Finding the Heart of Country Decorating

On the second weekend of February, Nashville’s Opryland Hotel was taken over by antique lovers from all over the U.S. That’s because the “Heart of Country” antiques show was in town, and it was the place to catch up on the hottest trends in American Country decorating today from the informative dealers and collectors in attendance. This year’s show theme was “Celebrate America.”

The annual Heart of Country show is one of the best-known antique shows in the U.S. The event hosts dealers who specialize in American Country items, including everything from textiles to books to primitive furnishings. This year, more than 250 dealers set up shop for four days. Exhibitors and attendees were also treated to several events over the weekend, such as a preview party, an evening at The Hermitage (President Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee home), book signings andsigningstion sessions.

In keeping with this year’s (poignant and timely) theme, “Celebrate America,” the American flag, in its many variations, was on display all over the convention hall. Examples (some dating back 200 years) hung on booth walls, available for admiration, inspection and some even for purchase.

As wonderful as the sites were to take in, however, I did have my eye out for one thing in particular: usable decorating ideas. I hunted through the convention hall for two days, inspecting furnishings, chatting with dealers, and thinking of budget-conscious ways to take what I saw there and translate it into my own decorating projects. And though most of the items I saw at Heart of Country were pricier than many budget decorators can afford, all is not lost for those who love American Country antiques. Remember: Budget decorating takes creativity, patience, and a little practice. Don’t look at an out-of-reach piece tearfully and decide you can’t ever have the same look in your home. You can always hunt down low-cost reproductions or snatch up less-pristine versions of the items you love at flea markets and other such places.

So, what items were causing the buzz at this year’s show? Too many to mention! But some of my favorites were:

Vintage signs – whether they were fancy or plain, humorous or straightforward, tiny or huge, vintage signs were everywhere. Vintage signs are a great addition to your Country dιcor, especially game rooms, dens and other fun, casual spaces.

Game boards – they look great hanging on your walls in place of artwork. If you’re lucky enough to find the game pieces that go with them, you can even use your art!

Wooden trunks and toolboxes – wonderful as tables and for extra storage, and even better when you find them with their original paint. This year’s hot color was robin’s blue – one of my personal favorites.

Quilts – few items say down-home Country style like a handmade quilt. Quilts are just as wonderful stacked in an open cupboard or hanging on a wall as they are on a well-dressed bed.

Vintage clothing – the one item I purchased was a heavy, hand-knit, Cowichan sweater from Canada, made in the 1940s. (My sweater–adorned with a moose and the word “Alaska”–is shown in the photo.)

In need for decorating your home? Check out Brenda Lee Design for more information.


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Home Lawncare and Gardening

Soil is the foundation which is ultimately responsible for a healthy garden or lawn. Soil is different from “dirt” because it contains a complex mixture of mineral matter, organic matter and living organisms. It is capable of sustaining life.

It is therefore not surprising the single most important task gardeners can perform is to improve the soil quality. No amount of fertilizer, water, or other means of regulation will have as profound effect on healthy plant growth as healthy soil.

This article will answer questions such as: “What kind of soil do I need ?”, “How can I get good garden soil?”, “Do I need to replace the soil?”.

What plants need

Besides simply anchoring the plant, soil provides certain chemical and physical properties. Plant roots must extract water and dissolved fertilizer nutrients from the soil. In addition to this, plant roots require oxygen to be present in the soil to allow them to breathe.

The optimum conditions vary by plant but generally loose, friable, water retentive soil is near ideal. It allows oxygen and water to co-exist while allowing plant roots to grow deep.

What is Soil?

The main ingredients in soil are inorganic mineral particles of clay, sand, silt, and rocks, which has been deposited on the surface over a period of many years. In the cavities formed between these particles, water and oxygen reside.

Soil is typically described based on the relative combination of the 3 particles: clay, sand and silt.

