Everyone knows the story of Noah’s Ark and whether it really did happen or is just a fairy tale it still holds a powerful message that should be passed down through the generations. The message that we are here to care for the earth and its other inhabitants and to show respect for them. I believe this now holds more weight with the impact of climate change and the decline in a lot of species of the animal kingdom as well as the destruction of the environment too. One day when I have children one of my projects I had scheduled in to do while I was pregnant was to build a Noah’s Ark and tell them the story of Noah, his Ark and all the animals he saved. How one man could make a difference upon the environment and hopefully make my children respect the environment as a result. I had recently mentioned this to my Dad, a keen model boat builder (as well as planes) and I was amazed when he sent me through these very intricate plans for an ark based upon a very loose sketch I had given him to go on. He had put in bulkheads and a keel into his design, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Along with the design were 8 pages of instructions on how to build it. I now have these plans stuck to my wall and look at them everyday, more in awe of my dad’s attention to detail than how to build the ark itself. I still needed a lot of bits to build the ark to my dad’s liking and so thought I would put this project to one side and do a couple of projects I had been asked to do, with the intention of gathering materials for it in the meantime. A couple of weeks ago however I received a text message from a very good friend of mine who was fitting a new kitchen sink into his worktop. It was solid oak and “was as hard as steel” and was asked if I wanted it otherwise it would be taken to the dump. This is the picture I received with the message. I said I would take it, although at the time had no idea what to do with it. While I awaited it’s arrival I came up with the idea of using the worktop to help me create the hull of a small Noah’s ark. A prototype if you will to the one my Dad had drew up for me. The plan was to laminate the worktop together, using the laminations from front to back (I’m not seaman so I’m sure someone will correct me with the proper term) to imitate the planking on the ark’s hull. When I received the top I had a bit of chipboard and screws to remove and then cut some excess bits off. You can see where I had started drawing on the wood to make sure my template for the hull fitted the worktop. I then had to plane off 10 years worth of Danish oil using a woody jack plane, which proved to be easier than I thought. The side profile template was then drawn onto the worktop Then cut into it’s sections. You can see that one of the laminations is running vertical, rather than horizontal. This wasn’t a problem as I would hold this piece in the middle and wouldn’t really be affected by the carving process as much as the others. These were then glued together and left over night to dry. After 24 hours the clamps came off and the top profile was ready to cut out. You can just make out the brown pencil marks on the deck and sides. To do this on such a curved surface in a big bandsaw would be too dangerous and so mounted the ark to a piece of scrap plywood to hold the ark at a good and safer position. Once roughed out, the f clamp I use to hold the work so my hands are well clear of the bandsaw blade. I then used the two screw holes I had used to mount the plywood to then mount a mounting block to. (Although this proved pretty useless in the long run as the sides of the ark were pretty flat for my vice jaws to hold.) The hull was then carved (Sorry I lost the picture of this) and then rasped to a more even finish. Next I worked on the deck. A 1cm line was marked all the way around the deck and then this was carved out. I decided to leave part of the middle section with the end grain face to create a sort of tenon for the housing for the cabin. The whole hull and deck were then sanded and cleaned up before work began on building the cabin. After much fettling on the deck the cabin was finally glued into place over the tenon. Once dried the windows were then drilled into place using a 8mm drill bit. Now came the tricky part of mounting the trim to the hull. I am a fan of adding contrasting wood to my carvings and a lot of the time I use Oak and Walnut. It was decided to use Walnut for the roof and also add a walnut trim around the top of the hull. This was done before the roof was mounted so I could get me clamps in place more easily. Strips of offcut walnut was ripped down and then soaked in boiling water for an hour before being held into place with lots of f clams and my carvers vice. This was done for both sides.
Once dried and the trim was reduced so it would meet the top of the hull (I had deliberately cut over the length to allow for mistakes at this stage and would also make lining up the bottom of the trim much easier too) The roof was then mounted into place. and then given a coat of shellac (you can see some of the animals I have already carved by the hull) Now a base needed to be added to hold the ark stable. It did already sit pretty stable, but wanted to mount it. This verson would be more for display than a toy. I bored into the bottom of the ark using the holes that were use to mount the mounting block and made two 16mm holes into the hull. I then used the piece of plywood that I used to original bandsaw the arks shape to make the two corresponding holes in the base. These then had two holes bored into them using a 15mm forstner bit. Two lengths of 16mm dowel (salvaged from something I was about to throw out) were then glued into the base (not the ark end yet as I would need to remove it to work more on the base).
I wanted to add waves to encase the ark. So I took some offcuts of softwood left over from Dave’s current project and ripped these in half. I then bandsawed waves out of them. Loosely assembled. The wave pieces were then sanded and glued together. Then they were painted. It made sense to paint the inside first before the base was fully assembled as the hull would make a lot of the areas difficult to reach. One coat was added to the outside but another coat would be added once the base was glued together. The ark was then glued to the base and left to dry overnight. The picture below shows the waves assembled, but these have not been glued into place yet. (Not the two white blobs on the roof – these are doves minus the olive branch) Gold paint was then added to the waves just to compliment the oak. Dave had suggested white at the top of the waves, but felt that this was too much and so opted for white. I was aiming for a folksy style and felt that gold would achieve this look much better.
Most of the animals were made from offcuts of ash I had left over from the garden bench I was building before this project. A profile was drawn and then cut out on the band saw before carving with a knife and then sanding. A number of people have made comments on how many animals I would have to carve but as the hull is solid oak and the deck surrounding the ark is quite narrow not as many animals had to be made. These would all be fixed in place as I decided early on that this would be a display piece and not a toy.
The first animal I made was the giraffe. It made sense to make the tallest animal first and then work down. The natural colour of the ash worked really well as the main colour of the giraffe and then painted spots onto them later on.
The next animals to be made were elephants and hippos. Both carved out of ash and then painted. The tusks for the elephants have been made from copper wire and then painted.
This project isn’t completely finished. I still have Noah and his long suffering wife to make, along with a few other animals, but am finding it a challenge to carve them as they are so small and so another method is needed. So I have decided to take a break from this project until I find a solution but felt it was at least ready to showcase on this blog.
I should add though that I still have offcuts of the worktop which I intend to use in another upcoming project so nothing will go to waste I hope.