Waves and trouble

IMG_1888Hey, remember when I wrote about woodworking a while ago and went on about how that was going to be my new thing to accompany my knitting and then I showed, like, 1 progress picture a couple weeks later but then completely stopped mentioning it so that everyone thought I was all talk and no follow through? Well, as it turns out, I actually did it! No, I didn’t finish my box for my needles (that’s still all talk and no follow through), but I did try my hand at “carving in the round” and came up with this wave-like sculpture that holds absolutely no practical value. To be honest, this is probably my most artistic project yet and my first project made purely for aesthetic purposes, so it will come as no surprise to you that the only way I could make this was by following the instructions of a step by step guidebook that I bought off Amazon (basically paint-by-numbers for woodcarving). Nevertheless, it is a work I am proud of, and so in lieu of 2-3 paragraphs expounding something I knit in the past few weeks, I will spend the first part of this post describing the steps I took when I followed the steps the book told me to take when I carved this wave.

1. The tools

IMG_1772 IMG_2063Obtaining the proper tools actually took up a lot of time since all of the places that supply woodcarving tools are congregated in the Midwest (this was the first time I ever had to consider Minnesota as an actual place where people live and stuff). But eventually, I got myself a 4x12x12in block of limewood and 2 carving gouges: a size 3 with a 30mm sweep (width) and a size 7 with a 20mm sweep (the higher the size, the more acute the curvature of the gouge).

2. The trace

IMG_1651 IMG_1667With some cardstock, I traced the shape that I wanted to carve out (aka the shape that the book told me to cut out) and outlined it onto two sides of my brand spankin’ new block of wood.

3. The carving

IMG_1765Okay, now here’s where the actual carving started. I probably spent a good 20 minutes mentally going through the motions before actually making a cut (we all remember that hugely inappropriate fishhook-in-the-eye video in woodshop). But once I got into a rhythm, I found it was pretty easy to carve out my outline while simultaneously keeping my eyeball intact.

4. More carving

IMG_1862 IMG_1875This wave is more of a loop-de-loop, so there’s actually some depth to it. To accomplish this, I carved away deeper and deeper along certain parts of each side (words are failing me now in trying to describe this exact shape) so that, starting from the cut part of the circle, the side of the wood curves inwards to, what was originally, the middle of the wood block (okay that didn’t make any sense but keep reading, you’ll get it).

5. Working through the grits

IMG_1881 IMG_1882Here’s a fun fact (the first one you’ll see not preceded by ***): in order to get it so smooth, wood is sanded several times with different types of sandpaper of gradually increasing grits (from 120 to 12000). But before each sanding, the wood is soaked in boiling water and allowed to dry, which raises up the grain that the previous grit was unable to sand down. This raised grain is then subsequently removed by the next, finer, sandpaper. This process (which seriously cut into my knitting time), is called “working through the grits” and took about 2 weeks to complete, but by the last grit, I couldn’t keep my hands off of the wood because of how smooth it was (like a baby’s bottom if you worked it through the grits).

6. The polish

IMG_2022 IMG_2032This was probably the most frustrating, but ultimately most rewarding, part. Each layer of wood polish I added never seemed to stick, and when it did, it looked splotchy and uneven. After around a dozen attempts, I eventually decided to sand it all off and re-polish the whole thing from scratch. But as it turns out, sanding it (I used the a 12000 grit) actually evened out the polish and sealed it to the wood really nicely! I’ll let a more experienced woodworker comment on the efficacy of my accidental genius, but until then, I’m pretty sure this makes me a woodworking prodigy.

Oh yeah, and the second picture depicts the curvature I was forming in step 4.

And there you have it! My very first wood sculpture. A lot more work than I originally thought, but totally worth every piece of wood dust floating around my house and inside my lungs right now.


