A Gramary of Art

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I’ve been carving staffs since I was eight years old. I’ve spent many happy days hunting for suitable trees. Searching through the hills, rooting through thickets, lying on my back with my cheek against a sapling sighting it’s trunk for straightness.

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It’s not easy to find the right sapling for a staff, it has to be a good hardwood like maple or beech or oak, and it must be straight and have a good root bowl.

When I find a tree that’s just right I begin digging down into its roots with my fingers, often chipping my nails on small stones in the rocky soil. I have a short saw with me, a hand axe, and garden sheers. I snip the smaller roots and saw through the big tap root. I prize the tree from the ground. With my hand axe, I trim the branches and cut the crown. The feeling of having found a good staff is the same as the hunter coming home with supper.

Last week I carved a wizard’s staff to go along with the dagger I’m working on. I carved it from a maple sapling. I was inspired by some of the artifacts I saw at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford UK, and also by my friend Professor Ari Berk‘s amazing study. Professor Berk’s subterranean lair is like the Pitt Rivers if someone tried to fit it into a much smaller space and it had a genuine wizard living in it (but without the mummified babies).

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Visiting those two spaces set up harmonies in me which resonated with my imagination. Doors that had been closed for years were found to be open and old influences began finding their way into my work. The wizard came up from the basement, glittering eyed.

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Jake Powning

Jake is a professional swordsmith, artist, and writer who explores the strange place where traditional culture and the land meet.

18 Comments:

  1. Pingback: THE WIZARD’S STAFF | Tome and Tomb

  2. Thank you for sharing your ART!!

  3. Ronny Wolfgangsson Frankenstein

    Great magic work!

  4. Jake, your work never ceases to amaze. I envy your talent and dedication.

  5. Thanks for the kind words my friends 🙂

  6. Hey Jake, how long do you have to dry your saplings before carving?

  7. Absolutely stunning. I stumbled across your website a few years ago, look for swords, and now all I can do is wonder at your carvings. Cheers

  8. Awesome! What stain did you use, Jake?

  9. Hi Matt, I used a concoction of several different things, including potassium permanganate, leather dye, and open flame 🙂

  10. Breathtaking. As always, your art is absolutely amazing.

  11. Nine months ago, my lifetime passion for mythology, folklore, fiction and old world craftsmanship was focussed into a small studio – Grimforged. I credit you amongst those who have most inspired me to concentrate my experiences, knowledge and maturing wisdom into physical expressions. After decades of working in a variety of artistic mediums, I am now committing my evolving talents towards the blacksmithing and bladesmithing that I’ve always been called to pursue. If you are ever interested in reviewing my drawings, modeling and bladesmithing – I would be appreciative of your impressions and insights. I could not find your email link on the site.

    Thank you for your continual inspiration, and contributions to such an enrichening art.

  12. What brand of woodcarving tools do you prefer? … and what sizes? I am looking at either 2 or 3 mm sets from Dockyard and Two Cherries for finer detailing of the Norse knot work motif patterns. I primarily forge seaxes and short swords, and am currently working with ebony, dark rosewood, and walnut. My canes, walking sticks and staffs are birch and oak. I’ve been working with older tooling that belonged to my grandfather, but the profiling isn’t ideal for fine detailing. Any tooling suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

  13. Hi Michael, I use Japanese detail carving chisels from Lee Valley tools. I’ve been really happy with them and I’ve recommended them to all sorts of people who now also use them. http://www.leevalley.com/US/Wood/page.aspx?p=44106&cat=1,130,43332,43334&ap=1
    Congratulations on your new endeavor, I’ve attached my email to the top of the website now, if you still want to contact me. Grimforged is a great name!

  14. Thank you for the tooling suggestion, and the email address. I am forwarding six small photo portfolios of the studio, shop and my developing work. Being new to the internet – please let me know if you don’t receive my correspondences.

    I blame any technical difficulties on the goblins.

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