Monday, December 12, 2011

When Things Go Wrong

I've had little time to dedicate to my “Cooling His Heels” project over the past week.  But, I have made some progress on the lower body.  The photos below show the progress that I have made on the legs and feet of my reposing cowboy:

I am pleased with the manner in which the pants and legs have turned out.  I managed to get some nice fold details incorporated into the design.  There is one particular area in which I am not pleased and that is the feet.

The general shapes and details of the foot are spot on and quite pleasing, but, for all the “extra” wood I set aside for carving the feet, I did not leave myself enough.

As you can see in the photo above, I did my best to “squeeze” the toes into the available wood.  I really wanted the big toe to be large and exaggerated.  It should look great sticking up out of the stream of water in the final piece and I am quite pleased with the outcome.  After carving the first “Little Piggy”, I was left with even less wood to work with.  After mulling it over for a time, I made the decision to carve only three more toes onto the foot.  As the photo shows, even carving three toes in this small amount of space was pushing the limits.
After looking it over, and a few long moments of head scratching, I decided that the looks of a four-toed cowboy just wasn’t going to make the cut.  I wanted this piece to be a special one, so, anything less than my best effort would not be acceptable.  Therefore, as I promised at the beginning of this journey, I will show how I overcame this problem.
The way I saw it, I had three options.  The first option was to throw out the entire piece and start over again.  Second, I could cut the feet off below the rolled-up pant legs, carve a new set, and reattach them as an add-on.  Finally, I could attach more wood to the foot and recarve the toes.
I had put a significant amount of effort into this figure at this point, and I really liked how the pants of this hombre had turned out, so option one was out of the question.  Option two was a good solution, but, once again, I liked how the big toe turned out and the overall shape of the foot.  Ultimately, I chose to go with option three. 
Tip from the Stump:  There are almost always simple solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems when it comes to carving.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!  As in this mistake, a simple glueup can save you hours of carving a piece over again.  Moral: don’t give up.  Adapt and overcome.
After a quick trip out to the shop, here’s how the feet looked post-amputation.

I amputated the deformed feet with my stationary disk sander, sanding off the three decrepit toes.  Sanding the area perfectly flat makes a smooth and consistent surface for gluing.  I scrounged through my cut-off box and found a couple of small chunks of wood that I could use for this glue up.  After sanding the mating surface of the prosthetic pieces of wood, I glued them onto the feet using carpenters glue and rubber bands for clamps.  The following photo shows a seemingly successful addatoetome surgery.

I know that the amount of wood I have attached is somewhat excessive, but I’m not going to be left wanting for wood again!  Once the glue is completely dry, I will attempt to find four more toes in those new blocks, and if everything works out as planned, I’ll be back on track again in no time.

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