I am an Essex based WI approved speaker and give talks and demonstrations on an eclectic mix of subjects.
it was some time ago that I completed my carved elephant. It was always designed to stand on a glass platform, but the cost of running the glass kiln for a casting run has put me off.
That all changed when we had 25 solar panels installed late last year. They are currently generating around 20kW a day and so a 5 day kiln run using about 35kW doesn’t seem so bad.
I used the lost wax principle. This entailed first carving the base in wax. It was then used to create a mould from plaster and silica, reinforced with wire mesh. The mould is then inverted in the Aga to melt the wax out, leaving a plaster mould ready for the glass.
The glass comes in chunks and is simply placed in the mould at the start of the 5 day cycle, most of which is a very gradual cooling down annealing process to ensure the finished base doesn’t crack.
A few finishing touches and the elephant was glued to the base and stands proud as it was always designed to do:
Well, after a few tantalising glimpses of the different stages and parts of Bertie 2, here he is in his natural habitat.
I finished him with beeswax polish on his shell and a matt wood protection on his legs and head. This has given a nice contrasting sheen and matt finish.
As a homage to the original Bertie, here he is having recently woken up for another year.
Wooden Bertie now sits on the mantlepiece. At least I don’t have the worry and responsibility my sister has of looking after the real one.
All I need do is add a bit of polish once a year and not think about lettuce and, always his favourite, cucumber slices.
Time for the final part of my Bertie 2 project.
The interesting thing about carving a subject is just how much you study it first. Having had a tortoise in the family for 50 plus years and having him (or her, we still don’t really know) throughout my childhood, only now have I studied the differences between Bertie’s front and rear legs. As you can see from the pictures below, his rear legs are elephant like stumps, whereas his front legs are more flipper like.
The complication for his front legs is that, as a tortoise walks, the flippers bend inwards so his toes point towards each other, easier to see than explain, but it does make carving them quite challenging to get the movement and curves realistic.
Let’s start with the real life versions.
Then as translated into the carved versions for Bertie 2.
Next will come the final version revealed.
Part 3 of my project to make my own wooden tortoise was to carve Bertie’s head and face.
If it isn’t obvious, this is the real Bertie, my model.
The stages in carving wooden Bertie’s head are shown below. I was careful to select the angle of grain to give me the best chance of getting the lace grain across his head and shell.
To say it worked a treat is an understatement.
As you can see, the grain flowed down his head to help create the scaly look of his skin.
The second picture shows the outline head shape, with the eye marked on in pencil to make sure that I left enough wood to create the eyeball and lids.
In the third picture you can see the nostrils and form around the eyes roughed out.
I have also left a roll of skin on his neck to give him room to extend his neck.
The picture below shows his finished head:
Next time I will move on to his legs and claws.
It’s time for stage 2 of the project to carve my own Bertie. This comes with the news that the real Bertie has just woken up and lives for another year.
Having completed the outline shape of his shell, which revealed the beautiful lace grain of the London Plane wood, the next part of the project was to carve the ‘scales’ in the shell.
Normally this would be a freehand process allowing artistic interpretation. However, what I am doing is copying a real tortoise, so I had to start by studying all the photographs and copying out all the small nicks and curves from ‘real Bertie’ onto ‘wooden Bertie’.
This was then carved out using a simple ‘v’ chisel. As you can see from the first picture, whilst this gives the design, it is hardly realistic. The second picture is about 20 hours work later, where I have added depth to the scales both on their edges and through the undulations over their surfaces. The final picture has the additional texture from the layering in the scales.
All in all about 30 hours work and that doesn’t include the underside.
Come back soon for part 3, for Bertie’s head and face.