materials science

Firewood Ladle, Part 2

My original strategy for sculpting a lovely kitchen accessory for Mrs. Barn’s Christmas was to gently work both the inside and outside of the workpiece until something beautiful and functional could be obtained.

As I mentioned earlier I knew right away that cheating via drilled excavation was the way to proceed with the inside of the bowl.  The nature of the piece’s morphology would constrain me to slow and gentle work, no wailing away on this one.  Still my plan was to carve and excavate, drill a little, then carve and excavate some more until it was finished.  3-4 mornings max, no problem.


As I got deeper into the bowl of the spoon/ladle I encountered my worst “working burl” nightmare.  The cherry burl was crumbly, as burls sometimes are, and caution and a turtle-like pace was called for.  But even caution and a slow pace was not adequate for this piece of wood.  It needed enhancement.

So, my routine for the next several dozen hours of working on the carving, spread over a dozen weeks, was to soak the entire bowl end of the workpiece with epoxy, allowing it three days to set fully, then carving until I hit crumbles again.

I did not use straight, full strength epoxy — that would have been a catastrophic failure on so many fronts — but rather my old faithful West System, diluted roughly by 1/3 with acetone to allow for greatest penetration when I slathered it on until the surface was fully wet.  Even so the effective saturation was only so deep.

With this protocol, slowly but surely the piece began to take shape.  My dream of getting this done by Halloween and moving on to other things was not dead but it did require some creative scheduling.  I did this for  little time, then I did that, then the other thing.  Actually if fit rather nicely into my ADHD.

Sign Of TheTimes

I suppose it is a sign of the current state of affairs that I spent a little time yesterday gathering the supplies necessary and then making several bottles of hand sterilizer.

I mixed equal amounts of Everclear 151 proof grain alcohol with 70% rubbing alcohol, then added Carbopol 941 polyacrylic acid as the gelling agent, about two spoonsful per pint.  My Carbopol had hardened into a block so I needed to toss a nugget into a mortar bowl and pulverize into a powder with the pestle.

I added the Carbopol powder slowly through a strainer for better dispersion into the mixing bowl with the stirrer going just enough to move the materials (alky, the distilled water portion, and the powdered gelling agent) around for about ten  minutes to fully hydrate the powder, then let it sit.  Since it acts by gelling only the water the gelation was quite slow, several hours, since the water portion of the solution was only around 1/4.  This was actually very helpful as I could then decant the slightly-thickened-but-still-gelling liquid into the dispensers.

This morning I have three dispensers sitting on the dining table with the contents looking perfect, two 4 oz. bottles to carry in our pockets and one 8 oz. jar for use wherever.  I also refilled my spout top dispenser in the barn, which I will not use much now that the water is turned back on and I can wash my hands with soap and water.

Stay isolated and safe in this time of martial law, er, mandatory house arrest, er, whatever, folks.  (“A rose by any other name…”)