  • Clay particles are very small, flat, sticky particles about 1/17,000 inch in size, e.g. they are very small, right?
  • Silt is rounded particles about 10-15 times larger than clay particles.
  • Sand is also rounded particle but 50-1000 times larger than clay particles (depending on the grade of sand).
  • Loam is a term used about a mixture of all 3 particles in equal proportions (1/3 each).
  • Since soil does not always contain the same volume of each, different “grades” of loam have been established. Examples include sandy loam which contain relatively more sand than clay and silt, whereas loamy clay contains more clay than sand and silt. There are other variations possible, too.

Each ‘loam combination’ has its own specific advantages and disadvantages.

The sand particles allow plenty of oxygen in the soil due to the relatively large spaces between them, but water drains too quickly below the root zone and washes out fertilizer nutrients, also.

Clay particles on the other hand tend to pack down leaving only very small spaces which fill with water but excludes air. The sticky clay particles can make it difficult for roots to grow deep. Clay is very good at holding on to fertilizer nutrients through their large combined surface area, but sometimes even too good. The chemical properties of clay soil can result in fertilizer being tied up; the clay particles bond chemically with the nutrients making them unavailable to the plants.

Silt retains properties of both clay and sand, including their advantages and disadvantages.

In most cases, a combination of the 3 types of minerals (loam) gives the best growing conditions. This is because the combination of small, medium and (relatively) large particles provide for uneven cavities which allow for a good combination of aeration, drainage and nutrient holding capability. Some plants do better with relatively more clay in the soil, but most plants in general prefer a loam or sandy loam soil.

Living Soil.

What truly distinguishes soil from “dirt”, however, is the presence of numerous living bacteria, fungi, worms, and insects which inhabit the soil. Many of these organisms help maintain fertility of the soil by decomposing and recycling plant and animal residues. Soils rich in these residues, “Organic Matter”, are commonly termed “living soil”.

During the decomposition process, fungi binds small particles into larger aggregates which further improve the structure, aeration and water infiltration (see drawing above). Organic matter can help reshape the large cavities in sandy soils and thus aid in the retention of water and fertilizer nutrients. In clay soils, the sticky particles are separated by organic matter allow roots passages through the soil. Organic Matter is also capable of holding fertilizer nutrients in a (chelated) form which is available for the roots.

Changing the Structure of Soil.

The structure of our garden soils are typically determined by the general area in which we reside, e.g. the sandy soils of Florida or red clay of the Southwest. In some instances, builders will have purchased “top soil” but unfortunately it is very seldom high quality loam.

Trying to change your soil profile into loam by adding clay, sand, or silt can be difficult, and expensive, and it does not solve the goal of achieving “living soil”. For example, adding sand to clay soil can sometimes “set” the clay into concrete-like structures unless substantial amounts of sand are added. This happens when the small clay particles pack tightly around the larger sand particles which then become similar to steel rebar in concrete.

Instead, the addition of organic matter is the simplest and most effective way to improve any type of soil for almost any type of garden purpose. In a sense you can consider it the “universal ingredient” which is used to transform dirt into living garden soil irrespective the profile of your existing soil. No guessing or soil testing is necessary when you add organic matter.

Examples of Organic Matter.

Many sources of organic matter are directly available in the yard already:

  • Plant trimmings
  • Grass cuttings
  • Shredded fall leaves
  • Household compost (from the compost bin)
  • Aged/composted manure (from farms)

Generally, composted products are safer to use. If non-composted materials are used, such as shredded leaves in the fall, additional nitrogen fertilizer should be added (a light layer of lawn fertilizer added to the shredded leaves is fine). Manure should ideally be composted to avoid burning tender roots, or the soil prepared 6 months in advance of planting. Grass clippings should be composted or spread in a thin layer on top of the soil.

The Process of Amending Soil.

The process is relatively simple:

  • Dig the flower bed to be improved by turning over the top 8-10” of soil (one spade depth).
  • Spread a 3-4” layer of organic matter, such as compost, and mix it thoroughly into the top 10-12” of soil. This result in 30-35% organic matter which is recommended.
  • Plant flowers and shrubs in the amended soil. Water well once to settle the soil around the roots.
  • Every fall, and spring if possible, add another 1-2” of compost to the top of the soil. Organic matter slowly decomposes in soil and adding more every year will ensure the continued improvement of your soil.

