Outdoor Sculptures

Monday 9 July 2018

I accepted a commission in 1992 and am just about to tackle it. It started on a visit to Germany to see Martin Nolte who was about to launch a German woodturning magazine. On the gates of Martin's family farm near where we were staying, there was a gate with turned wooden birds on it, so I took a photograph. I showed it to Liz, my wife, when I got home and she was excited by them and immediately wanted me to make some.

This project makes five birds, including sea birds. For these five birds you will need five bodies, five heads, five tails and five beaks, 10 eyes and eight wings. Now we are getting into the realms of batch production but it gives you an opportunity to refine the shapes. They don't have to be the same size or shape, so you can use any odd bits of wood you may have around the workshop.

The basic body is almost egg shaped – even the head resembles an egg, though a spherical head also works well: put a flat area at the front so that the beak will sit neatly.

For this project I used various timbers including ash, African blackwood, spalted sycamore, yew and fruit woods including apple and redwood for the painted birds.

Tools used

Spindle roughing gouge, deep fluted gouge, shallow fluted gouge, sizing tool (bedan), left-hand skewed scraper and right-hand skewed scraper

Making the body

Step 1

Hold between centres, rough to the round and slightly shape with the spindle roughing gouge (cut 1)

Step 2

Square the ends with the deep fluted gouge (cuts 2 and 3)

Step 3

Mark the size of the spigot with a pencil

Step 4

Make a spigot with the deep fluted gouge – just one cut. Make the spigot longer than the jaws so that it sits against the back of the jaws (cut 4)

Step 5

In the spigot chuck, shape the front end with the deep fluted gouge (cut 5)

Step 6

Continue shaping around the back with the deep fluted gouge (cut 6)

Step 7

Refine the shape at the front with the left-hand skewed scraper (cut 7)

Step 8

Refine the shape at the back with the right-hand skewed scraper (cut 8)

Step 9

It is now time to sand. I started with 100 grit on the soft wood as it also refines the shape. Sand down to 240 grit for the natural birds and down to 150 grit for the painted birds

Step 10

For the drilling, make a guide to fit in the place of the toolrest – a hardwood one will last longer. Drill the hole for the leg. Use the indexing on the headstock to rotate the body 180 degrees to drill for the head, and if there is enough space also do this for the tail

Step 11

Remove waste to clear space for the finish shaping using the shallow fluted gouge (cut 12)

Step 12

Use the shallow fluted gouge to shape the end of the body. Support the body in the right hand, and use the thumb to guide the tool (cut 13)

Step 13

Continue shaping until the piece is parted off (cut 13). Leave a slight pimple to be sanded off by hand. For the larger bodies, when you are down to 12mm(1/2in)) diameter use a handsaw to separate, then sand

Step 14

Plane flats on the side of the body and drill a hole to take the wings on a dowel

Making the head

Step 15

Turn the head using a similar procedure then drill for the beak from the tailstock, and drill for the neck

Making the beak

Step 16

Hold the square section for the beaks directly in the chuck and turn to shape. Slightly hollow the beak so that it will sit flat on the body, and then size the pin with callipers

Step 17

For the painted birds shape the beaks on a sanding pad by hand

Making the tail

Step 18

Cut out the tail to shape on a scroll saw, then sand to thickness and make the spigot on a sanding disc

Step 19

For the wings, turn another shape, smaller than the body but elongated in shape, then use a hand saw to slice off two wings. Turning a larger piece with the intention of cutting four wings gives a very poor wing shape