American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, June 24, 2006

T.U.S.K. update

I've been using the TUSK for several days now carving hiking sticks for Laura (5,) Jake (3,) and I. The sticks I've chosen are readily available at your local Boy Scout Store for just a few dollars. They're nice dry pine and some have heavy grain while others have almost none. The stick I picked up for the kids was full of resin also which means it can be used for tinder in a pinch.

The first task was to cut one stick in half creating two 3' sticks. This was accomplished by simply cutting a notch around the entire stick and then widening and deepening it until the two halves separated. The TUSK handled this effortlessly and, throughout the project, I've found it to be an excellent chip-carver.

Next, I carved a swirl or twist around all three sticks. Jake and Laura got two full twists and I got three because of the available length. Theirs will provide extra grip while mine is purely decorative. Again, the TUSK was used to cut a V-notch or groove around the stick and then the notch was widened until it seemed "right." Then, using a chainsaw file, I smoothed the notch and brought the sides parallel. My stick had already been stained by the time I did this so there is a nice contrast between the dark brown stain and the light pine notch.

Once the notches were finished I moved on to carving a ball on the top of all three sticks. This ball will provide additional purchase and a smoother surface for resting the hands and/or chin when we're not moving. All three sticks also have lanyard holes drilled through them and the holes were then finished with a reamer. The ball, like the other details, is carved by notching around the diameter of the stick and then the top leg of the "V" is carved over and over to bring the ball into round. This edge is then sanded with 240-grit paper to remove some, but not all, of the carving lines.

At this point, Jake's stick is finished. I used a propane torch and flamed his entire stick to bring out the grain and then coated it with a medium brown stain and finished it with two coats of varnish. The final color of the stick reminds me of a well-aged Osage with the heavy grain. He's happy with it and so am I. I hope he gets a chance to use it before he outgrows it.

Laura asked me to put her name on her stick so I carved a flat platform, wrote her name in pencil, and carved it out with a dremel tool and engraving attachment. This was filled in with pencil and then the whole stick was stained and varnished.

Finally I did some more work on my stick and carved a wood spirit or mountain man down where my grip will be. This is not something I've done before but thought it a good experience and a $3 stick is easily replaced if necessary. The TUSK did a great job here and, other than some of the finest detail work, was more than up for the job. Carving around the nose was difficult but the fine point on the TUSK got in there under the notch for the eyebrow and above the notch for the upper lip. The handle never got uncomfortable during use but my hands and forearms are now sore and tired.

Overall I am satisfied with the TUSK for a carver and would probably reach for it again when it comes time to make some slightly longer hiking sticks for the kiddies or for that special piece of Osage I've had curing in the garage for about a year.

Thanks for reading,



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