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Gary & Marie Crosby
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009,2010, 2011, Gary Crosby
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted for financial benefits in any form or by any means, or stored in a
data base or retrieval system, for the purpose of financial benefit without
the prior written permission of the publisher, Gary A Crosby. This short ebook is provided free of charge to all by, Gary &
Marie Crosby. This short e-book was created in Canada.
First and foremost I would like to acknowledge and thank my wife Marie for
her many years of standing behind me in this endeavour and assisting me in
creating this book and others.
And To all the woodcarvers that will use this book to create their own works
of art.
We are indebted to the thousands of Canadian and World woodcarvers and
wood workers who have shared their ideas and experiences with us over the
years through the internet and personal contact.
Over the past 28 years of carving and furniture designing Marie and I have
gathered tremendous amounts of knowledge and skill learning from master
craftsman the world over, from the shores of Africa to the jungles of
Honduras, to the depths of the Black Forest in Germany, and Eastern
Europe, with their historical cultures steeped in tradition. We have taken all
of this knowledge combined with a little Canadian flair and are now putting
pen to paper to ensure this knowledge is passed on to future generations of
woodcarvers and woodworkers.
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Anatomy of a feather ----------------------------------5
Feather Patterns
Single -----------------------------------------------6
Double ----------------------------------------------7
Multiple --------------------------------------------- 8
Carving steps
Step 1---------------------------------------------- 8
Step 2---------------------------------------------- 9
Step 3---------------------------------------------- 10
Step 4---------------------------------------------- 12
Step 5---------------------------------------------- 15
Step 6---------------------------------------------- 16
Step 7---------------------------------------------- 17
Step 8---------------------------------------------- 19
Step 9---------------------------------------------- 20
Step 10--------------------------------------------- 21
Step 11--------------------------------------------- 22
Step 12 ---------------------------------------------23
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Painting--------------------------------------------- 24
Finishing-------------------------------------------- 25
Carving a feather is normally an easy thing; there is not a lot of detail
required in order for a chunk of wood to become a good representation of a
feather. The difficulty is when you carve a feather to be an exact duplicate
of a real feather or you carve multiple feathers such as in an eagle wing.
Anatomy of a Feather.
The feather is made up of 4 main parts; the
Vane which is the majority of the feather’s makeup. The Rachis that runs
through the centre of the feather and the Barb which will require most of
your effort when it comes to carving. The After feather is the hardest to
carve but, luckily, you only have to carve the after feather when doing an
individual feather.
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Figure 001
Feather Patterns
Single feather
Figure 002
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Double Feather
Figure 003
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Multiple Feather
Figure 004
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Cross Section of a single feather.
Figure 005
Carving steps
Step 1- Print out the one feather pattern and trace
it on to your 4 inch x 10 inch 7/8 inch thick basswood.
Figure 006
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Figure 008 Carbon paper
Figure 007 Feather Pattern
Step 2- Now it’s time to carve out your pattern. First pick up your parting
tool and start cutting out the outside edge of the pattern. Remember, do not
cut away the pattern line and stay on the outside of it.
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Step 3- Then you begin to define the Rachis. First you need to cut on the
outside edge of the Rachis with your parting tool.
Figure 08
Figure 009
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After making the first pass with your parting
tool, your feather project should look like figure 10.
Note 1: as you can see by the photo in figure 10
remember to never remove the line as you carve out
the feather. “Stay on the outside of the pattern
Note 2: When using the parting tool, never allow
the outside edge of the parting tool to go below the
wood surfaces. If you do, you will see the wood
chatter up, which will break away the pattern and
could destroy your project.
Note 3: Now, depending on how deep you need to
go, you might have to make several passes, just keep
in mind note 2 above.
Figure 10
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Step: 4 All I do is remove some of the outside
excess wood stock. I do this by using my Stubai,
number 5 straight gouge from Austria. Stubia has
some relatively inexpensive carving tools, but the
quality is outstanding.
Figure 12
Figure 11
Figure 13
Figure 13
So,as you can see in figure
14 and figure 15 all I do is
remove the outside wood stock
without damaging the feather
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Figure 15
Figure 14
Keep removing wood stock
from the outside edge of your
pattern until you have cut down a
minimum of ½ of the way through
the 7/8 basswood board. Try not
to go much further to avoid
weakening your project. You will
have to repeat step 3 and step 4
several times until you reach the
required depth.
Figure 15
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Step 4- Now it’s time to remove the
wood stock around the Rachis up and down
the complete Vane, making room for the
next step which is carving the Barb. I do
this by taking my parting tool and removing
wood stock on the left and right of the
Note: make sure you only carve
approx. 1/8 inch in depth and no more. And,
as before, stay to the outside of the Rachis
pattern line.
Figure 16
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Figure 17
Figure 18
Step 5, now you will need to remove the
wood stock from the left and right of the
Rachis. By doing this you will give the feather
the look of depth. Remember, the idea is to
remove more stock closer to the Rachis and
less to the outside of the feather, see the
profile below in figure 20.
Figure 19
Figure 20 Feather profile
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Strep 6. Once you have removed the wood stock on either side of the
Rachis, you would have removed some of the pattern markings as you removed
the wood stock. So now you have to draw in your pattern lines before we go
any further. This is done by simply holding up your pattern you printed out
and draw in the lines using a pencil.
