I wrote about shrink boxes in this post a few months back. What I call shrink tubes are just long skinny shrink boxes. The nature of their shape means it is nearly impossible to reach into the interior and reshape things with a knife, but you don’t have to. Just bore a hole and leave it alone.
For the cherry shrink tube above, I bored the hole with a two inch diameter T-handle auger. It is about 12 1/2″ long. I carved a lid for this one, with a lace that can secure the lid or slide above it to be slung over a shoulder. Sure to become very trendy among fashionistas. This was sort of a prototype, and I think I can simplify things a bit on future designs.
These are great canvases for some lettering and decoration. On this one, I carved the Latin phrase solvitur ambulando — “It is solved by walking.” As seen in the slideshow below, I had some fun with a walking person design and on the bottom as well.
I think my favorite projects with these shrink tubes are pencil cases. These are very kid-friendly projects as well. Imagine a kid picking a branch, boring a hole, working with a spokeshave on the outside, and painting. Relatively quick and safe for little hands. Fitting the bottom may require a little more help.
Any size bit will work, but this one, in aspen, was made with a one inch auger bit. It will hold about five or six pencils/pens. I’ve begun some of the free-form letter carving on the outside, but still have more of the verse to go. I painted it black, then cut through it.
Carving lids can be a pain. This lid couldn’t be more simple and convenient. I use a kneaded eraser like a cork. Kneaded erasers are very effective at erasing, and work like stiff Silly Putty. Actually it only takes half of the eraser in the package below. Form it into a rough shape, jam it in the top, and it holds very tight. Pop it out, and you have an eraser to go with your pencils.
Shrink tubes can have all sorts of uses from tool storage to, I guess, a very cool presentation box for a Cuban cigar.
What size branch do you start with? And how thick the walls? These are very nice.
You can start with whatever size branch you want. You’ll just have to remove more material from the outside if the branch is large relative to the bored hole. You could, in theory, bore a one-inch hole through a 1 1/2″ branch, but you’ll have to make sure you have a good eye to bore the hole in line with the branch. Ideally, the hole will follow the pith exactly, but in reality it can be a little off and the shrinking effect will still work fine. Sidewall thickness can vary depending upon the size of the box, decorative carving, and wood species. But in general pencil case size can be around 3/16″ and larger ones could be up to 5/16″ or so. If one wanted to go heavier, that would work as well.
I really, really love this idea!
I know what my kids will be doing for their future projects.
Have you tried regular cork stoppers for the lid of the pencil case? They come in all different sizes.
Cork stoppers are a great idea. I’ll have to look for some — and check the size of old wine corks.
champagne corks would be great as they are much larger than wine corks… and cork is easy to carve/sand to size…
absolutely love your work David !
cheers from Oz
Thanks for the idea, Trevor! I’ll be sure to grab the corks at some future celebration.
Great idea, David! I see a lot of shrink pots being made lately but not shrink tubes – your ideas are always different, inspirational and innovative. I love reading your blog and seeing the ideas you come up with.
Congratulations to your daughter by the way 🙂
Such a great post Dave. Nice work.
When you carved through the paint on the black tube, did it ruin your blade? Or at least dull it significantly?
Thanks Eric. I didn’t notice any problem at all with that. I used artist’s oils and the pigments are extremely finely ground. Maybe that makes a difference when cutting through it. I know that you have worked with milk paint. I noticed when I’ve worked with it that the pigments are much more coarse — on purpose I think. The painted surface with milk paint also seems much harder. I don’t know much about that, though.
I hope you are bringing some of these to Greenwood Fest. Your lettering is amazing!
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It was a pleasure to meet you at Greenwood Fest. Your work is even more sumptuous in real life, and these shrink tubes are among my favorites! They seem so accessible, and I know my daughter would love a pencil tube. Thanks for constant inspiration!
Thanks, Justin. I really enjoyed the chance to talk with you at the Fest once you’re secret identity was revealed! Looking forward to seeing more of your work on your blog and, hopefully, spending some time with you again in the future.
I tried your idea of drilling out the center of a branch with an auger bit and brace but I couldn’t get the bit lead screw to grip tightly enough into the endgrain to actually pull itself through. How did you accomplish boring a hole 2 inches in diameter with a T auger? I tried and tried but I couldn’t get it to drill through the center- it seemed that the wood was too soft and the lead screw came out a lot!
Anthony, I know what you mean, and there are a number of factors that can influence what you describe. An auger that works fine in side grain, can have problems in end grain — which doesn’t hold the lead screw as well and also is harder for the cutting edges to slice through. Some lead screws grab more positively than others, and some of them get dinged up — so cleaning up the threads can help. Making sure the cutting edges are really sharp is critical. There is really no need for the scoring lips when cutting end grain, so don’t be afraid to reduce them on that auger — my old 2″ auger never had any, and it works great (on side grain as well). On soft wood, or especially wood with a wider soft pith, it will be tough for the lead screw to grab at all. You could try boring the hole just a bit off center of the pith so that the lead screw is in more solid wood. Try a hole in some harder wood species, and see if that makes a difference. Regardless, you will probably have to provide some — maybe a good amount — of forward force when boring the hole to encourage the lead screw to stay engaged. I often do.
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