us.  I'm looking at using some for my Ark animals but the mill doesn't do pine very much.  Oak has too large of grain and is too hard to cut and sand easily for the small pieces I do.  It would be great to use locally grown and very renewable wood for everything.