Art School: Semester 5, Week 7

Greetings everyone, and welcome to the end of week seven. This is basically the halfway point in the term, and the start of “reading week” up here, which is called “spring break” down in the states. More on that in the photos below.

It was a busy week, honestly, and there is way too much going on. It’s only going to get worse in the coming weeks as my final sculpture project starts to take shape (and all of my time).

One morning this week — on my SeaBus commute to school — I noted that the gantry crane that had been damaged continues to be taken apart:

Look at that empty frame in the centre. It’s been going away rapidly, it seems, and at this rate next week it will be completely gone. Given I saw a news report shortly after the accident where someone suggested the entire mess could be in the way for a month or more, I think it’s pretty funny they had the stuck ship out in one week and most of the damaged crane gone in another. People are clearly working overtime to get the port back in full operation.

I don’t think there is much in the way of other, non-photographic news this week, so I’ll start the usual class descriptions.


This class was cancelled this week. Actually, the entire school shut down on Monday afternoon due to snow and it stayed closed on Tuesday. Vancouver doesn’t do well in the snow, it seems, and it’s best to avoid going anywhere when it happens. As far as the design class, what this means is that next week we’ll do the design review that was going to happen this week, and we are a week behind on things overall. I don’t know if the instructor will just compress the class or if we’ll extend it by a week into the finals period. Time will tell.

When I did get back into school, though, I had to go in early to sign up for something called a “cross disciplinary critique” and as a result had some time to kill before my carving class got started on Wednesday afternoon. It seemed wise to put it to use. I had my laptop with my design project on it, and the makerspace was open — meaning I could get at the laser cutter — so…

There you see the parts for the stool cut out at 1/3 scale in corrugated cardboard. That’s the business end of the laser cutter in the upper left. Anyway, once you have the parts and a hot glue gun you can assemble it, like this:

That’s a model of the stool design I prefer so far. One thing to note is the slight difference between the tops on the left and middle pictures. On the left I’ve added an extra circle, off centre but still in the centre cutout. Those circles will have their grain rotated relative to the bigger, overall circle (and each other). The other thing to note is that the fins project all the way to the surface, so you see the edges of the plywood in the top. I think it will be pretty, given the quality of the plywood we’re using, but if the router in the CNC creates a lot of tear-outs that might be a poor design decision on my part.

The stool is reversible — that is, it can be flipped over — but when you do that the wider part of the fins moves from top to bottom (or vice versa). I think I like it more with the wider parts up (as in the centre and rightmost photos).

Anyway, now I have an additional model for my presentation next week.

Aboriginal Carving

We’re currently working on the spoon carving. We were given a piece of alder for this project, and I had an initial plan that was something like a combination spoon, whale, and the spaceship Discovery from 2001. Here’s an early photo of what was going on:

An interesting thing to note is that notch missing from the wood in the bottom right. That’s not of my doing, and it is, in fact, the residue of a knot in the wood. And it is going to make my life challenging soon.

More work on the basic form, including starting to make the convex side of the bowl of the spoon. But at this point I am starting to realize that I have more room in the middle than I had anticipated, so I am concocting plans to complicate my life.

Let’s start twisting it. Sure! That’ll make it nicer and more complicated. Initially I was thinking just a quarter twist, but…

Why not twist it more? I mean… I can, right?

And as of class time, here’s what it looked like:

Still a very long way to go, but I am working on it. Lots of refinement to be done during the week off. (And actually the carving instructor has scheduled an extra class during reading week, to give folks some extra time. I’ll be there with bells on.)


This week saw the completion of the assembly sculpture.

Here I am gluing some felt onto the bottom of the piece, just to add a bit of protection for the base I made. What happened next was I attempted to glue a piece of threaded rod into the hole you can see in the bottom of the sculpture. That failed. Twice.

The first time I used a construction adhesive, and after 36 hours I could pull the rod out of the hole with my bare fingers. So I cleaned everything off and made a trip to the local Home Despot where I bought some gel epoxy. Brought that back, and discovered that one of the two tubes had gone nearly solid. You couldn’t really squeeze it out to use it. Eventually I managed to get some, and as I was in a hurry I mixed it up and tried to use it, but it also failed to set.

Thankfully one of my fellow students had some regular epoxy and loaned it to me. That did the trick The rod finally got firmly adhered to the work, and the base got attached the following morning. The morning of crit, I’ll point out. I hate being that close to a deadline!

Anyway, it got done, and a couple of photos are included in the batch below, which were all taken during the crit itself:

From left to right and top to bottom (and remember you can click to enlarge):

  • Zach’s coffee lids.
  • Owen’s mason jars. (This is actually the alternate set. He first displayed another set, but he’d sanded all the details off them, and everyone wanted to see these as well. We actually liked these better.)
  • Heather’s rubber duck table. Beautifully done!
  • Also Heather’s rubber duck table.
  • My sculpture. (Heather in the background.)
  • The other Heather’s cuttlefish and environment. (Yes, in a class of nine we have two people named Heather!)
  • Natalie’s fairy ring of cast objects.
  • Detail of Natalie’s objects.
  • Emma’s clam shells.
  • Hannah’s cast pine cone collar. (Natalie is the model.)
  • A closer view of my sculpture.
  • An even closer view of my sculpture.