Figure 21
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Figure 22
Step 7- Okay, now that you have defined the Rachis, it’s time to start
to work on the Vane and defining it better. The first thing I like to do is to
add in depth and I do this by taking my parting tool and cutting on one side
of the pattern line, I would recommend the top side, see figure 23 below
I like to use H
as the High point and
L as the Low point.
Figure 23
Figure 24
Once I’ve completed that, I start from the bottom of the feather and
from the Rachis working out and up with my parting tool. You only need to cut
in very small vane lines. If you push too hard on your parting tool you will cut
too deep and make a mess of things. I recommend that you practice on a
separate piece of wood so you get it right the first time.
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Figure 25 Vane Profile
Figure 26
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Figure 27
Step 8: Now it’s time to give your project a light sanding with 220 grit
sand paper. Sand just enough to remove the pattern markings and to round
off the Rachis.
Step 9: Next, I take out my handy parting tool and define some of
those breaks in the feather.
Figure 27
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Figure 28
Step 10- Using your coping saw or band saw
cut around your feather. Just a reminder, do not
cut off the bottom of the feather until you have
carved the back (Step 11)
Figure 29
There are several ways you
can cut out your feather. Such as
a bandsaw or scrollsaw, if you
have one. But, if not, then it’s
time to get back to using a coping
saw. It will take you longer but it
still works and will only cost you
about $40 CDN.
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Figure 30
Figure 31
Step 11-triming up the back of the feather using your number 5 straight
gouge. This is quite simple. just clamp down your project using the wood that
you did not cut off with the coping saw.
Figure 32
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Step 12 – Final carving and
trimming and cut out.
Figure 33
Remember to clamp down your
project so it does not move. You will
also have to watch the wood grain as it
will probably be different from the top
to the bottom. In this project I had
that problem, my wood grain changed
at the centre of the project, so I
carved from the centre up cutting into
the grain and from the centre down
again cutting into the grain.
Figure 34
Once you get to the bottom do
not force your tool into the base. If
you do you could split your project.
Figure 35
Safety note; never stand in front of your tool or pull the carving tool
towards you. If you need to pull it back as I did above, make sure you keep
all of your body parts out of the path of the tool. In this case I stepped off
to the side making sure that if I slipped, the carving tool would never come in
contact with me since I am out of the path of the carving tool.
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Once both sides are carved out,
you will now have to cut out the last
part of your project using; again a
coping saw, or power tool. Once that’s
done, flip over your project and carve
the back. Just make sure that as
your project gets thinner you need to
reduce the amount of force or
pressure you are applying to your
project to prevent it from breaking.
Figure 36
Figure 37
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Figure 38
Painting: The first step in painting your project is
to seal it up. I like to use Shellac as my base coat
of sander sealer. In the photo to the right is the
feather after I brushed on a light coat of amber
shellac. Notice how the color changed from the
standard white that basswood provides to the
amber color that the shellac provides. You also
have at this time the option of not painting the
feather and just leave it as an amber feather. If
you want to paint it there is also the option of
using paint primer (white) as your base coat, but
at this point you have no choice but to paint your
project. I recommend tying both, so carve up a
couple of feathers and try both options and see
which one you prefer. After all its your project
not mine, so it’s up to you.
Figure 39
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So now, depending on what you’re planning for the feather, you
can paint it several ways; with an airbrush or by hand. I prefer the hand
method which just gives me the satisfaction that I have completed my carving
without the aid of a mechanical aid. But I would have to say, airbrush will
provide the average carver/painter with an outstanding finish. My painting
skills are poor to most professional standards, however, my wife’s art skill is
fantastic and extremely detailed.
This is a painting completed by my wife a couple of years
back. As you can see she is a fantastic artist, and as
such, I borrow her skills whenever I can. But from time to
time I try my hand at painting as seen on the backyard
sculpture below.
Figure 20
The bottom line is that your carving is just
that, your carving and no matter what it looks
like it is still just that- your carving.
Well, back to your feather. The photo below is
of our feather carving after painting. All we
did was to paint it by hand with small craft
brushes and black and white paint.
Figure 41
Figure 42
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1. Simply start with the black section. Remember to only paint down from
the tip 1/3 of the feather.
2. Once that’s done wait until the paint dries then you can move on to the
white paint starting from the bottom of the after feather.
3. Next again after the paint dries, paint the Hollow shaft Calamus with a
tan starting from the bottom working up to the black section.
4. The last thing you will need to do is to define spots on your feather
that have shadows or should have shadows. You do this by using a light
gray. Remember that if you painted it white, well you can’t let it stay
that way, you need shadows to put definition in the feather.
When we paint my carvings,
we just use a ½ inch wide
craft paint brush that you
can pick up in just about
any craft shop.
Figure 43
You can paint the back, but that’s up to you. As for
me, it all depends what I am going to use the
carving for.
Figure 44
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Now, this is a very basic feather carving and a very basic paint job, but a
fun project. So, have fun with it and, remember, this is a very basic feather
which you can use with lots of your carving patterns.
Figure 45
Figure 46
Figure 47
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