Revisiting the Garden Gnome House

The garden gnome house was carved out of a solid poplar log that fell during a windstorm. Poplar is not the best wood for carving — it splits and rots easy — but it was big, free, and delivered from the sky in our backyard.

The garden gnomes have their house in a raspberry patch with a waterfall flowing just below the winding staircase.

A Stihl MS261c with the factory bar was used. That’s a mid-sized saw that idles well so the chain can chew slowly without too much gas. This allows for more detail work without revving the saw to high speed. The smaller bar on a MS170 was used to notch out the stairs. See more here…


So how did it do after a year in the sun, wind, rain, and snow? Not too bad considering it had two litres of linseed oil dumped on it. There was some cracking and a polyurethane glue was injected into the deepest splits. The wood was also stained anywhere water collected. Time for another coat of clear sealer or linseed oil as winter approaches.

Purple Heart Juniper Stump


This is project is now ready to proceed. A sample of purple heart juniper was tested on the lathe and several small pieces were made including a goblet and a pen and ink holder. Now the stump is dry and ready to be carved. Ideas? We’ve yet to do a garden spirit face. So the wood is on display in the wood shop and hopefully the face will become apparent within all those grains.

The intricate twisting shape has a lot of possibilities…


A single blade was used like a paint brush on a canvas to remove the bark. The piece sits securely on a work table. Keep hands clear and pick at the bark with downward strokes. The carver uses a Kershaw 1830 blade.


The heart wood inside has a rich purple color when exposed and coated in finishing oil.


Cedar Scrying Bowl Trial

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As it is Friday the thirteenth, we agreed tonight would be a wonderful time to test out our cedar scrying bowl and see if we could catch a glimpse of the future.

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Click here to see how we put it together.

There was a half moon tonight and we got some reflection photos with the bowl filled with water. That wee white light is the moon through our dusty shop camera. And yes you could see stars in the scrying bowl. Also, an interesting phenomenon happens: Once you catch a star’s reflection in the bowl, slowly move away and the image appears to magnify.  As our distance from the bowl increased, the reflection grew visibly larger.  The basin depth is quite shallow, yet it held almost a liter of water before trickling over the edge. With the surface so polished, the water held together like mercury. Candle light illuminated the meniscus (the surface edge where water meets solid) with a striking red tone.

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Did we see the future? If so, the future looked a lot like the now. It was a very interesting trial of an ancient wooden invention. Nostradamus should have published a manual. Now we need to find a home for the scrying bowl, or somewhere to be enjoyed. Maybe in a forest glade?

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A solitary moon’s reflection in the scrying bowl

Happy Friday the thirteenth!

Crooked Willow Tree

prairie bench crooked willow 1

On a recent road trip, we spied a wonderful tree. The property owner confirmed it is a Crooked Willow. In lore, the willow is sometimes known as a ‘wys’ tree and has significance to people who study ancient lore. The original term wicker, or to weave sticks, may have originated with this species of tree.

The owners, Bob and Tracy were gracious enough to give us a sample for our collection. We selected a branch that had already broken free as the tree was advanced in age. We’ll polish the sample in rosewood oil and post some pics. It should make an interesting magic staff for a friend.

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Birch Fireplace Mantle

Hawleyscape Tree birch 01

At the request of a client, we found a local piece of parkland birch harvested by a certified cutter. The log was cut into two slabs, then one slab was cut again into posts. Next, ten months to dry.

Inside we found some luxurious dark chocolate heartwood. We decided to preserve the birch bark, sanding it lightly to apply an even poly finish.

inlay gravel adds natural depth

inlay gravel adds natural depth

The surface was ground, then sanded. The core of the heartwood had some deep crevices, which we filled with river gravel and applied a layer of 2 stage cold poly to create the look of water.

Installation was easy using a flat steel bar moored to the wall studs. The mantle was predrilled with 4″ lag bolts and the lock nuts aligned with the thickness of the drywall. The result is an eighty pound log floating on the wall securely. The pillars were fit to cedar shoes and pegged. The mantle was set on top, clicked into place, and then the lock nuts were tightened. This allowed us to install the mantle with minimal destruction to the drywall. We only had to cut a three inch strip to mount the flat bar.

The client now intends to fill the area inside the mantle with stained glass. We’ll post pics when it’s done. Wood source: