Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Projects

I do a lot of different things in the woodshop.

Mostly you see my lathework, but I do other projects as well. Most are fairly pedestrian, but some are pretty artistic.

I know a number of folks on the local military bases (yeah, go figure, right?), and they know of my woodworking inclination. A week or two back, the civilian head of civil engineering on the local Air Force base came to me and asked if I could help them out. They had purchased a number ceramic polar bear statuettes as going-away presents for senior officers - but had no idea of how to mount them. About the only guidance I got was that they wanted something "Alaskan," and they needed to be able to mount a small 2"x4" brass plaque and eight challenge coins around the base. (Challenge coins, for those of you not familiar with the military custom, are small one to two inch in diameter coins, specially made for a unit or a commander or other special position - and given out as tokens of appreciation to people during visits or other special events. They are most common in the Army and Air Force, but the Navy and Marine Corps also observe the custom if to a lesser degree. Many folks collect challenge coins and some, such as the gold and silver one I was given by a Bahraini Navy Commander, are extremely valuable).

Hmmm, something Alaskan with room to mount the plaque and coins? How about a carved and sculpted Sitka Spruce base, said I to myself.

I cut out a block of spruce from my stock pile, using a small chainsaw I cut it into the basic shape I wanted. Then I used my machines to smooth that into a tapered brick, and then sculpted it using a Foredom tool (sort like a Dremel tool on steroids). After I had the basic shape sculpted, I sent it back to the Air Force so they could determine if this was what they wanted.

It was.

Only one problem, they liked it so much that they didn't want to hide the wood with the coins. Huh? It's it just spruce, said I. Whatever, they replied we think it's amazing (at which point I mentally upped my price into the "Amazing" category. Amazing is about $40 more than "Really Cool," just saying).

Anyway, they sent it back and I finished it and mounted the bear and only two coins. In the picture below the empty space between the coins is where the brass plaque will go - I'm still waiting for them to get that to me.

Bear 1

The idea here is that the base should bring to mind the icy wind sculpted tundra of Alaska's North Slope Region. It is coated in a clear acrylic in order to enhance the icy look, and sits on cork base to protect whatever desktop it ends up on. The bear is tipped back about 5 degrees to make the mounting more dynamic and interesting.

Bear 2

Bear 4

Bear 3

I think it came out rather well. So do they, apparently, since they ordered several more.


  1. Very cool (and therefore very Alaskany, eh?)

  2. I agree, the spruce slab is too cool to cover up. Very nice work!


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