Pumpkin houses

I’ve not been much of a “seasonal” carver. That is, many carvers make Easter carvings in the spring, Halloween and Thanksgiving carvings for fall, Santa figures and nativity scenes for Christmas, etc. I, on the other hand, typically carve whatever strikes my fancy at the moment, although I’ve carved Christmas-themed figures for family and friends a few times.

It just so happened that I saw this project in the Fall 2012 issue of Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine, and had some time over the weekend to work on it. Actually, I started the first one at some point last week. I finished it Friday night, and spent most of my spare time Saturday and Sunday carving three more.

The wood is actually the bark from a cottonwood tree. The bark can grow eight inches thick. When the tree dies and dries, you can peel the bark off. People use it to carve faces and whimsical houses. I’ve carved a few pieces in the past, and of course I carved a cottonwood bark bird for my Hundred Birds Project.

All four of these came from the same piece of bark. It’s not the best bark I’ve worked with. The outer 3/8 inch is very hard and brittle, and tended to flake off easily. I used a whole bunch of CA glue (superglue) putting things back together. It’s not uncommon having to use superglue on a bark carving, but this stuff was worse than any I’d ever worked with before. Carving down to the workable area was difficult.

The only other hard part about carving these things is hollowing out the back. The easiest way is with the power carver, although that makes a heck of a mess and it’s distressingly easy to go too far and remove a little too much. I used power to hollow out two of these, and my trusty hook knife (originally purchased for making spoons and bowls) for the other two.

They’re fun to carve, and only take a couple of hours each. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your point of view), just about everybody who sees them wants one. There’s no way I could keep up with demand.

It was a fun weekend diversion. I have two more pieces of bark cut to size, which I’ll eventually turn into pumpkin houses, but I think that’ll be it for a while. I have to finish my birds (only 22 more to go!), and then I have a new long-term project to work on.

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