Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Seahorse Fossil

This is the first of probably several posts about "Lighthousekeeping" with New Leaf theatre. It will be performing at the DCA storefront space in the loop starting on Thursday the 9th.
This prop is a fossil of a seahorse. In the script the actor finds a cave filled with fossils and pries one out of the wall to take with him.
I decided that carving the fossil out of wood would be the best option. The wood is light and will be easy to stick to the wall with a dot of hot glue or a bit of velcro. It also is not very likely to break when dropped, or over the course of action in the show when it is being carried in the actor's pocket.
 I started by drawing a basic seahorse shape on a chunk of basswood. Basswood is available in most craft stores and is great for carving and whittling because the grain is not terribly strong (so it doesn't resist cuts in any particular direction)
 I used this set of whittling chisels I inherited from my grandfather. One thing to keep in mind when using any chisels is that they are incredibly sharp and can slip easily. If the chisel slips, it will slip in a straight line, if your hand is in that line, you can get injured pretty seriously. It is important to be constantly aware of how you are gripping the chisel and the project and to adjust your grip as you cut in a new direction. It is also important to keep your chisels sharp. A sharp chisel cuts more smoothly and is easier to control.
 After carving a basic outline, I cut out the majority of the shape with a series of deep cuts with a V-shaped knife to create the ribbed look of a seahorse.
 And I used a shallow curved knife to create the head.
 After I got the seahorse to where I wanted it, I used my chisels and the sanding attachment on my Dremel to rough up and round out the rest of the piece of wood.
 I especially concentrated on edges and ends, where square edges and sharp corners are most obvious.
To finish it off I used my wood burning tool to darken the deep parts of the shape, smooth some rough edges and add definition.

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