Cross

There’s a sycamore tree in our front garden. My late granddad potted the seed for my sister when she was little, she planted it out where it is now. I can’t remember it not being there. Out pet cats have climbed it, I lean my back against it when I’m sitting out there reading in the summer.  My sister prunes it back when it gets out of control, which it seems to do quite often! It’s a family tree.

Last time my sister pruned it I saved a few branches from her woodpile. My mum is Catholic and always picks up those hand-carved wooden crosses they sell in Cathedral gift shops, I fancied making her something similar.

I didn’t really know how it was going to turn out. I thought about trying to keep the bark on, but soon took off more than I’d wanted to so decided it should be bare instead…

I’d thought about carving it completely by hand, then the first blister popped up and reminded me why I love my Dremmel. I follow a similar thought process pretty much every time I start carving something wooden. I cut the ends down to size and fiddled around with how I wanted it to line up.

Next I roughed out the joint, taking a big U shape out of the larger piece of wood. I used a file to smooth it down and refine the fit, it’s not the tightest but it’s pretty snug. I found the shorter piece has a slight curve, I kept that facing forward so it feels a bit like a hug. I cut all the bark off and gave it a rough sanding at this point too. The ends I knocked the edge off slightly, just to soften it up.

I seem to have forgotten to take photos of the next bits, it was getting late. I sanded it down, went up to the highest grit I had on hand. It’s not the best sanding job, but the wood isn’t completely dry, and I want this to be held, knocked round, so it’s not going to keep a shine anyway. I glued it together with wood glue and mixed some up with sawdust to fill the gaps. There was a bit of a crack on one end and some low spots I filled up too. Clamped it up and left it to dry overnight.

Excuse the naked nails. I got the sandpaper back out and smoothed down the glue and sawdust filling. I went over it all with a rough cloth and some beeswax. It still looked pretty rough and messy, so I used some leather twine I had knocking round to wrap over the gaps of the join. I really like the effect it makes, contrasting with the lightness of the sycamore while keeping the rustic, handmade feel of it.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out. It feels good in the hand, weighty and smooth. Peaceful. If I was religious it’s something I would like to hold whilst in prayer. My mum really likes it too, which is the important bit.

I do hope it doesn’t crack more as it dries out. I’ve made crochet hooks from green branches of the sycamore before and they haven’t cracked, but they have been thinner. It’s a great wood for crochet hooks, really smooth, the ones I’ve made glide through wool. I love the story of this too, grown by my granddad and sister, carved by me, for my mum to pray with.

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