The Making of a self-made Man
January 23, 2005
This was an extensive project; done at the request of a good friend and hobo collector.
I was asked to document the creative process involved in bringing a new hobo to life.
The time involved not only in creating a hobo, but also recording the process was difficult to determine, but I assumed a minimum of three months; start to finish.
It took a bit longer than expected; I hope you find the experience interesting.



Where the Ideas Come From - Added January 23, 2005
When I am ready to begin a new carving it is important that the concept be clear and that I have a real interest in creating it.   I have boxes and bins of unfinished carvings that were begun but will probably never find a shelf to sit upon.

Without exception, my ideas reflect first-hand experiences and memories. 
The basis of my hobos are mainly childhood memories.  I spent more time than I probably should have down on the river bank and walking the rail lines. 
Lucky for me, the men that frequented those areas during the early fifties were
of decent character.

  My most creative period is the twilight just before I fall asleep.   This is the time I can visualize in color and ideas come and go quickly.   The trick is remembering the idea in the morning; I also have a pen and notepad on my nightstand just in case. 
I must give credit to a mentor and good friend of mine; Harold Enlow for suggesting that I take advantage of this creative window.  Harold has used this "idea zone" for many years to great advantage. 
The Pattern Evolves - Added January 23, 2005
Once I have a great idea for a carving, I make a pattern that encloses the finished carving with some excess for any slight changes I decide to make while carving.   Often as a carving progresses, it will suggest and sometimes demand changes that were not apparent in the original idea. 

I begin my pattern with a rough pencil sketch; after scanning that sketch into my computer, I refine it and using the print setup, scale the front and side views to match.   My preference of size for standing hobos is 10 to 11 inches tall; this requires a block of wood 3" x 4" x 11" with the grain running in the 11 inch direction.

There are several reasons for choosing this size;
a) Most shelves are 12 inches apart.
b) Wood is easily obtained in 12 inch sections.
c) The face on a 10-11 inch carving is a good size for creating expression.
d) I can hold this size wood with one hand while carving it.
e) The size is substantial without being excessive; and easily viewed across a room.
f) I can print the pattern on a standard 8-1/2 x 11" sheet of paper.
g) Wood becomes more expensive in thicknesses over 4".
The project I have decided upon is not a new idea; I have carved one similar before; as have other hobo carvers.  My idea is a hobo cooking a sausage over a fire with his dog looking on in anticipation of a good meal.   This is not the easiest project to carve, but the completed carving is visually quite exceptional.

There are some problems involved with this type of carving that must be considered before the first chip is ever removed.  The biggest problem area is the hobo’s front side between his chest and the dog.  Access to this area is very tight and getting that area carved well may be quite difficult.  Much can be done to solve some of these problems in the design stage.  You will notice I have the coat draped over the rock and nearly covering the void behind the knees.  The dog will be snug between the hobo’s legs and the hobo’s heels will be against the rock.  The hat will lay against the collar in the back to avoid that area of hair.  

One might conclude that I am avoiding certain features for my own benefit. 
That is true to some degree, but mainly, it is to improve the visual quality of the carving.  The goal is to indicate detail, not carve it; a highly detailed carving distracts from the overall concept I am trying to convey.  Normally a carving is viewed from a distance of three to six feet; and from that distance fine details disappear.

The positions of the hobo’s and dog’s heads are more important in conveying the moment than all the details I might embellish the carving with.  I have carved a few dogs before; and they are not my best subject.  In this instance, the dog’s expression is critical to an effective presentation.

The Carving Concept - Added January 24, 2005
The Rough Pencil Sketch - Added January 24, 2005
This is typical of my rough sketches; it is clearly out of proportion,
but expresses the basic concept clearly enough.
The sketch was refined to allow for the hobo and dog to lean slightly forward;
excess was added in certain areas and the pattern outline was smoothed to facilitate bandsawing.  I do not need a detailed sketch of features, I will determine their location and size while carving.  The original rough sketch provides enough reference.
The finished carving will resemble the original sketch only in outline; the face will be totally different with much more character (with any luck).
There is no front view with this pattern, I will need the extra wood in that view.
Note how I cropped the pattern close to the outline; this allows me to accurately size the pattern with the print setup on my computer.  I do however need a dimension for the front view to determine the thickness of the wood required.  That dimension is determined by, and relative to the printed side pattern size.
Pattern made from refined sketch - Added 1-25-2005
The piece of wood I chose; 5 x 6 x 12" Basswood
A bit thicker than I needed, but my wood selection is getting a bit thin.
The pattern is attached to the block with rubber cement;
I first checked the end or bottom for flatness.
The print size was 6.5 x 5.80"
The completed cutout; I stay outside of the lines when cutting.
Angled view of the cutout
Front of cutout; I could almost get two skinny hobos out of this piece
January 26, 2005
Centerline is drawn in; rough outline of front is done
for removing most of the waste wood
This is a view of the back side reference lines
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