Saturday 24 October 2009


A few pictures of a magpie

I have used light fast wood dyes to stain the wood.This design is far more complicated to make, because of the long tail feathers.

Monday 19 October 2009

Fan birds, the Raven

The raven and my fan bird making bench.

The raven - the first fan bird that I designed and made to represent a particular species of bird. All the birds I have made so far have been a stylized representation of a generic bird. I like ravens, very intelligent birds, like most of the crow family. A bird for this time of year with Halloween coming up soon. Made in the same way as any other fan birds, but with a bigger belly and a big beak, and then stained black.

It is very easy to get into a rut and just make what you usually make. Changing a design can result in failures and potentially wasted time, it is easier to make what you know.
This raven is hopefully just the start of many different bird designs.

As I said in my last post, I played around with some beech, and the wing tips had this lovely graceful curve. What I did not say was that I found another piece of beech at the Cranbourne Chase Wood Fair and tried to make another one with the same effect, as a public demonstration. Everything was going really well until I started the final thinning of the hinge, and the fanning out of the feathers. They started falling out, and by the time I had completed the interlocking of the feathers I only had half of them left. I gave the bird a small shake and the remaining interlocked feathers came loose. I was left holding a birds body, a complete failure and in front of 20 people as well.
As I explained to my audience it was not a total failure, such failures often hold a few lessons. The beech I used previously was green but had been cut down and left for some time. The beech I had used in my demonstration was very green and had been cut recently. The conclusion is that beech needs to mellow before making fan birds, just like hazel hurdle makers do with their hazel, they cut it in the winter and leave it for a least six weeks before using it, as it splits and works better after it has stood for a bit. I have also always found that beech does not split straight and tends to run off. I have never used that much beech in my career and I am not an expert on it like oak and ash. Is it me or is beech a bit of a sod to split straight?

I have stopped using a shaving horse on which to carve my birds and have made a dedicated bench. It is essentially a post vice that stands up on its own owing to the fact it was made from an ash tree trunk that split into 3 branches. I used a single vice screw and some 3 x 4 inch sections of dried oak beam I have lying about the workshop. All my tools are to hand, hanging off pegs or slotted into holes drilled into the bench.

Seen above is another use for this bench, and it is to make kuksas. I am using a French clog makers hook knife to cut out the inside of the bowl. The great thing is that I can walk all around the bench. I am sure I will find many other uses for this bench in time.

Monday 12 October 2009

Cranbourne Chase Woodfair

Cranbourne Chase Woodfair

The last Woodfair of the season, outside in October! I decided that I would not have the energy to put up my marquee and that if I did it would come home wet, and would have to be dried out. So I booked a space in the big marquee and did fan bird carving demonstrations.

This Wood fair had a competition with three winners in three classes and so I entered all three classes and I won "Best small Piece", not jokes please. It is great to be recognised as one of the three of the best in the show. Below is the fan bird I entered, which is made of beech, an interesting wood as it curled a bit when I rived the wings, and as you can see it has made a lovely cup shape.

I met Owen Jones again, and at last managed to spend some quality time talking about fan birds and other stuff. He has been making small birds for some years now and said he must have made a couple of hundred. Owen make them with only a penknife and uses pine. I like them, they have a naive simplicity to them, and I like the shape of the body.

The birds are photographed on his oak swill baskets, so have a look at his web site

I am always interested in seeing other people's fan birds, so send me photos if you have ever made any, or seen any made by other people.