This is a Journal of my work/craft explorations. It will contain a variety of projects, both in progress and complete, summaries of things I learn from these projects that are worthy of recording and things of interest that I discover along the way. The projects will include woodworking for the home and shop, decoy carving and painting, airbrushing and restoration of equipment and tools.

I am blessed to have the luxury to pursue just about any interest that fancies me at any time. This Blog/Journal is my repository for the pursuit of these fancies. Text will be minimal, the photos plentiful and the posts timely. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tools of The Trade...or as I prefer to call them INSTRUMENTS

In the last post, there were a couple of tools featured that were used that deserve some mention.  I thought this would be a good time to give them the credit that they were due.

Keeping the right proportions, measurements and symmetry are a challenge to every sculptor and carver.  I use a few tools that for me, are critical and are always on the bench.
Left to right these are;
1)  6" plastic see through ruler in both standard and metric sizes...metric being critical as it makes it easier and faster to divide by 2 which is something that is always done for symmetry, 

2) 6" adjustable square, 

3) calipers, again in both standard and metric.  I bought these when we lived in Mexico.  They cost $5.00 and are incredible!, 

4) compass and 

5) 6" square, again in both standard and metric, and purchased in Mexico for a $1.00.

Next comes likely the most important tool...

PENCILS....I usually use between 3 and 5 pencils per duck.  the more you can mark on ti the clearer you can see.  As I progress on the carving, I am able to pencil in more detail.  the more detail I pencil in , the easier it is to see where to remove wood and shape the bird.  I use the red one to mark where I need to remove wood or to mark with a "?" so I focus on what needs to be done in a particular area.
Third is my gauges and markers.  Most are not always on the bench but the are all within reach.

Starting with the brass stand these are;
1) a device made by my friend Jim that allows you to mark a point on a pattern that is being held up and transfer it to the wooden carving.  

2) a similar but simpler device I made to allow me to transfer a mark from a pattern to the carving or from one side of the bird to the other,or in the case of marking out the head, I can lay the head on its side, set the pencil to the middle of the head and then spin the head around the pencil and have a perfect center line or to mark the water line around a bird. 

3) adjustable compass that I never use as a compass but another device for transferring marks from patterns to carvings. This one IS AWAYS ON THE BENCH.

4) A pattern transferring tool I designed and built to allow me to transfer patterns from clay  or wood models to make a pattern for future use. 

5) a set of outside calipers that I use to measure the walls of the duck to ensure I do not make them too thin when I am hollowing them out, 

6) a piece of plastic green packing strapping that is flexible and can bend around and over curves on the duck to allow me to mark center lines and other lines that need to be kept straight on curved surfaces and last 

7) a template marking tool that allows me to make a pattern and transfer it to another piece of wood so that when it is cut, it will fit perfectly into the first.

This is an example of the pattern transferring tool at work.  here I am transferring the final size of this decoy to paper to be able to make a pattern for the next generation 

On this bird, I decided that I wanted to raise the angle of the head a bit but I had already taken too much took off to simply cut away some more at the back of the head.  I decided to put in a wedge of sorts, but the head and the cavity that I carved for it are curved.    

I used teh template maker to get a profile of the curve.  I then made a paper template that I transferred to a pice of wood and cut out on the band saw
Test fit of the wedge...nearly perfect.

Wedge glued in with 5 minute epoxy.
The head fit perfectly onto the new wedge and here it the newer and better  profile.  Something is still bothering me about the head though.  more to come

Monday, February 4, 2013

Angle Right...Height Wrong

Closer viewing of the bird after the head was fitted revealed that the head was too high for the body and for the desired pose.  I chose to deal with this not by cutting the neck shorter but rather by reducing the height of the body where the head attaches.
I placed the head on the body and estimated how much lower the head needed to be.  I then used a gauge to mark on the head where I wanted the top to be.

I then measured this using a transparent ruler at about 10 cm.  The photo is taken at an angle and exaggerates the measurement.