If you’re counting, one sculpture is missing. That’s because Jessica was out for a couple of weeks and hasn’t turned hers in yet. I hope to have a photo of it next week, because from what I can tell it should be really good.

Sadly I can’t recall the titles of everyone’s work. Mine, however, is titled:

Tower 3
You can blame Brancusi all you want, but he had nothing to do with it.

All in all crit went well. People’s styles and interests are starting to become more obvious, and the conversations showed that there is a lot to think about with each of these works. It was really fun, honestly.

But time moves on and I have to start thinking seriously about the final sculpture project. Last week I described it as a stone carving that doesn’t look like it should be possible to carve it out of stone, or something like that. These stones will probably be part of that carving, somehow:

The lower right is an overview and the others are to help me with a general idea if size, shape, and colour. Most are soapstone, but there is a piece of white alabaster (centre, in the back) and a piece of black wonderstone (back right). Just how these will go together is TBD, but I have been offered this as a possible base:

I’m not actually sure what kind of stone that is. It has been outside for a long time, and is very soft, possibly as a result of years of water getting into it. It could be limestone, or it could be a sandstone of some sort. I’m not even sure of the colour. There might be some hints of red in it, though that will only be known once I really get into it.

As you can see, it’s pretty large (that’s an 18" ruler) and it weighs quite a bit. It should make a fine base, properly shaped and cleaned up. I plan to get to work on that soon, probably on Tuesday of reading week. Or maybe Wednesday. We’ll see.

Other School(ish) Stuff

This week the plastic recycling project met for a while, and we researched motors and gearboxes for the plastic shredder we want to build. In the end we found something we hope will do the trick on eBay. It’s a used, two horsepower, Baldor motor attached to a gearbox that takes it down to about 70 RPM. It’s a three phase motor, so power will be interesting, but we’ll do our best. We’ll get a better sense of it when it arrives.


No other links, as usual, so you’re stuck with just the usual Art School Post Index.


We had snow this week. Lots of snow. As stated above, it shut the school down on Monday afternoon. I took these photos from the SeaBus on the way home Monday. Cranes and ships in the mist… er… snow.

And by Tuesday night, this is how much snow was on the table in the backyard:

That’s a lot of snow for Vancouver. And remember that we’re about to start “spring break”. With that much snow on the ground (and more coming in the next week, or so it seems) we’re going into “spring break.” Yeah, right. This is winter, and why they decided to put “spring break” in mid February I really don’t know.

Anyway, when you have dogs and snow:

From those you can tell that Tinkerbelle just loves the snow. Poor Cruzer.

Just one more:

This dog really loves the snow

It really was very pretty, and it felt a bit like we live in Whoville:

But it was also a lot of work:

Yes, I shoveled the driveway. Twice, actually. The mail carrier was appreciative, at least. They can get a bit snippy up here if you don’t shovel for them.

And In Conclusion…

Last week I asked how this worked:

The two knobs rotate 180 degrees. In one position the device is magnetically attracted to a steel surface beneath it. In the other position it is not attracted at all. So the question is, how do you turn magnets on and off without electricity (since the device is definitely not electrical in nature)?

I did a little digging — as did a couple of my readers — and it seems that much of the information the inventors of this device have previously published about it has moved or been deleted, but there is one, silent YouTube video:

It’s tough sledding, even though it is very short. Be prepared to hit the pause button often so you can read the diagrams and text. You’ll likely still be scratching your head at the end, but, in general, it seems that there are two, permanent, rare earth (neodymium) magnets inside an enclosure at each end of the feather board. One of those magnets rotates, and that reverses the poles relative to the other magnet, and collectively they either fully cancel out or create a strong magnetic field, depending on their orientation. They are enclosed in a ferromagnetic housing (which I thought was brass, but apparently not). That housing becomes magnetic when the neodymium magnets are in the proper alignment (and thus subject the housing to a magnetic field) and that is what attracts the feather board to the steel top of a table saw. But rotate one of those rare earth magnets 180 degrees and there is no magnetic field anymore, so all the clamping force disappears.

Very interesting stuff, and the feather board is just the tip of the iceberg. The Australian company that makes these has a lot of videos on their YouTube channel showing off a ton of industrial products they sell, as well as a large line of welding and woodworking products. And there are competitors too.

Anyway, it’s cool. I’ve played with some rare earth magnets but never noted that you could control the magnetic field that way. Live and learn!

And for wading through all that, I give you this:

Cookie Monster is my spirit animal.

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.