Day 18 – Beyond whittling.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I plan to use some of the whittled forms that have been created at the  aWay station as seeds for further works. Representing, reinterpreting, reinventing them in different materials, scales and forms.

The first iteration is coming together.

Starting with this little tool-like form in Monterey Cypress from the Headlands.

Cypress tool – almost 2″ long

Of course the very first thing to do with a humble, hand-whittled form that arises from the material, the tool and the hand  is to totally detach it from the real world and create a synthetic idealized form in the virtual world.

Enter the Rhinoceros

And then through a MUCH more time consuming (and irritating) process than the original whittling, to design a series of pattern pieces for what I call a ‘skin’.

Cypress tool flayed in virtual space

Then print out at suitable scale (say 10 times in this case) to create pattern pieces I can work with. If I had my portable, pedal powered laser-cutter with me a the aWay station I’d be tempted to use it. But the hand-made version seems more in keeping with the project at hand.

Paper patterns – Gabriel would be proud of me.

Then from these I can cut pieces for the skin from any material I choose. I am using HDPE for this piece as it is easy to cut and punch and is about as far removed from the original material as I can get – sheets of shiny, translucent plastic.

Marked out skin pieces

Cut them out and lash them together – with good old zipties in this case. The lashing together feels almost as direct and  as traditional a process as basket weaving or sewing.

The form starts to materialize as the lashing continues.

The finished form and its inspiration.

It is a very different object from its source. It seems to have been dredged up from the depths – like something I might find on nearby Rodeo Beach perhaps?


  1. Talk about sketch to product – fantastic stuff Donald.


  2. nice! Zip ties to the rescue.


  3. David Trubridge August 26, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Great to see rhino working well for you. Fascinating idea – I love the mixture of processes! How did you ‘scan’ the carving or did you work from photos in each plane?


    1. David. Thank YOU for introducing me to Rhino. Every time I use it I think of you with gratitude. And I must say, I wonder if I’m not transgressing inappropriately on your territory….
      You would send me a cease and desist if that were the case wouldn’t you?
      To transfer the form into Rhino I simply grab the vernier calipers and start to analyze the form and build it up in Rhino. I can use the perspective view on my screen to compare it to the real object – which is only 40-50mm tall. Its interesting having to apply formal geometric parameters to a form which was developed very informally and intuitively. Since working this way I’ve had to be careful not to whittle with the formal geometry in mind – not to dumb down my whittling to keep within my limited Rhino modeling skills.
      One of the interesting things about having a worry of whittlers also making pieces is that I get to ponder all of their forms and wonder about making larger versions of them.
      In my latest post I’ve talked a bit about ‘artifact’ – in the scientific sense of an unexpected consequence of a process. I’m now thinking quite a lot about which artifacts adhere to each process. Should these be considered simply as ‘noise’ or can they be considered part of the potential expression and meaning of utilizing a particular process?
      What are your thoughts on this?


      1. I think that when you come to SDSU this semester, you should do one of these whittling workshops. We can then use the 3d scanners on them and see what happens. Just a thought. I like the labor with the caliper, but the scanner could be interesting as well. It could be cool if, at the very least you could show this process to my students in my Rhino class.

      2. Let’s! Scanning will be interesting. Measuring with the calipers is the fastest and easiest part of the whole process.
        But I’m interested in considering the artifacts accruing from the scanning process too!

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