If you’re one of the special few who actually reads my blog instead of just scanning the pictures and ignoring the text (not bitter), then you’ll know that medical school is quickly approaching (i mean, c’mon, it takes like, 3 minutes to read), and that my final guilt free summer (aka my eatpraylove summer) is practically upon me (do you not like my writing or something?). In fact, if you follow my burgeoning Instagram (seriously. about to explode. my last two photos had 10+ likes within a day. #instafamousstatus), you’ll know that my travels have already begun.

IMG_0887This past Sunday, I came back from a week-long trip to Vietnam with 3 of my friends. It was the first time the 4 of us had traveled anywhere together and we had a blast. Despite sweltering heat and a complete ignorance of the Vietnamese language (except the numbers 1-10 and the Vietnamese equivalent of “Hiya, buddy!”), we were able to do some pretty incredible stuff, like ride on backs of motorcycles, feed crocodiles, snorkel through coral reeves, have tiny Vietnamese women stand on our backs, and eat $1 banh mi.

IMG_0986However, this trip was as much about learning as it was about experiencing, and I, for one, learned quite a bit (for example, a wife beater worn under a low cut v-neck looks like a camisole). But before I go on, I have to tell you the difference between my friends and me.

IMG_8247To put it bluntly (don’t let the innocent photo fool you), my friends are troublemakers. I mean, these are the guys that once tried to rip out the bottom of some girl’s locker just to see if it was possible (it turns out it was. don’t worry, they left a note. they’re not complete jerks). And I’m not saying my own record is spotless (though I was awarded Security Monitor of the Year if you haven’t heard…), but I’m like a different breed, the quiet, obedient breed. I was the kid in elementary school who spent recess sorting mail for the secretary rather than playing handball (sad/true story). So, you can imagine the kind of stress exploring the hectic streets of Vietnam with these 3 caused, what with wild monkeys and crocodiles and shady Vietnamese pimps. And if you know me well enough, you can already expect the insightful conclusion I ultimately came to and inevitably will use to fuel my blog popularity.

For the first few days, I met my friends’ suggestions (“hey, let’s go take pictures in that guy’s boat!”) with opposition (“uh, i don’t think he wants us in there.”), concerned about who we’d anger or inconvenience and what kind of trouble we’d get ourselves into. After all, we were in a foreign country and didn’t speak the language and the last thing we wanted was to get into some deep water (partially because the water is filthy. our immune systems are essentially made of porcelain over there). However, heat+exhaustion+peer pressure eventually wore me down until I decided to just go along with every ridiculous and wild decision and have a big fat “i told you so” in my back pocket ready for when things went to chết.

But guess what? (surprise, surprise) we survived. Sure, we pissed off some local fishermen and got trash talked behind our backs (actually right in front of our faces because we didn’t understand a word they said), but we came back in one piece and, all in all, got by okay. 

IMG_0853I’m not sure if it’s the Asian upbringing or the pre-med “everything you do will be seen by admission committees” scare tactic, but somewhere in my past I developed this phobia-like reaction to disapproval, disappointment, and getting in trouble (reading this back it’s most definitely the Asian upbringing). And not to say my straight-laced day-to-day (save that one time I tried crystal meth) is flawed, but I think there’s room in my life for a little bit of trouble. Angering and disappointing people are inevitabilities of being human (especially for my asian american xiong di jie mei out there, i see you), so who’s to say I can’t have some fun along the way? Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start joy riding forklifts (been there done that) and holding up liquor stores for kicks or that there’s anything inherently good about breaking rules (this is the pre-med scare tactic talking), but let’s face it. I’m going to get in trouble at some point in my life (possibly at multiple points), both knowingly and accidentally, so I might as well learn to face it head on and accept (and dare I say enjoy?) it for what it is. Besides, there are some pretty cool things that come out of terrible, terrible mistakes, just ask my sister, Allyson.

Vietnam was just the first stop in my whirlwind of travels. In the upcoming months, there will be several more countries with several more opportunities to toe the line between what is okay and what isn’t. And despite the fact that I am new to this whole daredevilish lifestyle, I don’t know, part of me thinks I’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

IMG_7855***Ho Chi Minh City is home to around 9,000,000 citizens and 7,000,000 motorbikes.


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