Composted forest products and manures are available in one or two cubic feet bags at garden centers. These are also commonly sold as “humus”. If you purchase amendments by bulk, retailers usually charge per (cubic) yard. You need approximately 1 cubic yard (27 cubic feet) per 100 sq feet garden area.

Obviously, the best compost you can make at home in your own compost pile, and don’t forget to check your local county or city recycling center. In spring many centers offer free compost if you pick it up yourself. Check the phone book.

If you need your garden maintenance by professional experts, check out Portland TT’s services.

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Creative Woodburning Projects

More Pyrography Ideas for Hobbyists

wooburning craft ideasWoodburning, also known as pyrography, is the art of using fire to create pictures or words. This technique can be applied to wood, paper, leather, gourds or any surface that takes readily to heat application. It can also be used in conjunction with wood carving to create depth and dimension to a projects giving them that “little something extra” that really makes a piece of art stand out.

Pyrographers don’t have to go far to find an object suitable for woodburning projects. Great materials lie as close as a kitchen cupboard. Wooden salad bowls, tatting shuttles, wooden stirring spoons, and wooden stands for resting hot pots on are all perfect for the art of woodburning, and a good pattern goes a long way in creating a theme.

Below is a beginners’ guide to woodburning.

Pattern Ideas for Woodburning Projects

Ivy is one popular theme that lends itself well to the art of woodburning. Delicate tendrils connect each perfectly formed ivy leaf as they wrap around an object, complimenting and showcasing it. The simplicity of the ivy pattern is that a single stenciled ivy leaf is the main template allowing the trailing vine to be drawn freehand wherever desired.

Another showy, yet more complicated, theme is to apply the family coat of arms to a set of wooden plates or bowls. The difficulty with this project lies with the complexity of the desired pattern. Once selected it is easy enough to apply with the use of transfer paper. Patterns should be applied to the outside of a bowl, while plate patterns can be applied directly to the face of the plate.

Apply a pattern to the inside bowl of a wooden stirring spoon to tie in a kitchen theme. Guests will love the extra touch as their being served up a bowl of stew or chili at an evening dinner event. A set of matching wooden tumblers, while harder to obtain, will really complete the effect of a rustic woodburning theme.

Woodburning also lends itself well to less formal situations. Purchase an unfinished lap table from a hobby store and woodburn a design or inspirational phrase onto it. Next, seal the face of the table with stain or varnish to complete the project. Lap tables can then be used for sofa dining or doing homework on.

pyrography on decor

Getting the feel for it yet? Experiment with different woodburning techniques and create other beautiful wooden woodburned items to give as gifts to friends and relatives this holiday season. Apply wood burning patterns to jewelry boxes, plaques, and hair sticks. Woodburning adds an elegant, unique, and personal touch to projects.

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Queen Anne is Classic Wood Furniture

With it’s origins dating to the 1800s, Queen Anne furniture has stood the test of time. It’s classic looks rely on specific design elements to separate it from similar furniture of other styles. Recognizing these elements will help a potential furniture buyer determine what separates Queen Anne from all the rest.

New or Antique, Chairs are a Necessity

Queen Anne style slipper chairChairs are arguably the most important piece of furniture in any dwelling. Without chairs, humans would have to sit on the floor while eating, watching TV or doing freelance writing. Queen Anne chairs are full of the classic design elements that the style is noted for.

A gently flowing S-curve is the definitive characteristic of all things Queen Anne. On chairs, the cabriole leg is a convenient place to display this graceful element. Regardless of the foot, which can be of turned pad, trifid or ball and claw variety, the cabriole leg grabs the eye and directs it from top to bottom.

Viewed from the side, the back legs of the chair also make use of the compound curve, but almost never include a foot similar to the front legs. A vase shaped back rest, or splat, and the seat’s side rails are also common locations for the compound curve. The top piece of the chair is called the crest rail, and it connects the two rear legs and the back splat. These four4 pieces are seamlessly blended together with flowing curves at all junction points. A shell carving occasionally adorns the crest rail.

