Let me tell you about my new boat…

model making
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The Belafonte from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

So.  I have been promising a new Belafonte model for some time now since my first attempt 4 or 5 years ago.  My love of the movie The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou has not abated during this time and I had always planned on making another Belafonte.  I had always thought I would make a bigger model but the opportunity arrived as a commission for a small (very small) 1:220 waterline model.

At this scale the whole model is around 22cm long (just over 10 inch) so doing any fine detail is a challenge but i was excited to give it a go.  I made the base and blocks for the upper deck from solid boxwood.  The detailed decking and windows ect. were laser cut from 0.4mm plywood.  The rails are all brass etchings and I used brass rod for the cranes, flag poles and antennae array.  I used plasic rod for various other bits-and-bobs.

The water slide decals were expertly and professionally made by Robert at Wessex Transfers in Australia.  They were made quickly and very reasonably priced and arrived from half way around the world in a very short time.  I really can’t recommend him enough, they were done to my exact specifications.

Painting was a nightmare and isn’t my strong point but it came out looking pretty good.

Anyway enjoy some progress photos and then finished photos.  There are more on my instagram.

And finished shots….

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The Belafonte from above

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The Belafonte, The Bridge

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Deep Search and the Chopper. Tiny decal on Deep Search just visable

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The Belafonte the rear, and another tiny Decal

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The  Belafonte. Professional decals really make a difference

Last of all I happy to announce I am making a second 1:220 scale model Belafonte which will have a full Hull.  I will be advertising it for sale on this blog when finished.  Keep an eye out for it.

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Smokey Fox

netsuke

I just completed my fifth netsuke, this time representing a fox which hopefully appears calm and tranquil.  It is made from the root section of an old scrap of walrus tooth so the shape, and to some extent to composition of the netsuke was dictated by the material.  20150725_162525This netsuke also gave me the opportunity to experiment with ibushi or fumigation staining using incense smoke to enhance the materials depth and finish (though eradicating the smoky odour after is proving difficult).  Overall this has been a project I quite enjoyed working on and I will definitely be returning the fox as subject matter in future netsuke.

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Carving: bits and bobs

crafts

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Although I mainly concentrate my carving efforts on the Japanese art of netsuke practice and doodle with scraps of material all the time to improve my skills.  Occasionally this leads to a commission of small items which spark my imagination.

My two most recent commissions comprise of a fox eared ring made of box wood and two troll beads to fit on a Pandora necklace.

Here are some photos of the pieces.  The ring was the most enjoyable to make.  The beads were quite stressful without the aid of a lathe.10835441_10153203526981070_9130146975899042148_o 11083781_10153203526976070_7838797487906785420_o 11083815_10153203527051070_1484919753308701539_o 11121517_10153203527181070_7633907743962156298_o

New Netsuke completed, Usugi moon

netsuke

It has been a long time in the making but I feel I am at a point where I can call this piece finished.  A 37mm by 37mm manjū style netsuke made from polished ebony with mother of pearl, abalone, horn, hippo tooth and gold inlay. It represents a dashing hare at night under a clouded moon.  On the back can be seen a cut piece of equisetum arvense (horsetail).

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When I started this I had a vague idea that a hare and moon were a rather Japanese looking subject matter but it all became a bit more than that.  The further along the netsuke got, the more I discovered and the more I added to the design.  At first it was just going to have a plain back but I found out from volume one of the Trumpf collection that Hares represent the 2nd month and the hours between 5am and 7am.  A happy coincident for my black netsuke but then further reading revealed that in Japanese legend the hare is responsible for keeping the moon clean and shining.  A second coincident! I’m on a roll.  Not only is my hare running around in the dark at 6am in February but it’s running to clean the moon which is being covered by clouds.  The third element helps to tie it all together.  The hare cleans the moon with horsetail (equisetum arvense) Which is apparently used as a metal polish because it contains silicic acid.  This gave me the concept for the design on the back. So after a lot more work then I originally envisioned, and after cutting and re-cutting each piece inlay 3 times each It is done.

It is by no means perfect.  The inlay on the moon is rather ill fitting.  Following the original one breaking when it was set in place I had to re cut and each time more wood material was taken out.  I didn’t want to attempt to get the inlay any tighter in fear of it getting slightly worse each time.  For my first real go at inlay though I’m happy with the results and see this as a good foundation on which to build.  It has also bee a learning curve in relation to polish and finishing which has taken many hours.

I have a few ideas for my next piece already and I may get around to taking some better pictures of this one.

Christmas Toto-nut

crafts

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Now I have a walnut. Ho – Ho – Ho

Getting into the festive spirit I though it would be nice to share a few pictures of a bauble I carved this year. It started life as a walnut netsuke based on studio Ghibli’s classic character Totoro but I abandoned it after I noticed a hairline crack.

