About Me

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I am an artist working in Water Color, Oils, Glass and wood in North Central Indiana. I enjoy Plein Aire work the most but often find myself in the studio during the winter when the weather is less than desirable for working on location. I have always been an artist, memories of drawing are some of my oldest. My early influence came from looking at old magazine covers done by Norman Rockwell. Later I discovered the photography of Edward Curtis as he had struggled to capture the American Indians of the Southwest before that culture completely disappeared. then I found Andrew Wyeth and knew what I wanted to paint. The Egg Tempera and Water Color Paintings of Andrew Wyeth were simply wonderful and I was forever committed to painting the rural landscape and those that live there. It was then I realized I would never again see the land as I had before I painted it. Soon after it was Winslow Homer and his Water Colors that kept feeding my interest in this medium and a traditional approach to my art. While I left the life as a professional artist for a time I find my return to it at this point in my life refreshing. Life is a journey and I am turning towards home. Mike Yazel

Monday, March 22, 2010

Early Carved Wall Shelf

   The following pictures are of an early wall shelf with a carved front. The piece is about 24 inches tall and is made from Sassafras. The entire front is decorated with carving in a style keeping with the period of the late 1600's to about 1725. This little shelf is in a style I intend to pursue as I enjoy this type of work. I will be doing a chest in the "Hadley"style later this spring. Thanks for stopping by and having a look. This piece is sold, if you are interested in something similar please contact me at myazel@medt.com. Thanks for looking!

Hers is a full view of the piece showing the entire front and all of the decoration. The moulding on the back panels was done with a hand plane along with the joint between the separate boards making up the back. 


    Here is a detail shot of the upper center carving of the shelf. The concave moulding surrounding the openings was simply cut with a sharp gouge which is the easiest way for me to do it. The entire front was carved with 6-7 tools which is the case with much of this type of carving. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Moravian Chair

   Here are a couple of pics of a chair I have been working on. These chairs are early in period, late 1600's into the mid 1700's normally associated with an area where the Carolina's are today. Some were plain and some were heavily decorated with carving and sometimes paint. They use a thin seat with two cleats dovetailed into it that the legs are then set into and the back tenons pierce making for a rather delicate looking chair.

Here is the entire chair showing the carved back and seat with a green milk paint on it. 

This is a closer view of the carved back and shows the two tenons that hold it in place. They are each secured with a wedge below the seat. 

This is the back as it was nearing completion on the carving bench. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sounds of Spring

   Well it is not art and I am not even going to post a picture but wanted to say that the sounds of spring are returning to the landscape. In the last week while being in the woods collecting sap I have heard the Sandhill Cranes passing high overhead out of my limited sight from within the woods. Last night was the first of the spring peepers calling so as the old saying goes they will need to call three more times before it is spring which means the weather needs to cool down and warm up three more times for it to be spring. One other sound coming from low wooded areas just at dusk was the Woodcocks calling to one another which means they are stopping by on their migration north. All add to the chorus of sounds that define spring and it is all wonderful. Enjoy the season!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Now thats Syrup!

Here is a shot of boiling hot syrup being checked with the Hydrometer to make sure it is syrup. That little red line hovering just above the liquid shows that it has the right specific gravity for the correct sugar content that proves this is indeed maple syrup. I use this a couple of times a day to check the thermometer as barometric pressure changes during the day moving the boiling point. 

Here is the thermometer just over the 7 degree mark which is 7 degrees above the boiling point of water which is the correct temperature for maple syrup. This right when I would start to draw off the syrup and would continue until it drops back down to just below the 7.  Using this and the hydrometer is the best system I have found to ensure each batch is just right that I have found for my operation. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cooking Syrup

  Here are some pics from today around the sugarhouse. Thought some might find this interesting.

  This is a shot of the syrup pan with fresh sap in it right after I flooded the pans for the first time this year. You can see it is as clear as water, as the season goes on it will continue to darken as it  comes out of the trees as they push more nutrients up the tree in preparation for leafing out. 

  This is shot of the floatbox that controls the incoming sap into the sap pan. The sap comes from the holding tank outside through the preheater in the in the steam hood which uses the outgoing steam to preheat the incoming sap raising its temperature as much as a 100 degrees which increases the efficiency of the evaporator by 20-30%. Today it was running 25-30 gallons of sap an hour but it was an ideal day for cooking. 