Case Furniture Displays Spectacular Woods

Queen Anne style dressing table with cabriole legsThe high chest of drawers, or highboy, and the dressing table, or lowboy, are two regal examples of Queen Anne case furniture. These pieces are places to store things, with dovetailed drawers and (shhhh) secret hidden compartments often incorporated into the interior of each piece. However, a well made highboy will never be mistaken for a cardboard box. Cabriole legs adorn all four corners and commonly have carved knees. A fan carving is a common element on one or more drawer fronts. Upscale highboys will have their tops decorated with S-shaped molding. This swan’s neck molding draws the eye from the top corner to the center of the piece, where another fan carving and/or a turned finial are on display.

Much of the surface area of this case furniture is dominated by drawer fronts. This is where cabinet makers, then and now, show off their most heavily figured woods. A maple lowboy might have birds eye or curly maple drawer fronts. Incredible crotch grain walnut is best displayed on drawer fronts of an otherwise straight grained walnut case. This figured wood can be veneered or solid; both are acceptable.

Walnut, cherry and maple are domestic woods that were commonly used in Queen Anne furniture. In earlier times, the use of mahogany was considered a sign of elite status. This wood was imported and therefore more expensive. Today, all four of these woods are acceptable Queen Anne furniture woods.

Furniture Combines Form and Function

furniture adorned with carvings

By incorporating the element of the curve and adding carved and sculpted adornments, Queen Anne furniture makers transform ordinary rectangular shapes into desks, chests and chairs of timeless beauty. Some pieces may be built from unfigured woods and carry a minimum of decoration and some employ woods of incomparable beauty and all the woodcarvers skill. Either way, Queen Anne has beauty that’s beyond skin deep.

Long live the Queen.

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Seniors and Eye Care

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Age-Related Vision Problems

Seniors and Eye CareIn general, most vision changes that people experience as they age are normal. Some people may only need glasses or inexpensive daily wear contact lenses for reading or doing close-up work. However, to maintain healthy eyes, people over 60 should be aware of the warning signs of age-related vision problems and their possible causes.

Because there are many health problems and eye disorders that can seriously affect vision and possibly lead to visual impairment, it is important to heed these signs and seek medical care. It is also vital that people over 60 have regular eye exams to safeguard their eyesight. According to the American Optometric Association, people over 60 should have a yearly eye exam and should seek immediate eye care if there are noticeable changes in their vision.

Age and Vision Changes

As people age, there can be subtle changes in the function of the eyes. Some common vision changes are:

  • Decrease in pupil size
  • Some loss of side/peripheral vision
  • Decrease in visual acuity
  • Shrinking of the vitreous
  • Change in color vision/perception
  • Lose of eye lens elasticity that can lead to presbyopia (difficulty in focusing on nearby objects)
  • Difficulty judging depths and distances
  • Age-Related Eye Diseases and Disorders

People who are 60 and over may develop eye disorders that can seriously affect eyesight and lead to partial or permanent loss of vision. However, through early detection and treatment of these conditions, vision loss may be prevented in most cases. Some of the common age-related vision diseases include:

  • Cataracts – a cataract is the clouding of the eye lens, which is normally clear.
  • Retinal detachment – this eye disorder involves the separation of the retina from the choroid.
  • Glaucoma – this eye condition is associated with optic nerve damage and abnormally high eye pressure that can lead to vision loss.
  • Diabetic retinopathy – people with diabetes can develop this eye disorder in which small capillaries that supply nourishment to the retina are damaged.
  • Dry eye syndrome – this eye condition is characterized by a decrease in tear production and tear quality. It is a problem likely to affect older adults.
  • Macular degeneration / (AMD) – this eye disease affects the macula, the area of the retina, which is responsible for central vision.

In an updated 2008 research study on the prevalence of eye diseases in the U.S., the National Eye Institute and Prevent Blindness America report that over 30 million American suffer from the leading causes of vision loss which are cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. The study also states that the number of patients with these age-related eye diseases is rising.

