Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Whittling wood

I remember once as a boy that I got a block of wood for whittling purposes. I believe it would be safe to say that I am perhaps the least crafts-oriented person on the face of the planet, although my orientation is arguably one of genetics rather than choice. The wood block was a nice oblong thing, perhaps 8 inches long and a few inches wide.
It has a mark or two on it, perhaps as a hint for how to make one of those little pine derby cars. I mostly remember that while I could shave wood off it without undue trouble, the thing that resulted after wood was shaved looked more like an oppressed block of wood than any carved marvel. At least with wood-burning, the wood shows a transformation, that one can call progress--little burn marks are scalded into the right parts of the pattern. There's something liberating, moreover, about the feel of the burning wand going into the wood. I always felt like I was remolding reality, one scalding burn at a time. The fact that the woodburner would inevitably touch skin at some point in the process merely added to the experience. Art should requie some suffering, the theory goes, not to mention more than a bit of hopping around, grasping one's thumb earnestly.

Last year when I made my chess set from soap, using guidelines from a 1930something book I got on eBay for under five dollars, I must admit that the results were not, by conventional standards, particularly effective. Through creative use of pipe cleaners, the pieces could all be made out. But I posit, in hindsight, that if one is to use cheap dollar store soap, one should go with unscented for maximum
chessfectiveness. The mail art call to which I donated the chess set, over in one of those European countries where everyone is by definition cooler than I am, perhaps got more fascinating entries than a soap chess set (or the styrofoam other set I sent). I remember the call originator charitably telling me my set was "aromatic", or some such.

When I was in high school, my brother and I had the local ceramics shop cast us a chess set, which we then painted. It looked so good! It's still at my parents' house today, though I believe one pawn has gone walkabout. I cannot carve, or burn, or sculpt, but I can spray paint.

I sometimes say "play to your strengths", although in fact I have many hobbies that I am not strong at doing at all. But my suspicion is that it is much easier to whittle oneself into something workable than it is to whittle wood. I feel sometimes that I am a crafts manual, only instead of making doilies for Xmas, or building flugelhorns from PVC pipe, I'm intended to make something interesting out of myself. I'm not sure what that something might be, but lately I want to read the directions a bit more carefully, and see if I can
carve something without burning myself.
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