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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Fish Tale

This week we're looking at a project from my Sculptural Processes class. In this class we spend half a semester in the wood shop training on all the various machines, and tools followed by half a semester in the Metal Shop learning how to weld and fabricate. I'm currently on the wood shop side.

We were tasked with creating a puzzle which would fit together without using any type of fasteners such as: nails, staples, or screws etc. We were only allowed to use wood glue and dowels. Special attention was to be placed upon the finished surface, which could be painted, stained, or waxed, but had to be very smooth and attractive. I chose to make a representational piece in the shape of a fish. Why a fish? Fish have smooth, streamlined contours which would be a challenge to create but also something that when properly sanded and finished would look and feel good to the touch. My puzzle was not designed as a problem in need of solving, but is a puzzle in the sense that all of the parts are interconnected and necessary in order for it to be complete.

I found some clean pine boards while on a class field trip to a wood reclamation facility run by our city. Contractors and builders donate usable materials from job sites, restorations, and tear downs; then the city allows citizens to take as much as they want. This is done in an effort to cut down on the amount of building materials going into the landfill. 

I laminated the boards together at home with wood glue in order to be ready to start work the next day in the shop. The glue has to dry at least 12 hours in order to be workable, but it does not become structurally sound for 24 hours. In the shop a band saw was used to cut the basic body shape. I then cut the body into four pieces...this was a miscalculation. I should have left the body intact for as long as possible as I sanded it into shape, and then cut it apart to be re-aligned in a life-like position. Oh well. It all worked out in the end as you will soon see.

All of the contouring was done using sanding machines of different sizes and with different surfaces, one of which has a 24" disk! The final shaping was done using a hand-held power sander, and the final detailing was accomplished with good old-fashioned hand sanding, and lots of elbow grease. 

The ends of the body pieces were  sanded at angels so when they fit together the fish would be in a natural looking position with a slight curve to it.

The fins and tail were made with a separate laminate of pine wood boards that had a slightly reddish tint to them. With a light stain those parts would have a different tone in contrast to the body. Round wooden balls were purchased to serve as the eyes.
This exploded view shows how the dowels are set up to hold everything together. It was important to me to have all the parts fit snugly as possible. Getting the fins to fit tight up against the curves of the body was much more difficult than anticipated, but totally worth the effort. After the last of the fine sanding and fitting was complete, Tung Oil was used on the body, and a light stain applied to the fins, tail and eyes.

A dark stain was use for the base.

 A big fish in a small pond!

During the class critique I was asked by a student what kind of fish is it supposed to be. I answered with, "its a Striped Pinewood Croaker; a fish that is often heard but rarely seen." That got a big laugh.

Later that day, someone made a solid offer to purchase the piece. I will sell it at the end of the semester but first I want to do a little more fine tuning and tweaking. Then take more photos for documentation, and live with my creation for a little while. Then I'll be happy to let it go to someone else to enjoy.

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