Designer Adenium Stem Sculpture 4 - Lantern

Among the Adenium (Desert Rose) Stem Sculptures I've created, the Lantern Design is by far the trickiest. It is perhaps the cutting or carving of the Adenium for the pattern you're after is not naturally intuitive.

Without a design plan, or not following it correctly, you can have unwanted and, oftentimes, awful results.

So what I wrote in this article was to simplify the planning and cutting processes that will yield the pattern you'll need to execute the design.

And when you've successfully cut or carved the Adenium plant (photo below), you're in for a treat! (see inset)

Understanding the Design Pattern

The cutting technique that is used to create the Lantern Design is an X-Pattern. How the The X-Pattern appears is better appreciated and illustrated in the short video below of a pre-cut corrugated board.

Notice that it looks like a cut-up board at the start. When pulled apart sideways, you'll see it stretch and the "X" pattern appears. This cutting technique has plenty of applications in craftmaking.

To perform this cutting technique on an Adenium plant, I highly recommended for a beginner to make a cheat sheet to follow. The diagram below helps you better understand where and how to make the cuts on the stem.

For this pattern, I prefer masking tapes over pens to make the cutting marks on the plant. In the diagram below, the cuts are in blue.

I intentionally did not put any measurements above. This is because the diagram simply describes the basic cutting technique for the model. Adopt the dimensions that will result in the appearance you prefer.

However, just for reference, I put the dimensions I used for the Adenium plant that I'm showing for demonstration. They're the same dimensions I used for the Adenium in the video at the end of this article.

Creating the Lantern Design

This Desert Rose plant I used for this project is around 2 years old and has a diameter of 3/4 inch. That's the average diameter. The neck near the base has a diameter of around 1 1/2 inches and tapers a bit towards the top.

Here's a general rule of thumb regarding Adenium stem sculpture. The thicker your Adenium or Desert Rose plant is, the more opportunities for various designs open up for you.

See, you can only do so much cutting on an Adenium stem. So the thicker the stem, the more chances the cut parts would be able to heal and for you to retain your Adenium sculpture.

Realize though that, oftentimes, when you're working on a thick stem, you may also be dealing with a mature plant that would have a harder trunk that's a bit more difficult to cut.

Tools and Materials for the Adenium Stem Sculpture

This Adenium sculpture project would need a few simple tools and materials.

  • Ruler - For measuring the cuts that will be made on the Adenium stem and the distances from each other.
  • Pen Marker - For marking out the points. If possible, use a fine permanent marker.
  • Masking Tape - For this plant, a masking tape that has a width of 1/2 inch was used.
  • Cutter - For cutting the Adenium plant stem. You may also use a small very sharp knife or even a razor blade if you're adept at using one.
  • Bamboo Sticks - Any thin bamboo sticks or skewers will do. These will be broken up later into 2 or 3 inch lengths.
  • Cinnamon Powder - This is ordinary cinnamon powder used for cooking or baking. You only need a little, maybe a tablespoon full.
  • Cotton Buds Stick - You could also use a small brush like a fingernail polish brush or something similar for applying the cinnamon powder.
  • Plastic Bottle Caps - Caps for small jars may also be used. You will need three of these. These will be used as spacers.
  • Tie wires - These are thin insulated wires for tying the plant. Twist ties are an alternative.

Marking the Adenium Stem

  1. The stem is 18 inches high. However, there is only about 11 inches to work on because the rest of the stem is too thin and too young to cut.

  2. Locate the base of the neck of the Adenium stem. This would be sitting on top of the Adenium caudex. Mark this spot with a pen marker. Cut a piece of masking tape that is 2 or 4 inches long.

    Wrap a piece of masking tape around this part of the stem. A 1/2-inch wide masking tape works well for a thin stem like the one below. Wrap the stem completely, but only once, around.

  3. Mark a point that is 5 inches above the first tape. Five(5) inches here is arbitrary. Since I have a working length of 11 inches on the stem, I planned on having two consecutive cuts that were 5 inches long along this working length.

