Saturday, October 01, 2005

Getting Started on a Carving Commission

With this blog I'm planning to record my progress in making my latest carving commission. The client wants a bluebird carving and I don't anticipate too much trouble in making it. I've already put in quite a few hours in research, planning and preliminary development, but now that the deadline is drawing nearer I going to turn and burn and get it done by the end of this month. If I work a few hours each day I will make it.

First decision necessary was how to present the bird, since I won't make a 'bird on a stick' carving. I decided to place the male Eastern Bluebird on an old, weatherbeaten, cedar fencepost; and place a grasshopper in his beak. He will be looking over his shoulder to make sure there are no predators nearby, before he brings the food to his youngsters. On the side of the fencepost is a hole that was probably carved by a woodpecker looking for bugs. In the hole are three hungry, squawking baby bluebirds.

The next task was to research bluebirds and make a clay model. This is a rough clay sketch of the basic gesture of the bird. Then I used a plastic triangle to transfer the outline of the clay model to a piece of paper. It is important that there be enough wood on the blank to carve all the features of the bird, so he may look a little chubby.Now I can cut out the pattern, trace it onto a block of tupelo wood, and cut out the blank from which I'll carve the bird. Notice how strange the top view is because the head is turned and is subsumed by the outline of the body. I had tried to sketch this out without the clay model but found it impossible to visualize this relationship.

After bandsawing the block following the pattern lines I had a decidedly weird looking block of wood. It will take a lot of wood removal to make it look like a bird. The top three pieces show the original block and the waste cut from around the bird. Notice that although the sketch and clay model had the bird looking over his right shoulder, he is now looking to his left. Minor detail resulting from placing the pattern on the bottom of the block instead of the top of the block and failing to turn the pattern over. Not to worry, he will look just as good this way.

After a couple of hours of careful power carving the bird looks a lot more viable. I am trying a new carving technique espoused by the new book on which the bird is resting. The author starts from the beak, getting that oriented correctly and partly formed, and then takes all succeeding measurements from that point back. This is the 7th book I've bought on carving birds. You can never have too much reference material.


Bryan said...

i could never carve a bird like that. my hand would spasm as i was cutting it and totally FUBAR it.

Bill T said...

good idea on how to do a blue jay and also like the idea of the clay model which would allow u to make changes to a standard lookin bird face can be moved that way

Larry said...

I have no artistic talent at all...but I certainly admire those who do. Looks like you are off to a great start. I look forward to watching your progress.

Anonymous said...

Had a look at your birds and harp. Very well done.
Comment about mistakes when harp making;
It is not the mistakes you make, because you will, it is how you can integrate them into the design.
Quilters say, " if you make one mistake don't worry but do the same thing two or three more time and it becomes a design variation!"

Anonymous said...

These carvings are great. You must need a keen eye and fingers of a surgeon.Really enjoyed your carvings.

Anonymous said...

really beautiful.

Well done.