Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stumps Hot Out of the Oven!

The shop is so messy! I have got to get it cleaned up before Friday when the guys come over. When I cleaned up the scenery materials I found a lot of things that belonged in the shop so I just sat it on the counter. I did clean up the coffee materials.

Tubs and tubs of stuff everywhere. Maybe I'll get some time tomorrow to go pick up.

Here is my tree/stump carving station. It consists of a hardwood plywood base (cabinet grade, 1/4 inch) that has rounded and sanded corners. This gives me a stable working platform. The turntable is from Michaels and is heavy aluminum with bearings to it stays stable and spins very well. It is a lifesaver! I built a tool holder next to it for my carving tools, knives and the like. On top is a small stainless steel cup for holding balls of clay. So far it has worked very well. Mostly I take it upstairs so that Marie and I can chat and I can work. I also can watch the big TV.
I bought another set of carving tools today. This set was about $15. Frankly, I like my dental tools better. There are several repeat blades in this set and its not that great.
The stumps are moving right along. It takes about 20 minutes to carve one, including about five minutes to study the photograph and draw the design. Yes, I sketch out every one. This way I don't get duplicates and the detail is realistic. These are very tall stumps because about 1/2" of the stump is under water in the swamp.

Here is the carving table at work at the kitchen table. A large Coke, some all natural animal crackers from Trader Joe's and some Sculpey clay, and we're in business! I put a small piece of aluminum foil on the turntable (which is not mounted on the board, btw) and I begin to cut away anything that doesn't look like a cypress stump.

Here you can see the early shaping of the stump. The buttresses are smaller and more tapered on this model (from a picture of a real stump) and it will have more ridges. There are three types of cypress in the Okefenokee and the stumps are very different on each species.

The turntable is heavy and gives me a very stable work space. The top of the turntable is removable so that I can take it off and do very fine work up close.

My daughter is learning the hobby now at the ripe old age of four. Here she is learning how to paint. She's got a single alt brush and is practicing her fine moter skills. She is going to be GREAT! Fourth generation model train nut.

The first six stumps are ready for the toaster oven. I'll bake them for 40 minutes since they are quite thick. Its 15 minutes per 1/4". They are pretty and white now, but will come out brown and purple when done. I don't really care about the color as they will only be masters for the molding process. This is about a pound of Sculpey on this tray. I like a toaster oven better than our big kitchen oven. You can move it to the garage and get the fumes out of the kitchen, plus, it doesn't heat up the whole room which is a big consideration here in 96 degree Georgia. For some reason the fumes aren't as bad in a toaster oven anyway.

Here are all the new sculpting tools. Several are duplicates so I'll weed them out.

This is a more rounded and tapered stump. The loggers didn't want to cut through the thick buttress, so they would cut at the point where the tree tapered off. I start with a lump of Sculpey that has been THOROUGHLY kneeded to make it soft. Sculpey is hard as a rock and I'll take a ball with me while I drive in traffic or at the computer and squish it to get is soft and pliable. Then I'll make a rough shape just a bit larger than the finished stump and work it down with my fingers.

Here is the first dozen just out of the oven. They aren't a finished stump yet. I'll sand the bottoms perfectly flat for mounting and will remove the small clay balls that form from the wire brush. These match the photos perfectly!

Next week...we start the cypress knees!

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  1. Scott,

    Beautiful trees! The time spent is well worth it. Can't wait to see them in the swamp!


  2. Stumps are nice, any chance of selling them?


    1. You certainly can buy them! They are sold by Dr. Ben's Products in Atlanta, GA.
      He produces them painted and unpainted I believe. Email him at


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