  4. Wrap another piece of masking tape at this point. Masking tapes here are only used to mark the stem. Wrap around the stem only once, but be sure to completely go around it with just a small overlap. There is no need, and is counterproductive and wasteful, to have a thick piece of tape on the stem.

  5. Mark another point that is also 5 inches above the second tape. Wrap another masking tape on this third point. There are now three points on the stem with masking tapes

  6. Find the midpoints of these three points. Mark them and and apply masking tapes as well. Shown below is the first midpoint marked with a pen.

  7. Shown below is the second midpoint being taped. The masking tapes are only meant to be reference points. They're easier to see and won't smudge off like pen marker ink.

  8. For discussion purposes in this article, the 5 taped points will be named Tape 1, Tape 2, Tape 3, Tape 4, and Tape 5. The names are in the order from top to bottom as shown below. Secure all 5 tapes on the stem so none of them is loose.

  9. The distance every other tape is 5 inches. So that means Tape 1 to Tape 3 is 5 inches. Tape 2 to Tape 4 (as shown below) is 5 inches. Tape 3 to Tape 5 is 5 inches. All cuts in this particular lantern design will have the same measurements.

Cutting the X-Pattern

  1. The X-pattern is the cutting technique for creating the lantern design. It is also the basic cutting technique that will allow you to make other designs like a vase, a tower, and more.

    Make a vertical shallow cut from Tape 1 to Tape 3. The blade does not start on the tape but just beneath it at the tape's bottom edge as shown below.

  2. The shallow cut provides a line for you to follow later and serves as a cutting guide for the blade in the actual cut. It is a good practice to have for beginners. Continue making the shallow cut through Tape 2 as shown below.

    This is the first pass. Be sure all cutting tools have been wiped clean with rubbing alcohol.

  3. Now on the second pass, make a penetrating cut on the same etched line. Ensure the cutter blade passes through the centerline of the stem and goes out the opposite side.

  4. Cut with a rocking motion with downward pressure to easily slice down the stem. Occasionally, turn the stem to see how the blade cuts on the opposite side. Enure cuts made on both sides are vertical, straight, and even.

  5. Proceed cutting through Tape 2. Check both sides of the stem for evenness.

  6. End the first cut on the top edge of Tape 3 and not on the tape itself as shown below. Notice that the cutter just sliced through Tape 2 completely.

  7. The second cut is from tape 3 to tape 5. The cut starts from beneath Tape 3, at its bottom edge. Tape 3 itself is just a margin or border only and not to be cut. The second cut is along the same line as the first cut.

    As with the first cut, etch a line along the second cut then make the real penetrating cut all the way through.

  8. The 2 cuts on one side measure 5 inches each. The resulting cuts on the opposite side should also measure the same.

  9. Turn the plant by 90 degrees (quarter turn). It doesn't matter if you turn the stem to the right or left. After turning, the first two cuts are partly hidden from the camera angle in the photo below. My thumb and fingers are touching the first cut.

    Now we're ready for the third and final cut for this design. This is the side where the third cut will be made.

  10. The third cut will be from Tape 2 to Tape 4. Do the same cutting techniques performed earlier. Hold the sterm firmly because this part of the stem has been cut earlier and the stem is not as rigid.

  11. Turn the stem occasionally to ensure uniformity in the cuts. Continue cutting through Tape 3 as shown below.

  12. Ensure all cuts are complete and flush at the ends. Below, the cutter was reversed so the sharp edge of the blade faces up. Slice upward until the edge of the tape.

Opening the Cuts

  1. The three cuts have now been completed and it's time to open them. Simply use your fingers to slowly open up a cut as shown below.

  2. Prepare a couple of bamboo wedges by breaking a thin bamboo stick into lengths of around 2 inches. Once the cut has been open, insert a bamboo wedge into the slit. Slowly slide the wedge toward the top edge of the slit.

  3. Insert another bamboo wedge and put it at the bottom edge of the slit. By putting in the wedges, the slit remains open.

