Thursday, December 22, 2016

Soltice Salutations - Dec 21, 2016

Well - yet again - I've allowed this blog to languish untouched for quite some time. Best intentions aside - life's twists and turns have a way of derailing these hobby activities.  Much has happened in the last couple years since I've posted - job change, kids growing up and moving on, musical activities in the form of Heartwood (, and taking up spoon carving.  For now though - here's a post of some Solstice Salutations from my commute to work yesterday.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Storm King Mountain Climb - Sat June 15

Well, after 15 years and one aborted attempt to climb to the top of Storm King, we FINALLY made it to the top. Kind of silly that it has taken us this long. I used to love to go hiking and climbing in the White Mountains of NH with my next door neighbors the Crowleys growing up. Somehow, I allowed life (read - work, raising kids, caring for a house, music and other pursuits, etc.) to tear me away from my love for getting out in the woods, mountains and streams.  Something I really regret.  Well, I am not dead yet . . . so time to start getting back out there.  I really want to try to take at least one decent hike each month during the prime seasons. We'll have to see about winter when that comes around. There is just SO much to explore right here in our own neck of the woods.  Black Rock Forest, Harriman State Park, Minnewaska & the Schwangunks, the Catskills, the Adirondaks - all right here in NY.  Then there's the old stomping grounds of MA, NH, VT, ME.  Not to mention heading down to MD, West VA, VA, TN, NC.  Man - I've wasted WAY too many years.  Ah well. Time to correct that.

So - we had tried to climb Storm King once many years ago shortly after we moved to Cornwall on Hudson. It was with my dad when then were down for a visit in the late fall. Only we hadn't realized the trails were all closed due to UXO - "unexploded ordinance" having been found on the mountain during some wildfires the summer before.  Apparently, there was a cannon foundry in Cold Spring (just south of us on the other side of the river and opposite West Point) and they used to test fire the cannon at the Southern flank of Storm King (the back side from us). Well, many of those shells never detonated, until years later when firefighters were fighting wildfires. Then - they had to close the mountain for several years while the military cleared the area.  We didn't realize and while we were on the trail, and ranger came along and told us we had to go back down and stay off the mountain.

The trails have been reopened for several years now, but we just never got back to trying to climb it. Now, we have. It was a beautiful day - clear, cool, dry.  Here are some pics from the day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

More Storm King ramble pics!

Some pics from my ramble with Theresa and my buddy Rich this past Sunday on Storm King Mountain. I never get tired of finding this little gems on our walks on the mountain. What a gorgeous day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mother's Day Meanderings on Storm King

Spent the day with Theresa, Chris and Celine. Nice to have Chris home from Canisius now that he's completed his ABEC (Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation) degree. A beautiful day so we decided to go take a short hike up to what we call "The Overlook" on Storm King Mountain. It's a rock outcrop that looks down over Windon Farm across the street from our house. Been WAY too long since we got out as a family for a hike like this. I LOVE the woods. WHY don't I DO this more often??? Theresa and I were driving them nuts as we got into "creative" mode - stopping every few feet for yet another 'photo op' with our iPhones.  I am really having a lot of fun lately with the camera on my old iPhone 4. It's whetting my appetite to get back into photography.  Below is a selection of pics from our hike, and a few from this past Thursday on my way home from work. The sky was amazing after a clearing rain storm. Enjoy!

From our hike:

From my commute:

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Lost Carving by David Esterly

So - I really have neglected this blog for WAY too long. Basically - I've been away from carving for the last few years other than the once in awhile - pick up a chunk of wood and a knife and whittle a little. This is largely due to too many other interests and activities. Especially music and building enclosed garden space in our side yard for blueberry bushes, some apple trees we're attempting to espalier, and veggie garden beds. Without fencing all this in the deer would just decimate it. That and my long commute and desire to just do nothing many weekends but sit in front of the TV and watch OTHER people DO stuff has combined to make for no carving activity or output.

But - I did get wind of a recent book by David Esterly - a memoir of his time working to restore a Grinling Gibbons drop carving that was destroyed in a fire at Hampton Court Palace back in 1986. It's a FASCINATING look inside the process and the mind of an amazingly talented carver. I highly recommend it to any carvers who stumble on this little stagnant back water of a blog of mine. It is actually inspiring me to get organized and start carving again. Maybe! We'll see if it sticks.

As an aside - I AM trying to get better charge of my life and take some control. I am starting with getting my weight under control and adhering to better "habits of health". I am following the Take Shape For Life program that we heard about from my cousin Donna Smaldone. So far I have lost 30 pounds and feel great. I am trying to lose another 20 - 25. My doctor says the results are showing up in my dramatically lower Cholesterol and Tri-Glyceride numbers, AND where I pre-diabetic prior to starting to lose the weight I am now back in the good range. For those of you who may be interested, my wife is a Health Coach and would love to assist you in getting started. You can learn more on her site here:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bamboo NA style flute - Update

So I thought I'd give an update to my post about making a bamboo NA style flute in Mike Bloomquist's class at NEWR this past July. Although I was pleased with flute overall at the time, it was very quiet and "breathy". So after getting home I started doing more research online about NA Style flutes and making them. I've found a few great resources for those interested in this which I'll list out in a follow up post.

