Bertie too

My latest woodworking project has been the creation of Bertie 2.

I need to explain. Bertie is ‘my’ first pet. Not many people of 50 something can say that their childhood pet is still alive, but mine is. Bertie was/is the family tortoise. He is at least 60 years old. He now lives with my sister.

As we don’t have the real Bertie, I decided that I would make my own wooden version.

As usual I will go through some of the stages in order to get to the finished piece.

Above is the real Bertie. He is about 20cm long, so a small tortoise.

My Bertie began with the choice of wood.

I decided to use London Plane, otherwise known as Lace wood.

It has a lovely grain. I cut it across the heart wood so that the lace look would come out across the shell.

Part 1 was the taking of a number pf pictures by my nephew, with Bertie placed on graph paper so that I could take key measurements.

Stage 1 of the carving process is below. Having selected the orientation to bring out the grain,  I gradually formed the outline shape using my new home made carving stand based on a towing ball.








Blacksmith poppies, the seed heads

The final stage of the poppy is of course the instantly recognisable seed head.

I made 2 for the sculpture.

I don’t have any pictures part way through, but they are made from 2 inch tube.

This is pinched top and bottom to create the stem and neck. The top is then flared out and shaped to create the feathered edge and the base pinched in to blend in with the stem.

There was then a rather long process of setting up the sculpture ready for my mum’s 80th birthday party.

There were many elements to arrange, with viewing points from the garden and the house windows. They then all needed setting into the stone.

An hour or so later and all was finished.






Blacksmith poppies, the full flowers

Following on from the first 2 stages of my poppy sculpture, it was time for the most difficult part, making the fully open poppy flower head.

You wouldn’t believe how many different types of poppy exist. I needed to set on a style, so I decided to go for the classic 4 petal design. I added furred edges to bring in my own design style and because I thought they needed a softer edge than the straight steel provided.

Work began with some real poppies, taking them apart, flattening out the petals and then making paper templates. I then used these to mark out the shapes of the 4 petals (which are actually different sizes) and then again my trusty new plasma cutter came into its own.

Shaping the petals into a natural look was quite difficult. Poppy petals are very thin and don’t hold their shape well, so a natural look is actually folded back and loose looking. I also hammered folds into the petals radiating outwards to give that paper look. Finally I added centres, again cut out with my plasma cutter and ridged to show the beginnings of the seed pod to come. Stems were added and the poppies finished.

For some reason I don’t seem to have taken any pictures of the process, only of the finished flower head, which is below. I made 2 to balance the sculpture.

Blacksmith poppies, the poppy flowers

Following on from stage 1 of my poppy sculpture project, the second stage of making the poppy sculpture was making the most important part, the poppy flowers.

I started by taking lots and lots of photographs through the summer months. The first thing that became very obvious was the amazing range of poppies to chose from. In the end I took a slightly artistic view of the classic 4 petal red poppy.

I then decided to show the flowers in 3 key stages, the developing bud, the fully open flower and finally the classic seed head.

Dealing with these in order, we of course start with the bud. This was made by first welding a piece of bar onto a smaller bar, the bud and the stem.





Next I forged the shape of the bud, including a fold in the side to represent the unwrapping bud.






Finally the stem was hammered and rounded to make it look less like a piece of bent rod. 3 of these were needed, at differing heights,  for the final sculpture.

That was about it, first stage of the flowers complete


Blacksmith poppies

I have been delaying revisiting my blacksmith poppies and the ‘how I made them’ bit. But here goes.

First of all a reminder on the left of how it all finished up.

The rock was made from a piece we obtained from our favourite farm in Northumberland.

That was the easy bit, simply drilling some holes ready for the metal stems. Except it wasn’t that easy, think flower arranging with very heavy flowers and you get the idea.

On to the first element, the leaves.

First stage was to cut them out of 1.5mm sheet steel using my nice new plasma cutter.

As ever, the right tool for the job made it very easy to do, but without it, it would have been impossible.



The next stage was to form the sheet into leaf shapes. This required the forge and a heavy gauge V block.

A great deal of hammering and bending later and the sheet metal was looking much

more 3 dimensional and leaf like.


Repeated another 6 times and I had the 7 leaves I needed.

As with gardening, even numbers just doesn’t look right. There is probably a mathematical rule for it somewhere, but simply put, 7, not 6 and not 8, leaves were now ready for the next stage.

Come back soon for stage 2.