Freshening Up an Old Carved Eagle


This is an eagle I carved in 2003 and it has hung on the front of my house ever since. I just had my house painted so I figured this old eagle should get a new finish also. After 17 years it still looks pretty good. Sun, rain, snow–normal New England weather–aged it some, but most of the finish is still there. The body is 24K gold leaf and the paint is “one shot” sign paint. Both hold up extremely well. Click the image to see a close up.

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Improving the Air Arms TX200 Safety


The Air Arms TX200 is a great air rifle, but is does have a couple of issues. The most common problem is the failure to cock or it cocks but the safety doesn’t catch. The internet is full of talk of this problem. In an earlier post I show how easy it is to fix.

One issue that is not easy to fix is the poorly designed safety. The photo above shows what the safety looks like on a stock rifle. Cocking the rifle automatically sets the safety to the “ON” position. That’s probably a good idea, but most firearms don’t work that way and it takes some getting used to. I’ve missed more than one squirrel because I forgot to push the safety off before squeezing the trigger. After some practice it becomes automatic. But what if you can’t take the shot and you want to continue looking for something to shoot at. Every other rifle I’ve ever handled allowed you to put the safety back on.

This rifle is British made, and is of the highest quality. What were they thinking when they designed the safety? Amazingly, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for most owners because no solution or aftermarket parts have been designed or sold to make the safety functional. I got tired of waiting for someone else to come up with something so I sat down and figured it out.

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Repairing, Restoring, Conserving a Federal Mirror

I recently bought a very nice federal period mirror at an antique shop that was desperately in need of some repairs. Atop the mirror sits a hand carved urn and swag. It is a very fragile carving that has deteriorated and has been broken and poorly repaired. Here is a short photo essay showing the steps required to repair and conserve the carving. I have tried to maintain the aging and original patina.

Here is what the mirror looked like when I purchased it.

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I Transformed a Boring Old Colt Mustang Plus II Into a Custom, One-of-a-Kind Little Beauty

Check out this custom Colt Mustang Plus II.


I bought this gun new in 1988 and carried it for years before retiring it to my safe and replacing it with a .45 ACP. It was a great little pocket pistol, but being a .380, it was considered too under powered for a safe carry gun. It also suffered from poor accuracy due to terrible sights.


The price of used Colts has gotten crazy in the past few years. I think I paid about $300 for the gun new but they are selling used for about $650. Advances in ammunition technology has made the .380 a much more effective defense round than when I carried the little pistol. Pistols chambered in .380 are some of the most popular carry guns right now. All this new interest in these little guns got me looking at my old Mustang again.

The gun looked dated now. It needed an upgrade. I’ve been fiddling with the thing for about a year now. I made a lot of changes both cosmetically and functionally. Here is what it looks like now.

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Original Bellamy Eagle Repair / Restoration / Conservation

Last year I got the opportunity to repair three old carved eagles, all belonging to the same collector. Two of the eagles were genuine John Haley Bellamy eagles and one was an old copy. One of the genuine Bellamys was an example of his early work. It gave me a rare chance to study the originals up close, and take them apart. I’ve seen dozens of genuine Bellamy eagles up close, but this is the first time I got the chance to remove the head. It was interesting, and a great opportunity to closely examine the master’s work and techniques.

Following are photos of those eagles and their repairs.

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Eagle Mirror Frame. A Great Design by a Customer

Some of my favorite projects are designs created by a customer. It gives me a chance to do something a little different. This one of those instances. Though the design incorporates one of my often carved eagles–a copy of a Boston Carving Company eagle–it is only part of the project. Building the frame was easy. Simple woodworking that I’ve done many times. The real challenge was the stars, 18 of them. Each one was cut from 3/8″ pine. But then I had to carve each one. They are only 1.5″ so holding them while during the carving was tough. I ended up using double-sided tape to hold them to my bench. It was time consuming, tedious work. It wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t have to make another one.

Feel free to design come up with your own idea and let me create if for you.

Saber Tooth Lion Skull

I’ve always wanted a Saber Tooth Lion skull. I don’t know why, maybe I’m a little weird, but the first time I saw one in a museum (I think in the Natural History museum in DC) I’ve wanted one. Real skulls are rare and extremely expensive, but there are companies that make high quality casts from the originals. Trouble is these aren’t cheap either. One of these skulls has been on my list of carving projects.

Now I don’t have to go to the trouble. During a recent trip to Mexico I happened across a very high quality reproduction at a Mayan ruin. Among the cheap crap being sold by the countless pests that follow you where ever you go in Mexico, with the annoying, “Senior, you buy. Cheaper than Walmart. Almost free. How much you pay?” was this beautiful reminder of the times when humans were not at the top of the food chain. After some haggling, I managed to talk the young Mayan entrepreneur into accepting $50–a great buy. Here is what it looked like when I bought it.

