Porcupine Toothpick Holder
The idea for this carving project came to me while cleaning up broken caragana branches (see Sidebar) in my mother-in-law’s garden a number of years ago. I wanted the design to be simple as I had just started carving a short time earlier, and my tools consisted of a V-tool and two gouges.
This is a relatively easy piece to carve if you follow the instructions. You should end up with a well-armed conversation piece whose tail makes a neat handle.
When the porcupine is dry, add the toothpicks and set it on the kitchen table.
If you are not from the prairies it is unlikely that you will be familiar with caragana wood, as it is not native to Canada. The caragana shrub is native to the steppes of central Russia and, therefore, is well adapted to the extremes of a central continental climate like the prairies. It was brought by Russian immigrants that came to homestead on the prairies. The shrub’s hardiness was taken advantage of by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act to provide windbreaks and to prevent soil erosion. In the past it was common to see neatly trimmed caragana hedges around farm yards as well as in urban settings. In the fields, or as windbreaks, they grow to approximately 15 feet high, with trunks commonly 2″ to 3″ at the base, and occasionally up to 5″. Its weakness is that it rots readily when the stem gets large and old. When harvesting it for carving, the bottom foot or two has to be discarded as it will have rotten heartwood. The sapwood is off-white with a tinge of yellow, while the heartwood can vary from bright reds on the outside to shades of brown inside, or it can be the same color as the sapwood if it has grown in a sheltered place.