English Sheep Shears • Oil • Tool Portraits by John Morfis

English Sheep Shears Painting

English Sheep Shears • Oil • Tool Portraits by John MorfisThis is one of these ancient hand tools that I just stood and looked at for a while. It’s very much a one-piece construction as there are no joints or moving parts of any kind. Actually, under closer inspection I can see that the sheer’s blades are welded onto the handle. Even still, nothing moves and for all intents and purposes it’s a single unit of metal that makes up the entire tool.

The rounded part up top acts simultaneously as both a hinge and a spring. It’s kind of clever isn’t it?

Given to me by my Uncle Ted, with a whole box of other rusty tools, this pair of shears is well over 100 years old. I was able to track down some information about them and it turns out they were made and used in England in the 1800s.

They were actually marketed under a dual purpose. They were sold as sheep shears as a way to trim the wool off sheep. But, they were also sold as hand clippers or pruners for use around the yard and garden.

Either way they definitely have more than their fair share of rust.

I used burnt sienna and yellow ochre for most of the rust. The challenge was painting the three dimensional aspect to the rusty spots, especially as they turned the form. I mixed up a color string using the rusty colors I just mentioned plus black paint and did my best to alter the rusty values from lighter to darker.

Some of the rust was so built-up it had a pronounced effect that actually made it stick up off the metal. You’ll never see it in this size photograph of the painting, but I accomplished painting those effects by highlighting the tops of the rusty spots and shadowing the underneath sections

Have you ever seen a pair of shears like this before?


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