I then placed some tape on a drill bit at 10 cm. to use a a height gauge

I drilled a series of holes, holding the drill vertically, to the depth of 10 cm.

The tungsten carbide burr was used to evacuate the wood to the depth of the holes.

The head was place back on and it fit nearly perfectly requiring almost no fine tuning

I was now able to take away the wood at the neck and shape teh body to be able to sonnect the two pieces.

Front/side view...looking much better.

Side view....looking better

Head on view...yep this is teh height.  Something still bothers me about this but will continue until I can figure it out.

Nice flow of the neck from the head to the breast.  The picture is darker because I am using small wattage overhead lighting to create  shadows so I can see the flow better than when the bench is glowing with florescent light.

Good body symmetry for this pose from the rear view of the bird.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

There Are Going to be Some Changes Here!

Lately there has been a lot of goofing around, mishaps, slacking off, unexplained clutter, costly mistakes, rework and general mayhem in the shop.  As result and as you might expect, productivity and output has been low and scrap and waste loss has been high.

To resolve this I decided that the shop needed a set of rules or CODE  as it might be.  Having a CODE would help govern behaviour and activities in the shop so the shop could be more productive and more predictable in terms of quality and quantity of output.  This would also make the shop a much more pleasant place to work and be.

I did a little research and found a set from a blog called Flying Shavings.  I found that I could modify the only slightly to best meet the needs of my shop.

So effective immediately, this CODE and its tenants are in place.  Everyone who uses the shop has been duly notified of their existence and violators will be dealt with in the most extreme manner ( yet to be determined).

This is the first round and these will be renewed as required and as better and more profound thought for this CODE comes to mind.

Here they are.

Credit and thanks to Tom Sachs of the Flying Shavings Blog for his work in this important area of running a shop / studio and for 9 of the 10.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Not such a good start today.  While holding the bird for some sanding, the primary flight feather broke off.  While not catastrophic, it will require considerable time to make an undercut and insert.  In the end it will be stronger.

Also, after letting the bird "rest" for a few days, I am not feeling so good about the head fit and the angle of the head.  It feels like it is aiming too far down

This post will be dedicated to getting the head right before continuing on.  The sooner I get this right/ close to right, the better it will be for carving refining the rest of the bird.

Broken primary feathers.
Trial fit of the head...still not right...she is looking too far down.
The angle of the bill is still too low for the attitude I am trying to achieve and the gap between body and head begs refinement.
Some refinement of the joint....but still not enough of a change of the angle.
Right angle AND attitude...at last.
Different views...the butt is a bit too fat "butt" I will get that later

I like this one...it matches one of the photographs that I posted earlier.  

I will admit though, I am concerned that the angle of the bill on the head is a bit droopy.  This is often the case until the bill is completed and then the droopiness disappears.  This is because in the completion of the bill, there is wood that is removed from the BOTTOM & FRONT of the bill thus changing the angle.

NET, it is good to continue and revisit this when the bill is done 

Fine Tuning the Fine Feathers

With the head fitted onto the  body, it is time to refine the body of the duck.  First, however, I noticed that when I was adding this post, I discovered that text was missing from the 12/26/12 Post named Cut & Rough Out the Body.  As a result I edited this so if anyone cares to, they can go back and read the additions to the last 1/2 of the photos.

Int he 12/26/12 post, I discuss the fact that the butt of a duck is nearly perfectly round and when viewed from the rear can be seen as a series of concentric circles.
So here is the proof!!!  This is a photo of a Mallard and the feather coloration of this bird helps to demonstrate just how round the butt of these birds really is.   This also displays the shape of the tail when viewed from the rear.  It is not flat but rather tented and slightly curved.  The curvature is more pronounced on puddlers ( i.e this mallard). than it is on divers (i.e the Canvasback bird I am working on).
With the rough shape done, the refinement continues beginning on the sides.  Here the wing feathers are drawn in and refined.  By drawing the feathers in, it helps to create and ensure the flow of the feathers as well as highlight high spots and areas that need to be refined and carved more.

