The Spool Hub Eight-blade Windmill eight blade windmill

Windmills and whirligigs are fascinating and inspiring. I enjoy researching and tinkering with whirligig designs and materials.  My researching efforts led me to discover A. Neely Hall, the craftsman who authored the projects which my 2016 Newark Maker Faire exhibit is based  on. His Eight-blade Windmill, utilizing a thread spool as a hub, is one of the projects I’ve been excited to try.

The illustration above, drafted excellently by Tom P. Hall, clearly describes the construction of the windmill. This windmill  design is perfect for a beginner with limited tools because it eliminates sawing a precisely angled slot to hold the propeller in the hub. Here the hub is a wooden spool with holes drilled in even intervals around the circumference. Each propeller is attached to a spoke via clinched nails. A wood carving knife is used to whittle a point at one end of the spoke to fit into the hub.


Because I am building this project as part of my Maker Faire exhibit I am observing the original instructions as literally as possible. I whittled twenty four spokes to be used on the three windmills I am constructing. Poplar wood was used for the spokes. Most of the spokes had intentionally straight wood grain which aids in easy whittling. The propellers are 3/16″ plywood I had stored in the workshop. Generally I avoid using plywood because I find it doesn’t hold up to the elements, but it was on hand. Each propeller is clinched to the spokes by first driving the nail straight through the work, bending the shank with needle-nose pliers then flattening with a hammer. eight blade windmillUnfortunately a few spokes with less than ideal grain made their way into the project. I should have discarded the poorly grained spokes immediately, but I proceeded. While tapping the imperfect spokes into the hub a telltale cracking sound verified the mistake. The pointed ends snapped off before the spoke was completely seated. To repair the broken spoke I drilled the broken spoke wood from the spool, starting with a narrow drill bit and increasing width until the desired size hole returned.  Then I drilled a one inch deep hole in the spoke where the whittled points broke off. I glued a hardwood dowel into the spoke to serve as a prosthesis which worked nicely. eight blade windmillI re-purposed the Unknot Shelf prototype (from a few weeks ago) into a stand to hold the assembled windmill propellers for brushing on paint. Each propeller will receive two coats of white paint followed by a coat or two of colorful details.  These propellers will be used in a larger project in my Maker Faire exhibit, so you’ll be seeing more on these soon.

Constructing a Vintage Cricket-Rattle : 2016 Greater Newark Maker Faire

A Neely Hall Cricket Rattle

I submitted my application to the 2016 Greater Newark, NJ Maker Faire a few days go for my exhibit titled Home-Made Toys for Girls and Boys. This year I am constructing many of the projects described in A. Neely Hall’s 1915 book Home-Made Toys for Girls and Boys. Anticipating the acceptance of my application I began building several of the toys. In the book Mr. Hall explains, “A Cricket-rattle is about the liveliest form of rattle ever devised. After constructing one for your sister or brother, you probably will decide to make one for yourself.”

john p chismar cricket rattleBecause of his bold statement I decided to make three cricket-rattles to sell or share. The first time I tried the rattle I expected a chirping sound, instead loud cracks shot straight into my ears leaving them ringing. More awesome than I anticipated! Before painting the rattles red or blue, as the instructions asserted, I decided to add tramp art carved embellishment around the fringe which I painted yellow.

I have a few other projects already completed for the faire and many more on the drawing board. With any luck my application will be accepted permitting me to proceed full speed into the past opening doorways to forgotten pastimes. I hope to see you there.

Halloween Wood Carving Edgar Allen Poe Black Cat Sculpture

halloween wood carving edgar allen poe black cat sculpture

A couple years ago I started a small woodcarving based on the Black Cat story by Edgar Allen Poe. My intention was to gift the piece to someone on a certain, special occasion. Circumstances beyond my control prevented the timely completion of the piece and it sat in my workshop unfinished. This weekend I decided to dig in and get it done..

It feels great to have another forgotten project off the dusty workshop shelf and now presented on a non-dusty living room shelf. I have a “Santa” patiently waiting in the workshop for his turn on the carving vice. Inspired by completing the Black Cat, I hope to keep the momentum and have Mr Claus in the living room by Christmas.

On a side note, Amy and I participated in the first annual Watsessing Park Fall Clean Up on Sunday November 1st 2015. We had a fun time exploring the park and scavenging around for bits of trash to pick up. Everyone was there, Bloomfield High School sports teams and cheerleaders and even the Bloomfield Fire Department was there to lend a hand. We look forward to volunteering next year.

North Jersey Woodcarvers’ 31st Annual Wood Carving & Art Show & Sale 2015

north jersey woodcarvers' 31st annual wood carving & art show & sale 2015

This past weekend I presented a table at the North Jersey Woodcarvers’ 31st Annual Wood Carving and Art Show and Sale. As usual there are many things made by talented craftspeople to spark imagination and inspire.

My carvings were on display through the NJ Woodcarvers in previous years, but this is the first year with my own table. My time-lapse carving videos displayed on a monitor including some never before seen projects. Also, a selection of my carvings and woodworking were on display and whirligig parts were available for sale.

It was fun sharing a weekend with old friends as well as making new friends. I purchased art from artist Anthony Santella  who also gifted a few old clockworks (I’ll do something with these someday). I carved a bunch of stars as well as practicing carving wooden pliers. One of my pliers attempts concluded abruptly with a nice cut on my thumb. Luckily Amy reminded me to pack Band-aids.

