How to Carve a Fan Bird – Part 2

This is Part Two of the fan bird tutorial I posted last week. I’ll pick up where we left off. We were just about to slice the feathers…

First, put the bird’s body into a handscrew clamp and pin it with your waist into a stop of some sort so that it doesn’t slide around.

Use a small drawknife (this Flexcut 3" model was designed for this exact operation) to carefully slice the feathers. Fan carvers call step this “riving” the feathers, but don’t let that make you think you should follow the grain wherever it wants to take you. Really, you should be thinking “slicing,” not “riving.” If you mess up a few feathers along the way, don’t worry, because they can just be pulled out and discarded.

Work from one end to the other, slicing as thin as you can manage. Don’t worry about the quality of the first few and the last few feathers because they’ll be cut off anyway.

Carve the bird’s body, making sure to bevel its back down to the hinge. Also, thin out the hinge to make sure the feathers are able to bend side to side. It shouldn’t be more than 1/16" thick.

A rough-and-ready bird carving.

Count an odd number of decent tail feathers. I chose the number seven and separated them from the wing feathers with a scrap piece.

Begin to bend the wing feathers alternating left and right. If your hinge is thin enough, they should bend easy.

Bend to the right, then to the left, then to the right, and so on, making sure to snug each feather into the interlock groove on the proceeding feathers.

The tail starts at the far end, with the first feather being the center. Subsequent feathers lap behind that one.

Because this is green, riven wood, the wings and tail are supple enough to manipulate into a shape, but the individual feathers are strong enough not to break off. Because the material is so thin, these things dry quick. After a couple days, they get a string so they can hang to be admired.

– Joshua


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