The Amazing Wood Art of Sergei Bobkov

By Chuck Ray | Posted: 02/10/2013 10:20AM

 

  Many of you may have seen this story on Woodworking Network last July, but even though it has apparently made the rounds, I'll share it with those who may not have seen it. Oddity Central has the best background story I could find...

"53-year-old Sergei Bobkov has patented a unique technique of creating amazing sculptures out of Siberian cedar wood-chips.

“It’s not very interesting to do what others can. To create something out of nothing in a completely new way is far more inspiring.” This is how Bobkov explains the unique form of art that he created. He says many people compare his artworks to taxidermy, because they both look so much like the animals they replicate, but Sergei believes they are as different as light and darkness. Whereas taxidermy is all about death, his wood-chip art symbolizes life.

This resident of Kozhany, Russia, has developed his very own technique, that prevents wood-chips from falling apart, in time. After creating about 100-150 chips, from 2- to 3-inch long cedar stick, he puts them in water for several days. Then, making use of his surgical precision, he carves the chips into any shape he needs.

Bobkov has been doing this for some time now, but he has only created 11 wood-chip sculptures. That’s because just one of these incredible artworks takes around six months to complete, at a work rate of 10 to 12 hours a day, with no days off. Bobkov focuses on wildlife creatures, and he studies their anatomy for months, before starting work on a sculpture.

Even though he was offered $17,000 for his wood-chip eagle, Bobkov declined, saying his art is "not for sale."

The "Siberian cedar" mentioned in the story is an interesting story in itself. From the website "The Ringing Cedars of Russia" we learn, "The Siberian cedar may be rightfully considered our national tree, for it grows naturally almost exclusively in our country -- in the Urals, Siberia, Altai Krai (only 1% of the total area of cedar forests is found on the territory of the People's Republic of Mongolia). The cedar is the glory and pride of our forests. It is especially beautiful when it is blossoming, when the crimson-coloured male flowerhead shines brightly on the background of the dark green branches. Vladimir Chivilikhin had good reason to write that the cedar would be worth growing in our gardens and parks solely to see such lushly peaceful beauty on the thick green branches once a year."

Not a Real Cedar
Even more interesting to you dendrology and wood identification purists out there is the fact that Siberian cedar is not actually cedar at all, but the pine species Pinus sibirica, a member of the family of white pines that comprise the sub-genus Pinus strobus. It is well known in Europe for the value of its nuts. Again from the Ringing Cedars of Russia.

"Nevertheless, the main value of the Siberian cedar are its nuts. Cedar nuts collected in the environs of Leningrad (and, as an analysis has demonstrated, they are in no way inferior to those from Siberia) contain 61% oil, 20% proteins, and 12% carbohydrates. In Russia, as far back as the time of Ivan the Terrible, cedar nuts were an object of export. And in 1786, the Academician P. S. Pallas wrote, 'In Switzerland, cedar nuts are used in pharmacies; they are used to make a milk, which is prescribed for diseases involving the chest.... Because of their penetrating, delicate, somewhat balsamic oil, they are better than almonds, which is why it is maintained that they are used with benefit by people with consumption....'"

For a very long time in Siberia and in the Urals, from the kernels of cedar nuts was extracted an oil that possesses high-quality taste and nutritional properties, is easily assimilated by the body, and is rich in vitamins and minerals. It often surpasses the best types of olive oil. Siberians also prepare a vegetable-based cream from cedar nuts -- its fat content exceeds dairy cream by twofold. The value of cedar nut oil is well known not only by chefs, but also by artists: many famous masters have used it to dissolve their paints.

Cedar nuts contain a high quantity of vitamins, and in first place is vitamin E (tocopherol, which translated from the Greek means "bearing offspring"). In years of abundant harvests of cedar nuts, it is no wonder that the fertility of sables and squirrels increases significantly. The nuts also contain vitamin A, the group B vitamin complex, vitamin D, and trace elements essential for the human body: manganese, cobalt, zinc, and copper. There is data showing that the nuts bring relief in high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Even the shell of the nuts is also used in folk medicine: an infusion made from it is applied for hemorrhoids and salt deposits."

Long-time readers of my blogspot Go Wood may recall we discussed the possibility of cedar and pine possibly being confused in the identification of the type of wood used in the True Cross of Christ. You can see why from Mr. Bobkov's creations ... the larger flakes do resemble cedar, especially at first glance. But if you re-look at the largest wing feathers of the owl in the first two photographs, you see pine, if you're thinking pine. The confusion comes from the traditional Russian name for the tree, Сибирский кедр (tr. Sibirsky Kedr), which results in the translation of the name into cedar. So the "cedar nuts" discussed above are really pine nuts, which makes a lot more sense, when you think about it.

Another story that adds to our fascination with wood. Just when you think you've seen and heard it all...

Our congratulations to Mr. Bobkov for his imaginative and stunning use of wood. And thanks to all you readers who kept sending me the pictures ... you know a good story when you see one.


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About the Author

Chuck Ray, PennState, Associate Professor of Wood Operations

Chuck Ray

Dr. Charles D. “Chuck” Ray is Associate Professor of Wood Operations Research at Pennsylvania State University. His specialty is in the area of operations research, specifically those operational issues that confront the majority of the wood products sector. He previously spent 15 years in research and quality management for two large building products corporations, Temple-Inland Forest Products and Louisiana-Pacific. Ray is the sixth generation of his family to work in the sawmill industry, the Ray Brothers Lumber Company, established in East Texas before the turn of the last century. He can be reached at cdrpsu@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @ChuckDRay. He maintains an Extension website for Penn State at http://extension.psu.edu/woodpro and also writes a blog on all wood issues called Go Wood which can be found at http://gowood.blogspot.com.

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