A little bread—a crust—a crumb—
A little trust—a demijohn—
Can keep the soul alive—
Not portly, mind! but breathing—warm—
Conscious—as old Napoleon,
The night before the Crown!
A modest lot—A fame petite—
A brief Campaign of sting and sweet
Is plenty! Is enough!
A Sailor’s business is the shore!
A Soldier’s—balls! Who asketh more,
Must seek the neighboring life!
— Emily Dickinson, Poem 159 (1896)
A few months ago, I almost threw this crust of walnut log onto the firewood pile. It only had a bit of heartwood on the bottom, a remnant from the core of the log on which I was focused. But the glaring white sapwood had already started to deepen to a beautiful brown, and I took a closer look. This was enough.
I popped it into a garbage bag to keep it from drying out, and to allow the sapwood more time to deepen in color. I’ve noticed that this process continues as long as the log remains moist. Wait too long and you have rotten sapwood. The process stops once the bowl has been roughed-out and allowed to dry.
Considering the long narrow piece of wood, I carved a traditional trough style bowl (26 1/2″ long) that retained the naturally arched upper surface under the bark. The handles are deep and undercut far back from the ends. The broad surfaces of the handles were an ideal canvas for another exploration of letter carving, but I waited for inspiration.
I explored ideas for the lettering design on paper, first with lots of pencil scribbles, then over that with marker, still keeping it loose. It still had to be drawn on to the surface of the wood freehand anyway. That is done more precisely. Even then, it is the final cuts that matter, not the pencil lines.
For letters this large in walnut, I used a combination of a few carving chisels as well as the pen knife blade. It takes time, but I enjoy the process. It is a nice contrast to some of the heavier work done with the axe and adze.