This blank started as a 1/4 inch piece of birch measuring 11 x 11 inches. It was hand-selected for this project by my favorite old-world craftsman, Del Craft, who is the owner of Del’s Woodcraft, located in Colorado. He supplies the thin wood material for Heartwood Art carvings.
It took over a month to draw the pattern. It must be as architecturally sound as it is aesthetically pleasing. As you know, wood comes from a round source. As long as it is in a solid plank, it remains fairly straight. But, when large sections are removed it tends to bow. The design must hold the structure of the wood or it could explode. This is also why the blank must be hand-selected. Del can read the grain and picks a piece that will aid the design. The drawing must take the flow of the grain into consideration and a reverse paper template is laid on the blank prior to cutting, ensuring that each element will work in harmony with the wood.
After the pattern is cut on a scroll saw, the limbs must be shaped on both the front and back. Shaping on the backside simply involves removing the squared edges so that, when viewed from the front, the limb seems to be truly round. Shaping on the front and sides is much more involved. It gives the tree its underlying form. If done well, it also infers the effect of motion and deeper dimensionality by casting slight shadows.
At this stage, the piece has its basic form and is ready for detail carving.