One of the things I learned was that the true sound hole (TSH) and flue are critical elements in determining the voice and volume of a flute. So - I decided to sand down my flue area and recut it. Wow! What a difference. To show you how it sounds here is a YouTube video of me improvising in a gymnasium (great reverb) at the camp we go to with family & friends every year over Labor Day weekend. Let me know what you think about the sound (not necessarily the playing).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

NEWR Day 2 - Traditional Woodcarving with Maura Macaluso

Ok - sorry for the delay. (Who am I apologizing to? Myself I guess. Is anyone out there?) Between work, life, and an awesome family vacation to MD and VA to visit relatives, and Washington DC to see some sites (the mall, the major monuments, the White House, Capital Hill, and best of all some of the Smithsonian Museums), I've gotten a bit derailed.

Also - as if I don't have enough on my plate, I've developed an new passion. Or rather re-kindled a passion. Native American flutes. (See previous blog post.) Thanks to Mike's "Making a NA style flute from Bamboo" class at NEWR I am now thoroughly enamoured with all kinds of flutes, flute music, making flutes, etc. Not sure if this will completely derail my carving for awhile or not, but it has the potential. The nice thing is that I can still put carving to use in creating the totems. Anyway - you've been warned.

Now - because I promised Maura - here is my post on her class that Theresa and took the second day at NEWR.

We arrived at the Main Hall and headed to Maura's area. As I recall there were about 10 of us in the class, and Maura had the tables set up with workstations consisting of:
- a bench hook (which allows you to brace the piece you're carving)
- some non-skid shelf material on the surface of the hook
- a basswood board about 10" x 11" or so
- a manilla folder containing: the class notes handout, the three patterns she wanted us to choose from (grape leaves & grapes, oak leaves and acorns, and a celtic knot), and a piece of graphite paper to transfer the pattern onto our wood blank

She greeted us and explained that unlike most of the other workshops at NEWR she was far less concerned with our completing our project in the one day class, and far more with our coming away with an understanding of the differences between traditional European style of woodcarving and the carving styles most practiced currently in America (caracature, flat plane, chip carving etc.), the tools involved (full sized gouges and mallet as opposed to knives and palm gouges), the techniques, and the history. She asked that we be patient as this was her first time teaching this class, and with the fact that much of what she would share would be lecture and discussion and less focused on hand's on carving.

I must say right off the bat that one of the things I GREATLY appreciated was her class notes handout. I am one of those people who feels the compulsion to take notes and pictures and try to document everything; with the result that I often tend to fall behind because I am too busy writing. The handout completely relieved any need I might have felt to try to capture it all, and allowed me to just experience the class. I really wish more instructors woud do the same.

So Maura gave some overview some of the key differences between "European Traditional" carving and most of the carving styles practiced here in the US. Some of which are:

Traditional European -

- work piece fixed in place via a holding device

- use of full sized gouges & chisels

- two hands on the carving tool or one hand and a mallet

American "hand held" -

- work piece usually hand held

- use of knives and palm gouges

- one hand on tool, one hand holding work piece

These are not hard and fast "rules" but typify the differences. She explained the evolution of carving through the European "guild" system where apprentices learned from Masters and often had to carve the same sorts of elements over and over. The Master usually created the designs, and had various apprentices journeymen do the repetive elements of the carving in which they each specialized, while the Master might only carve the more unique elements of the design or handle the final details. This was production carving to maximize speed and output. So efficient use of the tools was stressed (ability to work ambidextrously to avoid having to reposition the piece (slow), to get clean cuts and leave a polished surface not requiring touch ups, to make multiple cuts with one tool (knowing how to use a gouge to get a variety of cuts depending on how you present the profile to work surface), etc.

All of us were carving relief carvings - not "in the round" and she explained the use of the V tool to line in the outline of our patterns, and the use of a deep gouge (#9) to quickly remove the background waste, the use of flatter gouges (#2 or 3) to flatten and smooth the background surface. She explained that the beauty of using the V tool to line in the pattern as opposed to doing stop cuts with either gouges or with a knife, was that you get a cleaner intersection where the element meets the background (i.e. - it helps avoid fuzzies or visible stop cuts the went below the background surface. She also demonstrated the use of a mallet for both speed and precision as well as less fatigue on the hands and wrists. Especially for women who typically aren't as strong as men in these areas.

While we were carving throughout the day Maura read and talked about much of the history of carving and guild system. I found this to be very meditative and fascinating even though I'd been exposed to much of this information from my own reading on the subject.

In the end, I think we all had a wonderful time in the class and walked away with a much greater appreciation for the differences and what can be accomplished using full sized tools. The one downside to this style of carving for most retired hobby carvers is the investment in tools required. While I have a pretty nice collection of Swiss Made (Pfeil) full sized tools that my wife and I had to work with, most folks there didn't have the range of tools that would be ideal. She discussed that much carving can be done even with a limited array of tools and that when aquiring tools you should focus on quality over quantity.

The picture if of me working on my Celtic Knot carving in the workshop with Theresa in the background working on her Oak Leaf & Acorns.