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Well as I promised I'm going to take you through a "step by step" guide to carving a piece of work, and for this project I have chosen a beautiful little bird called a "Tree Creeper".

Now this is all about my way of working and obviously every other carver will work in a way that suits his or her preference, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

 

STEP 1 DRAWINGS & TEMPLATES

The drawings I have done are basic side and top profiles, too many details at this point are unnecessary as our aim here is to turn the drawings into templates, but obviously everything needs to be in proportion. Once you are satisfied with the drawings its time to transfer them onto a piece of lightweight card, which not only makes it easier to draw onto you piece of timber but you can also offer them up against the workpiece all the way through the carving process (I use a sheet of tracing down paper to transfer my drawings). Once you've transferred profiles carefully cut round them with a scalpel knife and place on your chosen piece of timber and draw around them both with a soft pencil or fine tipped felt tipped pen.

 

 

TIMBER

The next step is to find a suitable piece of timber to use for your carving. Once again it's a personal choice here but I always use English Lime, I've tried Tupelo & jelutong but found that my preferred wood is lime. I find this timber fairly easy to use with knives and with its close grain it keeps really nice clean edges when cutting in the wing feathers.

 

 

STEP 2  CUTTING SHAPED BLANK

After drawing around the templates on the timber you will need to cut down to size, leaving a small amount outside the drawn line as in Pic 3. For this I just use a tenon saw and vice, if you have the use of a skilled carpenter and bandsaw then great. I always cut the side profile first (Pic left) then you will find it really easy to place top profile template onto the wood to make your final cuts (Pic right).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 3 - FIRST STAGE CARVING (Pic 5)

In this stage the main object is to whittle down the bird to its size and shape.During this phase my tips are(very important if you like your fingers left attached to your hands!) use a slash proof glove on the hand that you will use to hold the workpiece, do not use blunt blades as this lends to forcing the blade through the wood and finally nibble the material away, you can't replace large bits of wood taken off. I always keep a centre line drawn on top & underneath the bird to make sure the shape is equal all round, keep redrawing them in as you go along. Once you get down to the correct size and shape the next step is to file the wood down to a nice smooth finish, the reason for this is to basically make it a surface that's good enough to draw all of the feathers onto, that's why I don't do detailed drawings at the outset. As you will see on this photo I haven't touched the beak or tail feathers, the reason being particular to this bird is that they are very small & fragile and it will be better, in this instance, to wait until all the main body work is completed.

 

 

 

 

TOOLS USED

I personally use (for comfort on hands)

Stanley Folding Pocket Knife:- 0 - 10 - 598

Long Curve Blades:- 1 - 11 - 115

Long Straight Blades:- 1 - 11 - 221

2 Sets of needle files 1 x small and 1 x large set

For the more intricate work I use Swann Morton round handles with blades 10, 11 and 15

See contacts for supplier of all Swann Morton tools at scalpels and blades

Stanley tools you get online also

 

STEP 4

We have now reached the point where we can start to build depth to the bird and trim down some of the bulk, although once again the beak area is left alone. I have added depth across the mantle and scapulas down onto the back and rather than cut each individual feather in with a knife I will use my pyrography tool to burn the feathers in to try to achieve a softer downy look. As you can see in the photo I have cut the tail down closer to size whilst leaving the longest wing feathers prominent. As I said previously the smoothing down of the wood after shaping is important as we will need to use our

blank like a sketch pad so you can draw in the next stages of the carving. Once we have reached this point the most complicated and intricate work is about to start and I can't stress how important it is to take your time and make sure that you use sharp blades for this part of the carving. Up to this point most of the stages allow errors and are recoverable, but at this point I'm afraid any major mistakes can make it almost impossible to recover from so take care.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 5

After hours and hours of carefully cutting away and filing our blank is now looking like the bird we set out to achieve, and as you can see from pic 7 the fragility of the beak & tail, hence the reason to leave the carving of these until last. This once again is basically a blank canvass for texturising the bird before painting, so it's important that we achieve a nice smooth finish, each step we've gone through is only preparation for the next, as in decorating or many other trades and crafts, start with the foundations then build each layer on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOOLS USED

For all the work done in these two sections I used the Swann Morton handle with blades

11 (pointed) and 15 (rounded) and the set of small needle files.

 

This is the finished bird - A Tree Creeper