This is the front floatbox which controls the flow of sap into the syrup pan, both of these floats are adjustable and require some attention throughout the day. Notice I have a plug in place here restricting flow into the floatbox which will be removed as I flood the pans with fresh sap. 

   This is the view everyone with a sugarhouse wants to see when they open the big door at the beginning of the sugar season. I will use between 2 and 3 cords of wood to cook off the water each year.  A cord of stacked wood measures 4 feet wide by 4 feet high and 8 feet long. These things are hungry, very hungry! 


Here is a shot down the float side of the machine showing everything in place right after I lit up for the day. I put all of this together this morning getting things ready to go. everything will stay in place until the season ends. I might pull the the syrup pan if we get a break and clean the sugarsand that builds up on it and reduces its heat transfer abilities. I use vinegar to break down the buildups on the pans and will let it soak with vinegar in it for a couple of weeks after the season ends to make cleanup easier. 

Here you can see steam coming out of the cupola and if you look close can see the heat coming out of the stack. That is a 10 inch diameter stack running wide open so you can see why we need so much wood. My sap pan is what is called a raised flue pan which means it has 5 inch tall corrugations in its bottom to increase the surface area for heat transfer. When I flood the pans it takes about 25 gallons of sap, from the time I light the fire it will bring all of that cold sap to a rolling boil in 15 minutes so you can see these things are well designed for their intended purpose. I try and run my stack at 600 degrees which is about all she will do and is controlled by fuel load and an air damper at the firebox. 

This is the syrup pan at the end of the day and you can see the color change as the sugar is concentrated. This will make syrup right after startup in the morning and then I will pull off syrup about every 1 1/2-2 hours until we quit in a few weeks. I pull just under a gallon each time if everything is going right. 

   This is a shot of the magic thermometer on the outlet side of the syrup pan. You notice it starts at 0 then has a 7 and then on to 50. These are adjustable which makes them even more interesting! What we do is boil this in the morning before we start and set it at 0 when we reach a rolling boil for 5 minutes in plain water. Because the boiling point of water changes with barometric pressure and we have to have a true 0 to know where we are with the syrup we do this with any change in the ambient pressure. Then when it reads 7 we are at the correct concentration of sugar to have syrup. I will show this tomorrow when I have syrup so you can see what it looks like. To make sure things are right I also use a Hydrometer which tells us the specific gravity of the syrup at 220 degrees F. I will try and get a shot of that also. 

Here is the sugar house at quitting time. The cardboard on the floor helps save the knees when shoving wood in the firebox which you have to do about 5-7 minutes. Hope you enjoyed the tour of my syrup operation! 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Syrup Season!

  Okay this is not art but it is neat and a good excuse to be in the woods where I do get ideas for more art so see it all ties together! I put out about 250 taps in the spring just as it begins to warm up trying to catch the best window of cold nights and warm days before the trees shut down the tap holes. Once the nights warm up and stay that way the temperature between the roots and the tree equalize and the run is over and spring is here. Warm ups and cold spell during the sugar season can both shut the trees down but they will start back up when the conditions are right again until things warmup for good and the tree is ready to push leaves out. Here are some pictures from today.

This is my mini truck I use around the place hauling firewood and sap. It is 4 wheel drive which is a must this time of year in the woods! You can see some tube and one of the bins I catch the sap in. 

Another shot of the truck, you can see the tanks in the back and the pump line in the tub here. I collect by myself and this system is pretty efficient for me. On a good day I might bring in over 300 gallons of sap so anything that makes it easier helps. You can see the mini has ATV tires on it and if you notice the water and ice in the background you understand the reason for the tires. 

Here is a shot of a tub with some ice from the cold night still in the tank. I try to get out in the morning before the frost melts off so the ground is still stiff from the cold over night. When things pick up the tubs are full in the morning and I have to get it back to the holding tank and through the evaporator. Sap spoils just like milk so it is important to cook it as soon as you can. About every 1000 gallons of sap will use a cord of wood to cook off into syrup on my setup. My evaporator is a 2x6 foot with a steam hood to preheat the incoming sap. On a good day it will do over 30 gallons of sap an hour which is still a lot of cooking when you have to burn off 40 gallons of water to make a gallon of syrup! I will post some shots of the sugarhouse later.