Bits and pieces, in progress

I’m making two pieces for a friend at the moment. Their both for his shaman-like LARP character. The first is a totem, a bit of shaped wood. The second is a familiar, a small creature he can carry with him.

The totem I had a fairly wide brief to work with. Something wood, maybe a fox, about 30cm long. I’ve not done much wood carving so I knew I wanted to keep it fairly simple. A quick hunt on Google and I found the following two images that seemed to fit.

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I thought about carving it in green wood, I carved an oversized crochet hook from a branch of our sycamore tree while it was green and it came out lovely, but I was a bit worried about it splitting after I’d given it over. That and the sycamore doesn’t have any big branches that need to come down! In the end I raided the wood pile in our shed and found a branch that had a good straight section and felt fairly hard. I think it’s birch, but I’m not that good with tree identification.

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Unfortunately, I got kinda caught up in the carving and didn’t take photos. I hacked out the basic shape with a handsaw, then went at it with my knife and Dremel. I did set out thinking I’d do most of it by hand, but I gave up when my hands threatened blisters. After the shaping, I sanded it by hand, getting it lovely and smooth. In the sketches above you can see I thought about carving in a body, but after talking with the bloke I’m making it for plans have changed. Now I’m leaving it as a plain shaft and engraving in various spells in a fantasy language. I’ll stick some photos up when it’s done, it might take a while though I’m quite scared of starting in case I slip and ruin it!

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The familiar was a whole different set of challenges. He’s a replacement for another familiar, a smaller critter that proved a bit too fragile for LARP. This version had to be bigger, and a lot tougher. It also needed something to travel round in. In looks, it had to be ‘creepy cute’, with a bone mask head.
This is the original version, I don’t know the name of the lady that made it unfortunately;

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I had a play round with some different ideas and decided that a stuffed toy type body would be most suitable. Squiggly enough to pose, but up to the rigours of LARP. Leather seemed the most obvious material for a skin-like texture. Stuffing wise, I knew I wanted to use sand. Sand filled toys ‘sit’ much better, they have more weight to them, but I did want some squishy ness to the fellow too. I ended up making a little sand bag that sits in his middle with polyfill stuffing in his extremities. Working out the exact shapes for the outer body and inner took a few attempts!

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The head was interesting to make. Again, I got a bit too involved and forgot to take photos. After spending months cleaning bone dust off everything in my work room last time I carved bone indoors, I set up a workstation in our little shed this time. I worked the basic shape out with a junior hacksaw and grinder, then carved down with various tips on my Dremel. The smaller lump of bone in the photo below is the one I used, it’s fairly greasy, even after many soakings and scrubbings it’s still greasy, but that did keep the dust down while carving! The head is glued onto the body with epoxy resin.

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I took a while to decide on what I wanted to do with the legs. I’m not entirely happy with them, they aren’t as shaped or realistic as I would like, but they should be fairly hardy. They’re veg tanned leather moulded and shaped. I added small magnets in the two front legs, and smooth leather to match the body over the rough side of the leather on the paws. You can’t really tell mind, as I coated a lot of the feet in epoxy resin to harden them up. They’re sewn onto the body section rather than glued, so if they do prove too brittle and snap, I can replace them without having to remake the body.

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Here is is all together, looking cute, until you realise that’s a lump of bone on his head…

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He also needs a little coat, made of leaves. In the original version, they’re painted fake leaves. I wasn’t too keen on using fake leaves, so tried making leather ones instead. I do like how they turned out, but they aren’t quite right. I can’t sew them together to make a coat, and the ones I’ve tried flop around too much. If I sewed enough of them to look good onto the body, the body would be full of holes and prone to tearing. So, I’ve hunted out some quite nice fake leaves. That took a fair bit of doing, most are horribly plasticky, or made of a foam type stuff that would fall apart. These should do, but came covered in glitter and gold spray paint. It s washing off, but they will need a couple more scrubbings before I can put the coat together.

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For his little house/nest, I’ve covered a fairly hardy tin with leather. I cut a little window in it so he can breathe and peek out, and added tags for a strap (which I still need to finish). I kinda like it, and it does the job.

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So still a few bits to finish off, but well on the way and I’m quite happy with how they’re going!

In other news, I’ve been using my nostepinde! I made it a while ago, using my pillar drill as a vertical lathe to shape it out of an old broom handle. I haven’t used it for a while, but remembered to reach for it when taking apart a bit of failed knitting. Centre pull balls are the way forward!

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And in conclusion, how cute is my sisters dog Matilda?

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