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.