After erecting our Christmas tree the inspiration hit me to salvage the failed netsuke as it would look rather festive on the tree.  After drilling a few extra holes and threading some ribbon through them my Toto-nut bauble is complete and looks rather grand on my tree.

I think I may make some more festive nut baubles for next year.

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A Star buy. Unfortunately I can’t read it…..

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Background 

My recent exploration into the world of carving and netsuke has seen me take a far more in depth interest in Japanese art than I had previously ventured.  This is an effort to understand the motivation behind many famous netsuke artists from the Meiji period and earlier which should in effect influence my own work.  I often pondered how many of the artists developed their style and very Japanese interpretations of their subject matter.

After reading a lot and thinking on it further the whole style of the netsuke, especially the more abstract ones makes a lot of sense.  In the context of a world where there was no, or very little photography and travelling places took extended periods of time, seeing new things or exotic animals was difficult for the majority of people.  Netsuke artists would often use prints from other artists and illustrators.  These artists would have been constricted by the same restrictions so their prints were based on other artists prints or from descriptions in books or from people.  There was no google images so finding out what stuff looked like could be hard, or seeing what aspects of a common animal looked like still had to be done through direct observations as there was no photography.  This combined with artistic flare led to the art we see today.

The point

I decided that if my carvings were to feel authentic then I need to take a similar approach so I have been compiling many Japanese prints.  I recently found in my favorite second hand book store, Barter Books, a great book of Japanese bird prints.  Only problem is it is an original (for only £6.60) and is in Japanese so i am unable to read it. A bit of research has revealed this to be one volume of a 3 volume set of 100 Japanese birds by Bairei dated to around 1890.

 

enjoy these wonderful prints.

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Belafonte. Let me tell you about my boat

model making

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For a while I have neglected to take any decent photos of my model of the Belafonte. I thought i would have a go at doing some good pictures using a Sony NEX3 and a photo light box thing I bought recently from ebay.  The photos aren’t bad but I realise there are few areas I went wrong, and plus I never really finished it. There are no life rings and no crew!

I think I would like to do it again but on a bigger scale and from scratch but I need time and money to do that. If you are interested in commissioning this then please contact me via the email on the About Me page. In the mean time please enjoy these photos.

The Belafonte

The Belafonte

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If you do want to commission me I will throw in this Steve Zissou lego figure I made.

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The hare with the stake and ale pie

netsuke

New netsuke

I mentioned in my previous post that I was working on a new netsuke of a rabbit (hare) and as I am currently unemployed and seeking work I have had plenty of time to work on it.  As a result, it is complete, I think.  This represents my 3rd netsuke.  I feel I am making decent progress with my carving skills and plan to continue their development.

preview

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How It’s Made

Unfortunately I did not think to take any photos of the process of making it but I will give a brief overview now.

The netsuke is made from Hippo tooth.  I purchased this from ebay.co.uk from someone selling them as items they had purchased whilst on holiday during the 60s or 70s.  Hippo tooth can be difficult to come by as it is a CITES listed and controlled substance.  It can be purchased with greater ease in the USA where there are a number of dealers who import it with all the proper permits.  The enamel on the tooth is extremely hard and an angle grinder was required to remove it (safety goggles recommended).   When doing this you have to be careful not to overheat the tooth as it can cause splitting. Once de-enameled the tooth can be sawed by hand quite easily.

Once I had removed a bit of tooth I decided on a subject matter.  I went with rabbit as I quite like them.  I’m not that fussed on them as pets but find their form interesting to work with.  Once decided I started drawing on my bit of tooth until I had a rough design I was happy with then then started roughing out the shape using a dremel multi tool.  This is the only stage along with one small one at the end where I use electronic tools.  Once I had the rough shape I started using scrapers and chisels to work over the piece and refine the shape.  Once I had the shape right I started on the fine detail (eyes, paws, ears ect.) and when that was completed I used the edge of a fine chisel for creating fur across its entire body.  This was something I decided to do toward the end as I had not intended to do this when I started out.  I then drilled out the eyes using a drill bit between my fingers (I wouldn’t trust a power drill because if I had slipped it could have ruined the whole thing).  I then used the same drill bit to attach some amber to the base using superglue.  I then used a file to round the amber off to the same diameter and the drills shaft.  Once rounded the end of the amber was squared off and a smaller drill bit was used to create a pupil which was then filled with acrylic paint (drilled by hand again).  A second bit of amber was then glued on the end of the first bit (over the pupil), rounded off to the same diameter and then sanded convex.  All manner of wet and dry papers and micro mesh were used to polish and finish it.

The last thing I did was drill the himotoshi.  I used the dremel again for this and a series of different attachments.  I took my time with this as if I had messed it up at the last stage I can’t imagine how annoyed I would get.  In all this is probably about 80 hours work I think, but I can’t be sure as I didn’t keep track.

Dimensions

it’s 38.5mm head to tail, 24mm at its widest point, and 24.5mm tall.

Photos! For gods sake yes, photos! 

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