When they bring you your demo tree in the bucket of a tractor
You know it’s gonna be a fine show.
I was invited to participate this year at the 2nd Annual Bonsai Bash held at Old Florida Bonsai in Vero Beach Florida by JJ, one of the owners. She is the wife of Richard Turner (who won the Best Tropical award at the National Show in Rochester New York with this portulacaria afra :
Lets peruse the demo tree, shall we?
…that is a ficus growing out if it.
JJ’s idea was to, instead of having a set time for a “Demo” or seminar, I had my own tented area (I chose not to use a tent. Which was a mistake. Even though it was only about 45 Fahrenheit I still got sunburned) where I could just do whatever artistic whim suited my fancy. Where the guests could walk by and ask questions or I could expound if I wanted to or not. Her idea was to show the act of creation without the added distraction of lecturing. (I can imagine this might handicap some of the professional bonsai demonstrators out there. When all you have is your work to show, with no fancy jargon to amaze and confound your audience, it’s definitely harder to give a demo)
I was game.
She wanted some tiki men carved and some carving on bonsai and a face carved into a sea grape and an ilex styled and….. and I brought my guitar along too.
She wanted to make sure I wasn’t lounging around I guess.
First, a tiki…
A couple of cuts here and there
As you can see, it’s growing nicely. The tree was collected several years ago and cut to one trunk. Then half the tree died. Which is fortunate for me. It gives me more to carve.
As Dan Robertson says, more meat to cut into.
So the question running through your heads is
“Is he just showing off, using a chainsaw to carve a bonsai tree?”
The principle I practice is this:
The tools are expensive. It’s best to use the more powerful tools and gradually work your way down to the smaller ones.
And a chainsaw allows me to remove big chunks and block out the basic design. The smaller tip and the power allow me to penetrate into the wood to achieve both depth and layers.
This is, in my opinion, the most dangerous tool I use.
You may notice the guard has been removed. Do not do this. I use the angle grinder in metalwork as well as wood carving. I’m very practiced at its use. And I’m willing to take the risk (As with all my tools)
This is the only tool I wear a glove with. And I use welding gloves, which are full leather and about as thick as you can use and still bend your fingers. I have nicked my thumb using this tool (I did have the gloves on but it’s still unsettling)
Alright? Back at it, then
The smaller wheel gives you the ability to get into the carving a little more. And gives you finer control.
Carving is a process. If you are working on a big piece it’s a better practice to work on the whole tree at the same time. It’s the same principle when wiring; apply the wire and then arrange the branches.
The die grinder.
This is like the grown up version of the dremel tool. It is basically a rotary tool that uses bits (1/4″ shafts) in various shapes and sizes. The two I use the most are a carbide burr called “rotosaw” and a flame shaped carbide burr.
There is one bit sold in the bonsai trade called “the Samurai” that is good for rough shaping. I don’t use it for a few reasons. The shaft is soft and bendable, I don’t like the line it makes when carving,and, in my opinion, if its not used by professional carvers, I won’t use it. They tend to know what is safe or not.
This is a pretty dangerous tool in itself as well. I use a variable speed pedal when I use this because, one, I can vary the speed and,two, if I drop the tool,it will shut off when I remove my foot from the pedal.
Safety first! (except when it comes to safety guards,I guess).
So now I’m just getting my tool as deep in the hole as I can…….ahem.
When you carve you’re not making lines, you are creating contours and shapes that, when the light hits it, will show lines. Darks and lights, depths and convex bulges are how this is accomplished.
There is a myriad variety of bits and burrs available for the flex-shaft tool. And I have two different size hand pieces. On accepts 1/4 inch shafts (die grinder size) and the other uses 1/8 inch shafts (dremel size. There’s a dirty word for you. Dremel. I don’t use one at all. In my early days I burned up about 4 of them. Don’t waste your money).
And something new, a YouTube video showing the tree in 360 degrees (click here)
Make plans for next year around Valentines Day.
JJ is planning a 3 day event.
Old Florida Bonsai.
Vero Beach Florida!
Thank you JJ and Richard for having me and for the opportunity to work on such great material.