Warning Signs of Age-Related Vision Problems

Warning Signs of Age-Related Vision Problems

It is important to be attentive to sudden symptoms and warning signs of age-related eye problems. This can help people take the necessary steps to prevent any major vision loss.

Usually seeing spots or floaters can be the result of vitreous detachment, which does not present a serious vision problem. However, when a person suddenly notices an increase number of floaters, flashes of bright lights, or a shadow fall across their field of vision, these may be symptoms of retinal detachment.

Symptoms of macular degeneration may vary depending on which type of this disease (wet or dry form) a person has. In general, warning signs of both types of macular degeneration can include blurred vision and a blind spot in the center of the vision field accompanied by a decrease in central vision. Another sign of this condition can be experiencing a distortion in vision where straight lines may appear wavy.

Some warning signs of a cataract are blurred or clouded vision, trouble with night vision, seeing halos around lights, increased sensitivity to light or glare, and double vision.

Glaucoma may also present some of the symptoms associated with cataracts such as problems with night vision. However, other signs are headache, sudden and severe eye pain, reddening of the eye, nausea, and vomiting.

Diabetic retinopathy has symptoms that include eye floaters, blurry vision, blind spots, and possible sudden loss of vision.See the video below to learn more about this condition.

Although dry eye syndrome may be bothersome, it is not as serious as the other age-related conditions. People with this condition can experience itching and eye irritation, which can be treated with artificial tears eyedrops. Contact lens wearers with dry eye syndrome can benefit from non-drying, breathable disposable contact lenses.

If a person experiences sudden vision loss and or any of these warning signs, they should seek immediate care to prevent partial or permanent vision loss. People can reduce the chance of developing age-related vision problems by having regular eye exams and leading healthy lifestyles.

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Creative Ways to Use Small Pieces of Drifrwood

Creative Ways to use Small Driftwood Pieces
Whether it’s a small but interesting piece that was found lying on a beach or leftover bits from a larger project, small pieces of driftwood can be used to make wonderful projects too. In fact, many small pieces can be combined by using wood glue and can once again become a larger piece, sometimes blending so perfectly that it’s hard to distinguish it as several pieces.

Preparing and Crafting Driftwood

Regardless of size, before beginning any wood project that incorporates driftwood, it is very important to make sure that all wood is properly sanitized and thoroughly dried. You need to clean and cure driftwood. The boiling or soaking method may be the best choice for small pieces. Small pieces can be dried in an oven on a low heat or even in a food dehydrator overnight.

Creative Ways to use Small Driftwood Pieces - carving knives and chisel
Useful tools for working with driftwood include carving chisels, carving knives, jeweler’s pliers, sandpaper or dremel, wood stain, wood preservative and wood glue. Hot glue may also be used for some projects but tends to remain visible and is not suitable for most jewelry. Additionally, a drill with a small bit is great for creating beads or holes for hanging.

Easy Projects for Wood Piecework

Creative Ways to use Small Driftwood Pieces - designs

You can start your woodworking project with a very basic sculpture. To do this, you simply need to outline the design on the driftwood and use a carving knife to get the shape and fine details of your design.

Beads are also fairly simple to create. Using jeweler’s pliers to hold the wood, begin shaping it to desired shape with sandpaper or the dremel tool. Some people may find it easier to drill a hole first and then trim or sand the wood down to size especially when working with round beads. After the bead is shaped, use wood stain or preservative to seal in the color. Just hang the bead from a wire, dip it into the solution and then hang it up to dry.

Another easy project is assembling pieces together to outline a picture frame, vase, or bowl. These pieces can be trimmed, sanded, stained and then glued onto the surface to be used. Frames can even be made using just the driftwood. Cut the pieces to the length and width of the frame and then use wood glue to secure it together. Create a single level frame or sandwich a piece of glass between two frame sets to give it added dimension.