Longs Park Arts and Crafts Festival

longs park arts and crafts festival

Today, Friday, Sept 4 2015 kicks off the Longs Park Arts and Crafts festival in Lancaster PA. The event showcases over 200 artists and craftspeople from across the country. On Sunday Sept 6 I will attend the festival to explore and also lend a hand to my woodworking friends at JD Lohr Arts & Crafts Furniture & Woodworking School. In other words, I’ll be helping pack up at the end of the event.

I’ve been fortunate to attend three woodworking courses the JD Lohr School of Woodworking offers and I consider Jeffry and instructors family. In the near future I plan on returning to the school to retake the Advanced Joinery class to make another nightstand. Can’t I make another nightstand at home? Yes, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as a week at the school. Time shared at the school is a wonderful vacation.

Robert Spiece is an instructor and “second in command” at the school. I have the extreme privilege of owning a few pieces of his custom furniture. Beautiful work. Because Rob was thoughtful enough to share a free ticket to the festival and I had some time on my hands, I carved a representation of Rob as a token of thanks. Thanks Rob for the ticket, thanks for trusting me to load the truck, thanks for the beautiful furniture and thanks for making woodworking fun.

WAYRA time-lapse wood carving inspired by Fuerza Bruta & F5 Fest

I had the awesome opportunity to attend F5 Fest located at Terminal 5 in New York City on April 17 -18. The fun and inspiring festival provides an opportunity to relax, rub elbows with designer/animators and enjoy motion graphics, the on-location bar provided much liquid inspiration.

Admission to the F5 Fest included tickets to experience Fuerza Bruta Wayra. If you haven’t attended this off-Broadway production drop what you’re doing and go. Spoiler Alert: some action takes place above your head. This wood carving was inspired by an inverted man wearing a neck tie. The distortion of perspective (and a day of fun) created an unforgettable memory.

The basswood carving required about seven hours to complete. The time-lapse video is seven minutes long, each minute roughly representing an hour of carving time. Carving this piece was just as fun as the inspiration. Now I want to carve more!

Where is Olifant / Secret Santa 2014

where is olifant / secret santa 2014
Working in a creative industry provides me an opportunity to work with many talented people. My department held a Secret Santa recently and my recipient was my co-worker Doug. Doug writes children’s stories about a character Olifant who forages for berries in Central Park.

It only made sense for Secret Santa to carve a wooden Olifant sculpture. It took about five hours to carve over a few evenings. It was a blast to carve. I almost didn’t want to give it away. The design of the character provided fun shapes, curves and volumes to bring the form to life.

Wood carved 12-crossing Brunnian link

wood carved 12-crossing brunnian link

While preparing for my Colorado River vacation I needed to decide what creative distractions to bring. My previous blog post made clear I brought some watercolor sketching supplies. I also brought a sharp carving knife and a few pieces of basswood. One of the basswood pieces was a rough-out I prepared to carve a 12-crossing Brunnian link.

Wikipedia explains, “In knot theory, a branch of topology, a Brunnian link is a nontrivial link that becomes a set of trivial unlinked circles if any one component is removed. In other words, cutting any loop frees all the other loops (so that no two loops can be directly linked).” An astute reader of my blog will recall me bringing a non-successful carving project with me to the Taste of Country music festival. The project I intended to make at the festival was the 12-crossing Brunnian link. I took a cube of black walnut with me and hardly made a dent in it.

I was determined to complete this project on vacation, without success. The image above shows the rough-out I packed for the trip, how far along I got with the project on vacation and the finished project. When I brought home the unfinished project I wanted to chuck it into the chiminea bin. Instead, this weekend I rolled up my sleeves, dug my heels in and refused to look up until the project was complete. All in all I thought the project was going to be a relaxing walk in the park; as with many things those little links demanded a little more focus and dedication to get the job done.

Carving with Vic Hood at the American Woodcarving School

Vic Hood Wood Carving Class

A great time was had this past weekend at the American Woodcarving School with guest artist Vic Hood. The instruction method Vic employs is fun, informative and practical.  The three day seminar focused on woodcarving the human head and face. Everything (proportionally) technical to carve a head was clearly explained in six minutes. Vic used the remainder of the three days to tell jokes and reinforce human proportions through demonstration and individual tutoring. For many students, including me, it was the first time carving freshly felled wet wood.

My artistic ambitions directed me to carve a female bust (image right); the other students chose to carve men of various backgrounds. The unhurried and supportive environment provided an easy fun feel well suited for long days of carving. Although our carvings were unfinished after three days, each carving was nicely roughed out with important features in place.  I won the raffle for Vic’s demonstration carving (image left) by being the very last name drawn from the bowl, “the biggest loser wins”. The irony of the only student to carve a female bust winning the male demonstration bust was noted by many. I won the piece, by losing, fair and square.

The female bust will wait in queue with several other half completed projects. Perhaps she will persuade me to cut to the front of the line.

Urban Lumberjack @ 2014 Greater Newark (NJ) Maker Faire


urban lumberjack @ 2014 greater newark maker faire

It’s official! Saturday, April 5, 2014 I am presenting an exhibit titled “Urban Lumberjack” at the Greater Newark (NJ) Maker Faire. Urbandictionary defines “Urban Lumberjack” as, “A city dweller who makes a habit of wearing plaids and flannel although he or she has little to no outdoor experience.” This flavor of Urban Lumberjack does not interest me.

Unlike the hipster variety, real Urban Lumberjacks utilize natural, raw materials from their urban environment. Storm damaged trees and curbside trash provides a bounty of supplies to a person with knowhow and willingness to work. Items I created from such treasures will include a side table cut from a curbside tree stump and a sculpture of Adventure Time BMO (Beemo) carved from a section of fallen forest oak tree. See you there!