Friday, June 03, 2011

Monster Head Study No. 2 - beady-eyes & fangs

Back in April, I told you a bit about a creative block that I experienced during the winter months and how making little wooden monster heads saved me. My idea was to get into the workshop, use my tools, maintain my tools as needed, and produce something in during each short session. I promised to show you more of these studies. This post is about the second monster head I made.

I would often start with a small hardwood sphere, commonly found at craft stores. These 1 inch unfinished wood balls come in packages of 12 and are a light, clear-grained wood -- probably birch. These seemed like a good place to start since they are already somewhat head-shaped. What I didn't fully realize is how hard these balls are! Power carving with a Dremel tool worked fairly well, though I had to be careful about burning the wood. Working with a carving knife proved to be very difficult -- not only because the wood was far harder that the basswood (lime) I usually carve, but also because they were difficult to hold. The latter problem was solved by drilling a 1/4 inch hole in the ball and inserting a length of dowel. This provided a handle so I could hold the piece while working on it.

Monster Head Study No. 2Dug North's Monster Head Study No. 2

Once I had nearly finished this guy, I thought it had a somewhat bat-like appearance. So, I found some round red glass beads I had, drilled eye sockets, and glued the beads in place. The pupils are actually the holes used to string the beads. I did a little bit of wood-burning to create those angry eyebrows. Like Monster No. 1, this one has that under-bite of which I am so fond. The two small upturned canines are made of tagua nut -- a hard white material often used as a convincing ivory substitute. The ears (horns?) are made from some scraps of Baltic birch plywood I had sitting in the scrap pile.

As with the first, this monster has no name other than "Monster Head Study No. 2". Taking photos of these monsters is not easy! The wood is so light, they tend to wash out under the lens. They probably need some type of finish to tone them down and give them some depth. I may also need to spend some time learning how to photograph such things.

I liked this one when I made it, but having made many more monster heads since that time, this one has slipped down the list. Still, it served a valuable purpose: I was creating, exploring, and -- most importantly -- getting out of that rut. Hopefully, there are a few useful ideas, tools, techniques, and materials mentioned in this post. There are more monsters to come, so stay tuned.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the making of this monster head. One of the ways to deal with washout is use the macro function (if available) AND turn off the flash. However, if a photo has already been taken and needs to be fixed, one can try the software approach (using the Photoshop, e.g.):

Photography for woodworking is a skill worth developing.


June 3, 2011 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...

Thanks for reading, Charles. Thanks also for the photography tips and for the excellent link. I'll be putting those techniques to use for sure!


June 3, 2011 at 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Andres Gonzalez said...

Hi Dug:
Very nice monster head. More tips for photography: Of course forget the flash, I guess my camera have a flash attached but I never use it. Search for Ligth Tent and sure you will find images for them and some DIY ligth tent, it is very easy to make a little one with two or three desk lamps. Set the camera for tungsten light instad of auto. Using a black background the camera will wash out the highlights so if you can change the metering for spot metering.
Looking forward for more monster heads.

June 3, 2011 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...


Thank you! Thanks for the additional advice on photographing light wood objects. I have been meaning to make or buy a light tent. Now, I will be sure to do so. I don't know if I can spot meter, so perhaps I will have to use something other than a black background. I am so glad I happened to mention my problem with the photographs in this post!

More monster heads to come...


June 4, 2011 at 12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dug,

For small objects, try a large sheet of gray cardboard (available from discount stores for a dollar or two) as the backdrop paper. The paper should curve down like this to create a seamless background:

For large furniture projects, rolls of backdrop papers can be had from the camera supplies stores.


June 4, 2011 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...


Great advice! Who knew this post would turn into tips and tricks for taking better photographs of small wood objects?


June 6, 2011 at 9:51 AM  

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