The Fish are Jumping

A while back, I came across The Little Book of Whittling, by Chris Lubkemann. It’s a fun book if you’re interested in whittling and woodcarving. My favorite part is that the author promotes using found wood including twigs and branches, and carving green, which makes for easier, faster work. One of my favorites of the projects in the book was this jumping fish, so I made one of my own.

fish1-1The shavings suggest the splash as the fish comes out of the water. I mounted it on a cross section of ash from the same tree in my yard (now dearly departed, a victim of the ash borer).

The trickiest thing about carving with branches is dealing with the pith in the middle of the branch. When the tree is green, the pith is soft and spongy, at least it was with the ash and maple branches I’ve worked with. Fortunately I didn’t run into pith issues with this project, although the dark spot on the dorsal fin was due to a knot on the branch I used.


Green wood can crack as it dries, but fortunately if the bark is removed and the wood carved I’m usually able to avoid cracks. Finding the right piece of wood for a project like this takes a little work as well. I looked for a branch with the right amount of curvature and a smaller branch in the right spot to form the dorsal fin.

I finished this project in Danish oil after some sanding. I’d call it a paperweight, but there isn’t really so much paper in my life to hold down anymore. So I just enjoy looking at it.



My First Cigar Box Guitar

I kept a couple of cigar boxes on hand for years (please don’t ask how many) with the idea of making cigar box guitars out of them. I finally got around to it in early 2016. I used an article in Make: as my guide (available here online).

My first cigar box guitar
My first cigar box guitar

While I love to scrounge up cast-offs for my projects, I had to buy some new materials for this one, including guitar tuners, a stick of 1×2 oak, some fret wire, guitar strings, and the hinge I used for the tailpiece. Other parts, like the twig I used for a bridge, the nut (a bolt – ha ha!), and the box itself. I added a homemade piezoelectric pickup made from a buzzer element, which worked fantastically.

I had some trouble with the action being high, which is good for playing slide guitar, of course, but less good when you’re fingering. For the next iteration, I might experiment with angling the neck relative to the soundboard, kind of like a violin. But all in all, it sounds pretty good, if I do say so myself.

I donated this one to a charity auction, so I don’t have it anymore. But I do know its owner. Before I let it go, though, I had a chance to record a snippet of music. Love that edgy cigar box sound!