  4. Insert a pair of bamboo wedges for the other two slits as well. The Adenium plant stem will now look like the one below. The wedges separate and keep the cut stem parts apart

Applying Cinnamon Powder

  1. With the fresh cuts now opened, it is best to apply cinnamon powder as soon as possible. Dip a stick of cotton buds (Q-tips) or a small brush in cinnamon powder. This is the same brown or reddish brown powder used in cooking and baking.

  2. Brush the cinnamon powder on the insides of the newly cut stem parts. Apart from being a good rooting agent, cinnamon is anti-fungal. It prevents damping-off disease that affects newly cut plants.

  3. Apply the powder liberally. Even if cinnamon poweder fall on the soil or inside the pot, it isn't necessarily wasted. Cinnamon powder that falls on the soil will kill fungal spores. This stops possible fungal infection from killing the plant.

Removing Tape Markers and Wedges

  1. As mentioned earlier, the masking tapes have no other function other than serve as visual markers. They don't hold or bind anything as tapes. They could have been removed earlier on after the cuts were completed. So carefully remove them now.

  2. With the cinnamon powder applied, carefully remove the bamboo wedges by easing and sliding them out.

Inserting Bamboo Spacers

  1. It's now time to aerate the cuts and let them heal. Before doing that, put some bamboo spacers that will help in the drying process and stretch the cut parts of the Adenium stem.

  2. Break some thin bamboo sticks into lengths of 2.5 to 3 inches. These will be used as spacers.

  3. Gently pull apart the cut parts of the stem. Carefully insert the bamboo spacers in the slit such that both ends of the spacer push out the cut parts as shown below.

  4. Here, you will find the recognizable "X" pattern utilized by this design. The bamboo spacer stretches the cut parts away from each other.

    The longer the spacer, the wider the cut parts are stretched. Be careful not to overstretch to avoid tearing or breaking the stem.

  5. The Desert Rose plant may no longer stand by itself, so put a stake to support it. Tie the top with a tie wire or straw to keep the plant upright.

  6. Avoid disturbing and getting the plant wet for 3 days. If possible, put it in a spot where there are no pets or animals that may disturb or topple it. Avoid places where there are strong winds also.

    There is no need to put a plastic bag over it as the trapped moisture may encourage the growth of mold. It is best to let it air-dry in the shade where there is bright light.

Remove the Bamboo Spacers

  1. After 3 days, the cut stem parts would have been stretched and well-aerated. Untie the support stake and remove it. With the support stake removed, the Adenium plant manages to stay upright.

  2. With your fingers, open up the stem parts so you could carefully remove the bamboo spacers. Take care to do this slowly. Notice that the cut stem parts are now dry.

    They have browned, partly because of the cinnamon, and slightly hardened. Even then, the stem can still be bent or formed.

  3. At this point, you may want to keep the plant upright by adding rocks and inserting them into the pot. You could them move them around until the the Adenium plant is upright enough.

Bending and Shaping the Stem

  1. Bend the stem parts to achieve the desired shape and form. Use your fingers to manipulate every part of the stem.

  2. For more rounded curves in your design, use round spacers. The round spacers here are plastic bottle caps. You may also use small jar caps. Slightly pull apart the cut stem parts and carefully insert the plastic cap.

  3. Put the same-size round spacers in all the three cuts if you wish to get a uniform look.

  4. Plant a stake into the pot and tie the top of the plant into the stake to support the Adenium and keep it upright. Use tie wires as these are more rigid and can provide a gap between the stake and the Adenium stem.

  5. Tie the other parts as well to keep the plant stable, upright and rigid. The Adenium plant will grow and harden in the configuration you set. Do consider that the cut parts will thicken over time as the plant matures.

  6. The round spacers and the stake are only temporary. As before, keep the plant in an undisturbed place and avoid it getting wet. Put it in the shade where there is bright light for at least 2 weeks

  7. After 2 weeks, there is full recovery and we have a thriving plant.

Video Tutorial

In summary, here's the video tutorial of the procedures:

Happy Carving!

Go ahead, post your comment below!

Unknown said...

amazing work.. appreciated.

Blackdove said...

Thank you. Do share!

Anonymous said...

Very detailed explanation. I'm inspired to make this a summer project!

Blackdove said...

Thank you. Go for it this summer!