Tuesday 24 July 2012

Fan birds, blackbirds and traditional 4 piece birds

I have been developing and making some new birds. I have managed to make a decent blackbird and a way of quickly making the tail longer than the bottom  wing feathers. I love watching the blackbird and listening to them. The shape and colour of the male blackbird is beautiful, and the way it flies low to the ground and twitches its tail is typical of this species.

I have also been making 4 part birds, doves, similar to ones I  saw in the Pinto collection at the Birmingham Museum (sorry no photos, as I do not have permissions to publish the ones I took). These have 3 holes drilled into the tail and body, and separately made feathers are glued into these holes. I find this a hassle to do and so far prefer to keep the feathers attached to a small plug of wood which is then glued into the holes; but, aware that wood shrinks as it dries, I can not put these together straight away.

I had one of the best shows selling fan birds, at Exeter Craft Fair, and nearly sold out. This is heartening because I have had a year of bad shows, because of the rain and the economy and my van dying, etc. I met a Swiss woman there, who said that people hung birds in their houses to bring peace into the family home.
I have been talking to Sally Nye who with her husband David, has done some amazing research throughout Russia, Europe and the USA on fan birds.
A story from the comments section of an article they wrote:

"We had heard many times that the lumberjacks, or woodsmen, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, would make these birds in the evening while gathered around a fire for warmth and companionship. Once completed the birds would be tossed into a box to be used as kindling by the cook come morning to get the wood stove started. Many of these men were of Finnish or Scandinavian descent. They are beautiful that mass production can't compare."(sic)

I would never dream of doing such a thing, but I have burnt many failed ones myself, and I have had a fair few failures, or ones that get broken. This attitude reminds me that there is great joy in doing, and that it is not always the outcome that is important, but the making. Anyway David and Sally's website is http://www.FanCarversWorld.com/index.html

On another note I just want to show how the feathers are rived, i.e. split, just like splitting firewood but more controlled. Often I have noticed how the wood split follows the grain; the photo below is not the most extreme example of this but look at the bottom 10 feathers and you will see the kink.
 This photo is taken in raking light and is typical of a split surface. I use a very sharp riving knife, but it goes to show that the cutting edge is only important when starting. I have also come across a guy on a bushcraft forum who uses a kitchen knife, especially because it it is thin in cross section.

Friday 20 July 2012

Coracle fishing a family tradition

A video short on Raymond Rees and his son Malcolm on coracle fishing in Wales http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18819075
Thanks to Chris Grant for bringing this to my attention.

Saturday 14 July 2012

New shaving horse

Peter Galbert, chair maker, has come up with a new shave horse design, I have just made one and I am very impressed with it. One of my main problems with these tools is the time it takes to change the height of the head so that I can use smaller or larger billets of wood. In the past if I was shaving a largish bit of wood and then needed to do small spindles then my legs would be at full stretch. With the Smarthead horse, as Peter calls it, I just need to pull the head forward and click it into a new position on the internal ratchet. Moving it backwards to have a greater mouth opening is just as easy.

I have had to thin down and wax the internal components as they were a bit stiff. I do wonder how it will operate if kept outside or in wet conditions. I suppose if everything is made a bit looser and it should be okay, make it out of oak and it should last well outside.
The other great thing about this design is that it may be able to be retro fitted to your existing horse.

Peter has a whole series of videos and even full scale plans, all free, on his blog at http://chairnotes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/smarthead-shavehorse.html
The Smarthead horse is fun and satisfying to make and suits my style of working perfectly.

It will be going on tour with me at the shows I attend, Exeter Craft festival, Spoonfest, Treefest, APF, and the Bentley wood fair. so pop along and have a go on it.