Closer view of the wing feathers .  the primary feathers are still quite thick to ensure that if they need to be taken down to ensure flow that there is enough room to do the.  Also, at this stage the handling of the bird is a bit rough with lost of turing, twisting to be able to get the cutters, knives and bits where they need to go.

Here is the development of the other side of the bird.  Here the wing is tucked into the side pocket and the feathers that are exposed are only the tertial and primary feathers of the wing.  
Nice close up view of the exposed wing.  There are two or three spots where the feathers will be separated to give this a very realistic feel.

Time to plop the head on to ensure things are still in the right flow and direction...and to admire it as well.  It is these few moments of gratification that keep me going to the next spot.  Sometimes, however, it is an "OH CRAP" when the flow has been disturbed.  As a result, frequently placing the head on and looking at the bird from several angles and from several feet back, helps ensure that I don't get carried away in the minutia.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Trial Fit the Head & Refine The Fit

This is where the bird begins to come to life albeit slowly.

It is critical that the joint between the head and body be tight.  To achieve this I use the  technique that machinests use to fit parts and dentist use to adjust your bite after a filling or crown is placed. but I am a bit more crude in my approach.  The first step is to rub a pencil on the bottom of the head to cover it completely in carbon.
Second step is to place the head where it will eventually go and rub the two surfaceses together.
The high posts are covering in carbon.  these are these spots to grind down

After about 10 times of doing this, the surfaces mate nearly perfectly.
Trail fit #2.....
Different view.
Another view.
FInal view and I concluded that the head on this bird is too high by nearly 3/8 of an inch do a lot of wood needs to be removed on the body.  This needs to be done now to ensure the bird has the right attitude and before the body is refined to ensure that there will be enough wood.  Nest post.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Diversion 2

First, HAPPY NEW YEAR.   Second, my apologies for this entry.  I did it using an iPAD and had no idea how severe the limitations would be so I am taking this opportunity to fix it.
This year the adults in our family drew names with the requirement that the gifts had to hand made by the giver.  I drew my daughter Melanie's name.  She has been asking for an owl for many years so this year had to be the one....even if the owl was a little one to hold her until I can do the Horned.

Since this was my first ever owl! I followed carving and painting plans from Wildfowl Carving Magazine and an article by Al Jordan.

Carving took a day while painting took 2 days.

I am including some painting shots to show how this perfectly smooth bird was painted to look textured.

Base coat.
Back feather barbs done in dark brown with a fine paint brush.
Outside edges and shadows added with slightly lighter brown than previously and using an airbrush.
More airbrushing for the back feathers and barbs painted on the scapulars and secondaries.
Airbrushing over the painted barbs to give the bird color.
Close up view
Barbs brushed onto the tertials.
More airbrushing over the entire back to provide color yet leave the essence of the brushed barbs on the feathers.  This technique adds a painted texture to an otherwise perfectly smooth bird.
Time to work on the head.

Using a template and an airbrush, the outlines of the head feathers were softly painted on.  note subtle flow of teh feathers in groups
Close up view of the back of the head.
Dark feathers around face are airbrushed and the barbs of the head feathers are painted in using a fine bristle brush.
Face ring shadows are airbrushed using a warm grey.
Face is painted a brown/yellow cast using an airbrush and the eyes are cleaned off.
Beginning to look real.
Time to work on the breast.  Yes indeed, the owl's head is turned 180 degrees and it has the capacity to go even further giving it the ability to swivel its head for a full world view of things.
Shadows and valleys are airbrushed using a warm grey.
Ahhhh.  Iwata Custom Micron Side Feeder. This is an instrument extra ordinaire.  $450 of magical bliss.
The centers of the breast feathers were painted with the carmel brown.
Under tail painted with brown and white....
....then oversprayed with white to give it the grey/silver color.
Back feather detail being added by spraying the light feather edges and then adding the splits using a thin bristle brush.

Finished Owl mounted on a piece of my neighbors pear tree that blew apart in a recent windstorm.