The skull I first saw in the museum was found at the La Brea tar pits in California. Spending thousands of years immersed in asphalt created a beautiful patina and rich color. I used a combination of dyes and linseed oil to create a look that is very close to the real thing. I had a scrap piece of birdseye maple laying around that was just the right size for a base. I used a water based finish so the color wouldn’t change. I like the contrast.

Now I have a good model should I ever want to carve one.


Trend Airshield Pro: Build Your Own Battery

I do a lot of woodturning, so eventually it was necessary for me to buy an air supplied shield. After hours of research I decided the Trend Airshield Pro was the best choice for me. It was expensive, but with some more research I found one online for less than $300. It works great. I’m really happy with it.

After about a year the battery refused to hold a charge. No big deal–rechargeable batteries wear out, won’t hold a charge and need to replaced occasionally. I went online to buy a new battery and was shocked at the price. They cost $70. I thought that was crazy. I took the battery out of the helmet and noticed that it was just a plastic container holding a battery pack. The battery pack is marked 3.6 volts, 3600 mah. I took the plastic container apart, which was really easy. It just snaps together. Inside was an unlabeled, shrink wrapped group of three batteries. I scoured the internet looking for a replacement but could find nothing. You can’t buy a 3.6 volt, 3600 mah battery pack. It looks like Trend had this battery specially manufactured just for them, forcing you to pay three times what the battery should cost to keep your AirShield Pro running once the battery wore out. Things like this really piss me off. I have no problem with companies making money, but when they design products that require purchasers to continually pay for that product by forcing their customers to buy overpriced, proprietary consumables, I refuse to play that game. Had I known I would only get a year out of a $70 battery, I could only buy from Trend, I would have bought something else.

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Life Sized, Anatomically Correct Human Skull

Well, almost anatomically correct. This was just a practice piece and isn’t perfect. But is is close. I used basswood and finished it to look like it was dug up out of the ground. I finished it in amber shellac and still have to kill some of the shine. I mounted it on a piece of maple into which I turned a bunch of disks to mimic vertebrae in a spine. Then I carved it into an “S” shape so it has a curve like a real spine.

I’ve wanted to carve one of these for a long time. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a real human skull as a model, which helped a lot.  Now I am trying to find a suitable block of burl to carve a keeper.

Another Liberty Head Carving – From the Morgan Dollar

I just finished another carving of a portrait of Lady Liberty. This time the portrait is from the gorgeous Morgan dollar. I tried some new things with this carving. I tried a new wood, African Mahogany. It’s a beautiful wood but has some problems. The grain has a little too much figure. The figure makes carving with the grain difficult. The grain of figured wood changes constantly.

Fortunately, another thing I tried was ultra high relief. Carving end grain in this wood produces the smoothest surface. When carving ultra high relief you spend much of the time carving end grain. The wood I used was almost 4 inches thick. I was able to carve a full 1/2 of the face. This required much more realism and attention to the true shape of the head.

The final thing I did for the first time was texture the background. I hadn’t planned on doing this but the changing grain made it too difficult to get a smooth background. I took a big 1/2″ bolt and filed a cross hatch pattern in the end of it, then used it as a punch and textured the entire background. This camouflaged any tear out and created a darker background, which made the subject stand out more.

The only time I’ll use African mahogany again is if I do another ultra high relief or full in-the-round carving. If you’d like to try carving this portrait yourself the pattern is available for sale.


Carving a New Sign For My Business

For years I’ve wanted to replace the tailgate of my pickup truck with a hand carved sign to use as a unique form of advertising. I’m finally doing it. Following is a photo diary of the process from conception to the final product.

Like everything else this carving started with a vision, and had to be put to paper before any carving could begin. I sketched out a design on a regular 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet of paper and then scanned it into my computer. Once digitized, I imported it into Adobe Illustrator and traced the sketch, then played with it until I was happy with the design. After measuring the original tailgate on my truck, I scaled the design to work on a piece of wood that matched the tailgates dimensions. Below is the finished drawing done in Adobe Illustrator. Click on the image below, and all images to follow to see a larger view.

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Building Weights for an EZ-Up Tent

I’ve been doing more shows and have finally bought one of those EZ-Up tents or shelters–whatever they call them. These things are great. Two people can have one set up in about one minute with a little practice. It folds up nice and neat into a bag with wheels, so you can easily transport it. The problem with these things is that they can be deadly weapons in the wind. Unless they are staked or weighed down, a little wind can send them airborne like a kite. EZ-Up sells bags that you fill with sand and wrap around the legs. They average around $68 dollars, though you can get them online for about $50. Stakes usually aren’t acceptable for various reasons, so most people rely on some sort of weights. People have come up with all sorts of gadgets as weights to hold down their tent. I’ve come up with a great and inexpensive solution to the problem. Read on to see what I came up with.

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