Unique Primitive Antique Sailor's Carving Birds, Windmill, Wormwood
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Unique Primitive Antique Sailor's Carving Birds, Windmill, Wormwood:
Antique Primitive Sailor's Carvings, Birds, Windmill, Wormwood Conversation Piece!
This unique piece of folk art was purchased in Albert Lea, Minnesota from a woman who says it was made by a sailor on or before World War II, so I guess it would be considered original folk art.
This item has been crudely made, and the significance of a windmill with birds inside a piece of wormword has been long lost. It’s definitely a conversation piece, and extremely rare. I could find nothing similar to it.
The piece is about 15 ½ inches tall, about 8 inches wide and about 5 inches deep.
It looks like it is a from a timber.
Many of the holes have a silvery shine to them. I’m not sure this is from the Teredo worm or if the artist had a little aluminum paint that he very carefully applied. It does give a little more definition to the piece.
As you can see, there is a small bird attached to the blades of the windmill with a wire. Three other birds are loose, but I’m sure were attached by glue or wire in the past. The larger bird does fit into the windmill hole, as pictured, but could well be placed elsewhere. This larger bird shows a few remaining signs of formerly having real bird feathers attached to it.
The windmill itself shows signs of having been glued into the opening in the wormwood. It is 7 ½ inches tall, 2 ½ inches in diameter. The deer head above the little tunnel has a metal antler, but one of them is missing. The blade of the windmill does not turn, or at least does not turn easily, and I haven’t forced it. There is a small crack in one of the blades. Who knows what ship this beam is from, or how old it is! The wormwood piece itself has a few little saw marks showing from where the center was hollowed out, and there is a repair to the lower left of the shelf where two little rusty nails hold on a corner.
Wondering where the holes come from? It’s actually a clam!
The wood may drift in the ocean currents for weeks or months and travel many miles around the world before it comes to land. During this time at sea the wood is attacked by Teredo worms, often called ship's worms. These worms attach themselves as small larvae and grow in size as they bore into the wood. Softer woods can be almost completely consumed in a matter of time while hardwoods and woods that reach land sooner are less wormy. The worms die when the wood dries out of the water.
The ship's worms leave a calcium shell deposited in the wood and they bore into the wood getting bigger as they go, usually across the grain. The termites bore tunnels up and down the grain and leave small hard pellets behind. Carpenter ants usually excavate a small area and they will scare off when you shake the board. Shipworms, also called by mariners as the ‘termites of the sea’ belong to the genus called Teredo, the most notorious of which is Teredo navalis, originally native to the Caribbean Sea. It is actually a clam that tunnels through wood submerged in the sea.
Though the Teredo serves an ecological value in degrading timber that falls to the ocean, it has also caused considerable damage to wooden boats even since man first ventured out to sea. Shipworms have been a bane to ancient mariners till the advent of copper clad ships by the 18th century and modern toxic coatings.
These boring clams weakened the unprotected wooden hulls of ships to the point that they break apart in the open sea without any warning. The Greeks and the Phoenicians certainly knew about them since 3,000 BC, lathering the hulls of their ships with wax and tar to keep them away. The Romans used combinations of lead, tar and pitch to cover their boat.