Thursday, March 12, 2009

The right tools

It just amazes me what a difference the right tool can make.

I started making miniatures on a lathe around three years ago. I found out real quick I would have to make my own tools to get the really fine details I was after. The mini and micro tools offered for lathe work were just too large for what I had in mind. If the piece I'm working on is less than an 1" in height and only 1/2" wide then beads or coves need to be less than a 1/16" in radius. The smallest beading tool or gouge I could find was an 1/8", twice as big as needed, so I've ended up making most of the tools I use now. I'm a turner by choice but a miniaturist at heart.

I love trying new thing. Something out of my comfort range, but only slightly. I doubt I'll do any food or dolls, there's no wood involved. Unless I wrap polymer clay around a dowel and call it a cake. Nope, not going to happen.

I have had a little success with 1/12 scale miniature weapons IE: guns, knives, lances and a sword. The sword kinda sucked really. Maybe because there was no wood involved in it. My first gun, a Brown Bess, was great fun. It was just for me, to see if I could pull it off. The joy of trying to figure everything out is kinda like putting together a puzzle. It came out pretty good. The second was a British Baker rifle, it's about ten times better. Partly do to the experience from the first and partly do to the pressure of trying to please a customer. I honestly believe some of the new tools I acquired help as well. I recently inherited a master carvers work shop. All the knives any woodworker would need. He had some of the finest blades money could buy. There is a large assortment of mini and micro sculpting gouges and chisels as well. The difference they made in refining the stock definitely shows in the piece. The fact he was a master at his craft shows in the sharpness of the tools. I wish I had taken some of his time and have him teach me how to properly hone an edge. My edges are okay, but his are beyond razor sharp.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I found a new drug.

What is it about making miniatures that's so addictive?
I love turning, the hum of the motor when I fire up the lathe, the blur of the piece as it spins in front of me. It's kinda of hypnotic. There's a point when the vibration of the tool against the work disappears and the shaping starts. For me there's nothing quite like it, or so I thought.
Turning can also be monotonous, if you just keep turning out the same thing over and over. Sometimes I'll mix it up with some full size pieces and have done some really funky shapes. Turning different materials helps break it up as well. I don't really care for acrylics but love to do a little stone. I think I need some more alabaster or soapstone blocks.

Every now and then I like to tackle what I call a distraction project. These take me away from the lathe for a short time and keep me busy learning new materials and techniques. My latest was a 1/12 scale Baker rifle, the famous weapon the British used during the Napoleonic war. I had never heard of it and had to do a lot of research. The level of detail I was able to achieve even amazes me. It turned out really well. I enjoyed this project to no end and can't wait to work on more antique weapons.