For terrarium or shelf décor glue two or three “branches” at different angle onto a larger piece that will serve as the base. Alternatively, one may want to glue a “trunk” with branches onto a flat base and use it as a jewelry stand for necklaces and bracelets. Imagination is the only limitation in working with driftwood. Pick up some driftwood and start a project today.

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Port Dalhousie Carousel – Description and History

Port Dalhousie CarouselOn the beach at Lakeside Park, Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines, you can still ride the carousel for a nickel. This antique carousel is one of the largest and best remaining examples of a Looff menagerie carousel. Four rows deep with 69 carousel animals including jumpers, standers and a gigantic lion, goats (prancers), giraffes, and camels.

According to the National Carousel Association (US), this carousel was built in 1903 by the Charles I.D. Looff Company, of Riverside, Rhode Island. Each animal was hand carved in the Coney Island style. Stately jeweled standers guard the outside ring, as jumpers on the three inside rows gallop into the wind.

Lakeside Park in which the carousel is located, was originally operated jointly by the Canada Railway News and the Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Railway. It was part of an amusement park, of which the Carousel is the only remaining ride.

In 1921 the N.S.&T. Railway purchased the carousel from Toronto, probably from Hanlan’s Point.

From the City of Toronto Archives Image Database you can see a photograph of Hanlan’s Point in 1911 by William James. On the left side of the pictures you can see the merry-go-round building. Photograph Fonds 1244 Item 122A

Another possibility is that the Port Dalhousie carousel came from the Scarborough Beach Amusement Park. But the Scarborough Beach carousel was not put up for sale until September 1925. From the City of Toronto Archives Image Database, you can see pictures of Scarborough Beach Carousel beside the Water Chute.

From 1950 to 1970 the carousel was privately owned by Mr. Sid Brookson. In 1970 Mr. Brookson put the carousel up for sale asking $25,000.

Rather than let the carousel leave Port Dalhousie, Mrs. Dorothy Crabtree a local antique dealer led a campaign to raise enough money to purchase the carousel. The students of Brock University, Niagara College and the local high schools were all involved in canvassing for the carousel. A walkathon raised $8,000, but by the deadline Mrs. Crabtree had only $20,000. Mr. Brookson, the carousel lover that he was, lowered the price and Mrs. Dorothy Crabtree had a carousel.

Turning over the ownership to the City Council on July 17, 1970. Mrs. Crabtree suggested that the price of the ride remain at 5 cents and the City of St. Catharines agreed to take over operation and maintenance.

In 1973 the carousel was threatened by flood and was dismantled and stored. While in storage fire damaged 23 animals May 12, 1974. Local high school art students were involved in the restoration of the charred and paint blistered animals. In 1978 the threat of high water agian forced the removal of the animals and they were stored at various locations in town.

A new building was constructed further up the beach and the carousel reopened in June 20th, 1981.

In 1983 City By-Law #83-127 gave the carousel historic designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Currently, some repairs need to be made and the animals need to be repainted. Niagara Woodcarvers have agreed to help the Friends of the Carousel with the repairs.

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Gifts and Present Ideas for Artists – Sculpture Tools & Materials

Kids or adults, experts or dabblers, sculptors love to receive presents related to their art. Encourage kids interested in claymation, wood carvers, jewelry makers, and other sculptors with these gift ideas, and show an artist in your life that you are interested in their work.

GIfts for Woodcarvers - carving toolsGifts for the Woodcarver

Woodcarvers can use either power or hand tools, or a combination of both. If you have a store in your area that specializes in wood carving supplies, that is a great place to start. You don’t need to be knowledgeable yourself, but explain that you’re looking for a present for a woodcarver, and the types of carving they do, the staff can help find a nice piece of wood and some appropriate wood carving chisels, mallets, knives, or a pattern.

It’s also possible to gather wood yourself, keeping in mind that it needs to dry slowly Gifts for Woodcarvers - chainsawfor several months before it can be carved. You’ll find wood tutorials on YouTube if you can’t find a store nearby. Chainsaw carvers like the softness of pine, but harder woods are preferred by hand carvers. A new chainsaw, chainsaw blade, or a gift of having a blade sharpened along with a tree trunk will be welcomed by chainsaw carvers.

