Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Watering Girl Brooch

A couple of days ago I was browsing on Flickr and came across this lovely Bird Pendant, created by pratriciaolazo. We bought dad a Hobbies treadle saw last Christmas and, despite spending a long time restoring it, I have never actually got to grips with using it. Seeing this bird pendant inspired me to have a go at creating something similar, as I needed a present.

I had a couple of pieces of thin (2mm) oak that I had cut off a recent project that seemed ideal, even if oak is perhaps not the easiest wood to start out with. For my first attempt I used an image of a dove that I downloaded and cut out. However, looking at it afterwards I realised that some of the lines that were lost as a result of it being a silhouette meant that it was not very clear what it was (plus I split it in half trying to put the eye in!).

For my second go I rather fell in love with a Watering Girl image, but was very concerned about the level of details and tight corners. I decided that if I was going to give it a go I would just have to accept that my version in wood would be very different and just to be happy with that.

Second go, not so close to the lines this time...
First of all I printed out the picture twice; one to cut out and trace around and one to have as a reference during the later stages. Even at the cutting out stage I made some decisions about what detail to keep and what to loose and by the time I had then traced around this onto the wood the outline was much softer and rounder. Size wise she is 4.5cm (1½") tall and 3.5cm (1¼") wide.

On my first go at the lady I did what I had said I wouldn't do and that was try and cut it out accurately using the treadle saw. Invariably I wobbled and hit the line pretty early on – it is just too small. No matter, I simply traced another and this time stuck to my instinct that I should just cut the shape roughly and use files to refine it.

Starting to take the wood down to the line using files
Once I had the shape in rough I mounted the piece in the vice and started to bring the edges down to the line. Now I have inherited three sets of files; large, medium and small. I have never used any of them before and could not find the box of the small files, so had to make do with the medium sizes. These were way too big really, but I managed so must have learnt something along the way.

It goes without saying that the wood is very fragile, it is important to mount the figure as low down in the vice as possible, particularly for the arm and watering can. Touching the wood reduces the vibration, as does only cutting on the push stroke.

With the back shaped I started to work on the delicate arm.
You have to work slowly; either you have the time to make it, or you don’t. To rush it just wouldn’t produce a pleasing result. I was removing it from the vice regularly to check how it looked the right way up, before removing a little more. I also kept a copy of the original drawing to hand to reference it against. 

Then once I had got as close to the lines as could with the files I had I sanded the lines off and looked at it again, without worrying about the original drawing. What did my little girl look like? I did a few modifications to the face and then rounded the feet a little more, before finally rubbing it over with very fine wet & dry and mounting it on a pin. I thought about waxing or oiling it, but in the end left it as is - it will darken with age.

With the lines removed it is almost finished, just the face to refine.
I was really pleased with the result, it took me about 2hrs to make (including the failed one) – but it was definitely worth the effort. I am sure that practice would make the process quicker, as would the smaller files which I must find.

Anyway, my wife seemed pleased with her present and I might just have found another new favourite distraction...


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