Tuesday, 27 July 2010


I whittled the bee below after seeing a really nice gilded carving of a bee from the throne of Thibaw Min in the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford. There are many useful products that originates from the honeybee and that are of great use in wood work. The various applications of bees-wax is well known, but there is also such substances as propolis which are used by instrument makers since ancient times to give the wood a beautiful stain.

Thibaw Min, the last king of Burma

Bees are in general received with much less hostility and disgust than other insects, which is totally understandable. Besides that they make delicious honey, there is actually almost nothing that is not cool about them. They live in a geometric grid with a queen and feed their kids some weird stuff potruding from their heads called royal jelly. When the queen needs to be replaced they all gather round her and give her the "cuddle-death" by overheating her. Then they nurse a couple new virgin-queens which after they have hatched will fight each other (under a battle-cry called piping) till there is only one left.

The two pictures above were taken at the Horniman museum where one could see the internal workings of the hive between two panes of glass. One of the guys that worked there pointed out to us the waggle dance that the bees do when they try to communicate to each other the direction of the best flowers.

A confused and tired bumble bee taking a break on my shoulder.

A good article about bees from Cabinet Magazine.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Fish &c. -- the 8th meeting of the BTWC

Photocopy hand-out for the 8th meeting

Definition from

1864, back-formation from scrimshander ("Moby Dick," 1851), scrimshonting (1825), Amer.Eng. nautical word, of unknown origin. Scrimshaw is an Eng. surname, attested from 1154, from O.Fr. escremisseor "fencing-master."
Arrrrrrrrrhhhh. Skrimshanders avast. Whittling mediates all sorts of social and artistic functions; the word applies as much to an action performed on some material as it does to one performed on an abstract notion, such as TIME. During months at sea, sailors, and particularly whalers, passed time carving in the tooth and bone of their catches, creating an art form known as scrimshaw. In the 1980s, our voracious demand for soft ice cream made with delicious whale-blubber brought whales to the brink of extinction, so we now have to carve in wood.
Recommended Reading: Chapter 57 of Herman Melville's Moby - Dick, or, the Whale
Recommended Viewing: Bart the Fink esp. Captain Macallister's scene with Handsome Pete.

Whittlers assemble

Ben T started on his Montauk monster. A mysterious creature from the sea.

Sheeran made a bundle of rope

Ray with Ray-bans

Cut of the week: Jacob laughs hysterically, thinking he has cut off his fingertip. It turned out to be ok, but the blade went through the fingernail.

Spherical oyster-like object by Millie

Scrimshaw by Jack. Basically just pencil on cuttle-fish bone.

This comb by Ben T is yet to be finished

Cuttlefish figure by Jana

Think Jamie whittled this one.

This unfinished head was whittled by Jamie out of aromatic cedar.

The chills of death by Adam

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Moss and Co. of Hammersmith

Here we found pear and lime wood, scraps of wenge and mahogany, and the yard man told us that a palette of ebony invested in ten years ago would have quadrupled in value by now. Here I recall an anecdote from Brian: Tate Modern's architects intended the entire staircase to be housed in ebony, but there wasn't enough left in the world.

The yard man also told us how we could speed up seasoning wood without a kiln, if we could only find a car spray shop willing to let us stick our logs in for a few weeks while they baked paint jobs.

It's worth the trip to Hammersmith to walk around the storage sheds where boards of redwood 25 feet high stand on end, and where you can rummage through the scrap pile, where cheap Russian pine from a destroyed palette lies next to enough fancy walnut to make a guitar neck, and to talk to the yard man, who knows a very great deal about wood.

Friday, 16 July 2010

An e-mail

BTWC recently received an email from Douglas, the creator of the nice insect Netsuke below. Douglas also makes detailed handmade replicas of insects which you can check out here + you can check out his terrible (post)bleeding thumb here.

Grasshopper made out of cherry wood

This netsuke is carved out of a single piece of red
aromatic cedar and sealed with a laquer/urethane finish.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Snake cult meeting

As a part of our show-program, we did a meeting on the theme of the serpent-handling sect of Appalachia, which Jack has written a post about previously. Jana built a traditional serpent box and the members did various species of snakes to go into the box to keep safe until our next faith-testing meeting.

Photocopy hand-out for the 7th meeting

Camden Lock-style snake by Ella

Friendly snake by Fraser

This snake was made by Mark. It has a metal rod body and whittled tail and head.

A finger by Fraser. Fraser´s finger.

Knife also by Fraser.

Ben T did a tattoo tool.

Gery and Mark whittling. Note: Gery is whittling away from herself.

Stretching and folding topological snake by Jack.

Can be worn like this.

Slithery snake by Jana

Snake by Amy called Dustin

Snake food

Little Jack is whittling a straight snake.

Coffee & Beer