Sandpaper, stains, and oils used for finishing wood carvings make good stocking stuffers for the woodcarver in your life.

GIfts for the Jewelry Maker - glass beadsGifts for the Miniaturist or the Jewelry Maker

Miniatures and jewelry often require magnification. A stand magnifier or a small electric kiln make great gifts. Sterling silver clay and wire, and a few strands of semi-precious beads, or some unique glass beads would make any jewelry maker happy. There’s also some wonderful mold making materials available for miniaturists and precious metals sold in small sheets.

Gifts for Clay Artists

Gifts for Clay Artists

There are many varieties of clay for sculpting. Some never harden, others air harden or harden in the low heat of a regular oven, others need to be fired in a kiln. Clay can be homemade or purchased, and tools for working clay can be simple everyday objects or purchased from an art store.

Found Objects to Become Part of Sculptures

Repurposing objects for sculptures

Some sculptors specialize in repurposing found objects into sculpture. They are happiest surrounded by other people’s junk, envisioning it as something entirely different. Before throwing out items well past a useful life, offer your discards to a sculptor that works in found objects. Or rescue interesting objects from the dump, throw in a bucket of nuts and bolts, and you may get a whimsical yard sculpture in return.

Sculptors who work in metal use welding torches and spray paint. Arc welders and accessories like fire resistant aprons and eye protection are good accessories an artist may need or want.

Creating sculpture for a hobbyist or professional artist satisfies a creative need. Receiving the encouragement of family and friends through creative presents is a gift any artist would love. A gift of sculpture tools and materials may just spark creative happiness.


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Learn to Carve a Unique Wooden Chess or Checker Game Set

Learn to Carve a Unique Wooden Chess or Checker Game SetEver thought about making a unique checker or chess board that is completely personalized to the intended recipient? Sometimes the simplest projects are the easiest to overlook, but with a bit of flair from a woodburning and carving tool these old style games icons come roaring back in style with a new look.

Blending Intarsia and Woodburning

Intarsia is the beautiful art of carefully cutting and blending different types of wood together to create a new and unique look that appears seamless. The goal is to cut the pieces to fit so that they will maintain their form without the aid of wood glue, however there are no rules against using wood glue to seat the bond permanently.

One of the most interesting things that intarsia brings to the mix is the vast assortment of wood types to choose from. Some woods maintain their shape and color much better than others so before beginning a project on intarsia spend a bit of time reviewing the available woods and their properties. A partial list can be found here.

Within the intarsia framework the woodburning pen can be used to draw pictures, add shading and create depth and dimension to an individual image. These same techniques can be easily transferred to the game pieces themselves as the project progresses.

Building the Board and Individual Game Pieces

To build a game board carefully measure the outline of an existing game board to determine the proper placement of the interior squares. To make the process easier create a template for cutting multiple pieces. Most hobbyists prefer to use a scroll saw or band saw for making faster and multiple tight precision cuts. For intarsia, hobbyists will want to use wood types that resist shrinkage since intarsia relies on a snug fit.

Learn to Carve a Unique Wooden Chess or Checker Game Set - carving toolsIndividual pieces should have a common height and base. When working with small pieces its helpful to set up a proper work bench with grips or vices that allow the hobbyist to work with both hands for smaller cuts. Once the shape has been established using woodcvarving tools, hobbyists can go over the piece again with a woodburning tool to create added depth and dimension.

When using the woodburning tool its important to remember that a quick light stroke will give a soft line while holding the pen tip to the wood longer will create darker burns. Light strokes can always be darkened later if necessary.

More Wooden Game Creation Ideas

Learn to Carve a Unique Wooden Chess or Checker Game Set - wooden games

Having a tough time coming up with the next project? Start with a simple dice or domino set and build from there. Try adding intarsia inlay to the board itself to make a dramatic impact. With intarsia each block can contain its own picture story. When ready to move on to a different game, consider Mahjong, dice, dominoes, backgammon and more classic games. Let creativity be a guide and follow it wherever it leads.

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