Carving a folk art giraffe – Part 1

The first carving I did was a giraffe.  Kathy had her eye on one in a store in Qualicum Beach and I said I would carve her a giraffe when I retired.  Someone saw it and asked if I would carve one for them and so it started.  I often get asked how long it takes to do a giraffe and I always say that it takes quite awhile.  I have never actually kept track, partly because I never carve one from start to finish without a lot of stops along the way.  Usually I get one roughed out then let it sit and dry out.

I started one on Sept. 18 and took some pictures.

giraffe1
This is the bottom piece of a Douglas fir tree that died in our yard.  After squaring off the ends with my electric chainsaw, I measured the length and marked the middle.  This piece was 70″ long and about 10″ in diameter.
giraffe2
With the log standing on end, thicker end up, I roughed out the legs.
giraffe3
Here it is with the legs roughed out.  The legs reach to the middle of the log.
giraffe4
I turn the log over and cut out a piece down each side, starting at the top, in this case so the head is about 4″ wide.

giraffe5

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I draw shape of the head and neck with a felt pen and use this as a guide for cutting out the head and neck.
giraffe7
It is pretty rough at this point but it taking shape and is getting lighter to move around.  You can see another giraffe in the background that came from the same tree, it is about the same size and was started about a month ago.  It will be drying for a while before I carry on with it.
giraffe8
I use a Lancelot, which is a 4″ angle grinder disk that has a chainsaw chain on it to start to smooth off the edges.  This doesn’t let me get in between the legs, I will need a smaller tool to reach in there.  So far, I have generated about a 1/2 wheelbarrow of sawdust and bark.  The other half is from another carving.
giraffe9
After the Lancelot, I use a coarse sanding disk on an angle grinder to smooth off the giraffe some more.  It is getting smoother but needs more shaping and smoothing off.  At this point I will put the giraffe aside for awhile to dry (and probably to crack a bit.)  How long it will take to dry depends on quite a few variables; how wet the wood is to start with, the size of the log, the type of wood, what the weather is like.  In this case, since it is the middle of Sept., I will probably leave it for at least a couple of months and may take it into the family room once we start to have the wood stove going.

So far I’d say I have spent about 2 1/2 hours on the giraffe, not counting cutting down the tree, taking off the branches, moving it to where I carve.  If I used my gas chainsaw rather than my electric chainsaw, the cutting would have gone at least twice as fast but I try to be a considerate neighbour!

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