The Avid Woodworker – AW Episode # 10 – Halloween Woodworking
In this episode, I talk about a simple project that you can work on over a weekend with your kids and have fun with it. It is not a fancy woodworking project by any means. Heck, some woodworking elite might not even call it a ‘woodworking’ project, but more of an arts and craft project made out of wood. But, that is ok, it is just fun and if you have children or grandchildren, it is something that you can do together and then put it on display every Halloween. I put this podcast together because I love working with wood, hence the title Avid Woodworker. I don’t claim to be the Pro or Top Woodworker, I just claim to be an Enthusiastic Woodworker. I don’t worry about what everybody else says. When my neighbors see what I have done and want me to build one for them, that is all the affirmation I need.
The picture at the top is the 15 foot scarecrow I have in the front of my garage. We will be building a slightly different, six foot version of this one.
About six months ago, I had my Bradford Pear limbed up because it had gotten huge and was killing my grass because the shadow was so big. The biggest problem was where it was in the yard. It was on a slope, so the rain caused the clay to wash away from under the tree and onto other parts of the grass, making the problem worse.
I harvested the limbs that were the thickest and straightest. They have been drying in my basement ever since. What I have done is cut them to certain lengths and then connecting them to make a wooden scarecrow with a scary pumpkin head. Not your typical scarecrow either. It has no clothes to speak of. He is kind of like a wooden skeleton. Maybe that is what I should call him instead.
Ok so here is what I did. I modeled the size of my body. I had the kids measure my forearm, my upper arm, torso, lower and upper
leg, the length of my neck, and my shoulder width. This continued to introduce them how to measuring things (they started learning in Cub Scouts). Of course, my older son then wanted to measure his own body parts to see how he measured up.
Before they had come to the shop, I had sketched out on a big piece of paper (like 2 feet by 3 feet) a concept drawing of what the scarecrow would look like. They wrote those measurements down on the big sketch. This introduced them to planning out your woodworking projects and how to come up with a woodworking plan.
Also, before they had come down to the shop, I had picked out some of the tree branches I wanted to use for the project. They then picked the appropriate branches to cut. They took the measurements from the woodworking plan we had just put together and started measuring out the different pieces of the scarecrow body parts.
Before we cut the individual body parts or bones, I used the band saw to trim off the rough parts on the branches. I cleaned off random protrusions from old branches to make each piece as straight as possible. It was about this time that my band saw blade broke with a loud POW! I had never that happen before. It was pretty scary.
Then we put the branches in the vice and the boys started to cut them by hand. Now, I will have to admit. This part is difficult. I mean, I have power tools. I could have cut these branches in seconds with the band saw or chop saw. I could have cut them by hand myself in 20 seconds. The boys took a while. But, that is ok. It teaches you patience and helps them to learn how to use handsaws before they ever use powe
r tools. I want them to have a healthy fear of power tools. I don’t want them to come to the basement when I am not looking and accidentally cut off a finger or worse.
So, after cutting the branches, I originally was going to use a series of woodworking joinery to make the parts mobile and adjustable. But, after being patient with the boys while they slowly cut the branches, I felt like I was running out of time, so I decided to use coat hanger wire to connect the bones (kind of like ligaments and tendons).
I used a spade bit to drill holes into each end of the ‘bone,’ along with drilling a hole on the side of the bone to allow the hanger wire to come through the ‘bone’ and wrap around it. I am going to cover up these joints with a burlap sack you can pick up at Michael’s or a similar craft store. In hindsight, I realized that I could have drilled a much smaller hole and put a shorter coat hanger wire into the bone, and then sealed the wire in place with epoxy. Maybe I will try that with the next version.
I made the fingers by just drilling a small hole through the finger and running a coat hanger wire through each of the fingers. When the finger bends, it leaves an exposed portion of the white wire, which makes it look like bone.
Since the pumpkin has no muscles, he can’t stand up on his own too well, especially if the wind blows, so I am going to use a thin steel rod that I will paint black and have it run up his torso and put the rest in the ground so at night, he can appear to stand on his own.
The last thing is to carve a foam pumpkin head, attach it to the neck, and put a spooky orange light inside (I am using orange LED lights they sell at Halloween time in the stores)
Ok, so that is it. I will post updates on the website, including what the final product looks like, but I wanted to share with you now in case you wanted to try one of your own for this Halloween. The kids can even have fun going out and picking branches for your own scarecrow.