HOBO “Sluggs”

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Hobos

HOBO SLUGGSA “Slug” is sometimes referred to as a “slow and lazy person” as in “sluggard.” It  also refers to gulping down a drink, a type setting term used in the old printing business, a fist punch thrown in a fight, a bullet and a counterfeit metal disk inserted into an old time slot machine.  In the case of HOBO “SLUGGS” the nickname is for a shiftless traveler of the road who is thought to be a lazy person but in this hobo’s case he is “slow” by never getting in a hurry as in taking life “slow and easy.”

Such a “slow and easy” temperament makes “Sluggs” a likable character who wiggles his way into the heart of everyone he meets.  His outer appearance may show the wear and tear of the hobo way of life while the aura of his personality suggests that pretense does not always tell the true story.  “Slow and easy,” is to savor each moment of the day, relish the strength of friendship and bask in the wealth of memories remembered and being made.  Sluggs reminds us that we all cannot be footloose and fancy free but we can take life “slow and easy” by not taking ourselves so seriously by taking time to enjoy the journey instead of eying the destination that is often illusive.


Sluggs began as a six inch tall by two inch square block of basswood.  An imaginative mental picture guided the removal and shaping of wood to the basic form of a hobo relaxed in his momentary stance with a far off look in his eyes as he chomped down on the stub of a cigar while leaning on his bindle bag walking stick.


The top corners of the square block were removed on three corners to begin shaping an area for the hat and head of Sluggs.  The fourth corner remained as the location for the top of the bindle bag walking stick.  A center line was drawn across the top to indicate the direction that Sluggs would be looking as well as a guide for carving the top of his hat into the basic form of a hat by keeping each half on either side of the center line in visual symmetry.  Once the top of the hat was carved to its basic form the head is carved as going up into the hat.  Notice in the three progressive photographs of the head being carved first to form and then to more precise form to be able to receive the final facial detail later in the carving process.  Notice also how extra wood is formed for what will be the cigar stub and its subsequent development.


When the hat and head are carved to basic form the rest of the block of wood is divided into thirds between the shoulders and bottom of feet using the Rule of Three of Body Proportions: Shoulder to Waist is one third; Waist to Mid Knees is one third; and Mid Knees to Bottom of Feet is one third.  These divisions are indicated by the three horizontal red lines on all four sides of the block. Within these Rule of Three guidelines the arms, torso, legs, clothing and accessories are drawn on the block as a road map to guide in removing and shaping the wood into the basic form of the Hobo Sluggs.


The three knives used to carve Sluggs are WOOD BEE CARVER signature knives made by Helvie knives.  The two knives in the photos of the hobo being carved are the Bumble BEE ~ # 13 and the Hornet BEE ~ # 10. The third knife was the Wasp BEE ~ 14 used in the detail carving process.


HOBO SLUGGSThe pose with the bindle bag and walking stick being held by the right hand in a position upright beside Sluggs was chosen to fulfill the plan to carve everything associated with the hobo image out of one block of wood.  To position the walking stick and bindle bag over one shoulder would have created a design problem as well as requiring a larger block of wood to accommodate that pose. The flaring of the coat tail, the shirt tail handing out of pants, the crooked walking stick and the posture of Sluggs all suggest a sense of movement.  The tears and patches on the clothing, the crumpled hat and toes coming out of the shoes all add interest for the hobo wardrobe motif.

Wood burning of the stitches around the patches, the flowers on the bindle bag and the plaid outline of the coat added texture and contrast to the areas that would be colored with artist oil paint and boiled linseed oil mixture as a see through stain.

The basic design of this hobo carving has been carved several times before with slight innovations made with each successive carving of the same design.  This is done with the realization that each carving project is a learning project and what is learned in the previous project becomes a guide for carving the next project.  In the end, even though the basic design is similar yet each carving is unique and distinct in its own right making each carving have a personality of its own.  Sluggs has his own personality that says “slow and easy” is the way to go. “Slow and easy” is also the way to carve because “wood carving is more the journey than the destination,” and Sluggs leads us in that journey.


This entry was posted on Friday, June 27th, 2014 at 7:56 pm and is filed under Carving Projects, Hobos. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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