fan bird carving

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fan bird carving

Postby mac1012 » Tue Oct 01, 2013 6:48 pm

Hi I am interested in fan bird carving and have seen one or two threads on here.

I need some advice on wood to use , after some research on the web the popular choice is white cedar which dosent seem available in the uk.

the other choices seem to be white pine and ash.

I am only interested in starting small with a uniform blank which seems to be popular in the states I have thought about purchasing some ash turning blanks but weren't sure if the moisture content would be to low , I have noticed that people boil their wood to get the moisture content up and was curious if this would work on some ash turning blanks or whether it would still be too hard ?

I don't really have access to green wood and want to get hold of some blanks that would be near the correct size to begin shaping.

any advice would be great

Thanks mark
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby emjay » Tue Oct 01, 2013 8:21 pm

I've just started a few fan birds today. I'm using sitka spruce, but I think almost any softwood will do and perhaps some hardwoods too. Sean will advise you better than I can. Boiling the wood makes it easier to cut and more pliable when folding the wings. Don't get too fussed about the type of wood, use what you can get hold of.

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Re: fan bird carving

Postby mac1012 » Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:20 pm

ok thanks for taking the time to reply , I am a total novice to working with hand tools and working with hand tools !

I have been a scroll saw worker as my hobby for a few years and have sold my items at craft fairs etc , in fact I have 3 coming up before Christmas

I just have a urge to work with hand tools in the new year and try something different , I stumbled across fan birds and they looked as if they were achievable for someone like me, I know they are not as easy as they look but compared to intricate carving to me they seem appealing , I not the sort of person who could spend hour and hours on one carving , I like to see results fairly quickly !

I know what you are saying about the wood , but I didn't want to use wood that was going to fail before I started , I have a lot of planed soft wood I buy cheap so I will probably practice on those to begin with , just for the joint practice not the riving , I have a lot of pine but I gather yellow pine is too resinous.

I will then probably get some turning blank ash and boil it and see what happens

a friend has some silver birch logs that she cut down that may be suitable if I can get them down into workable pieces.

I am having a American drum head shave horse made for 100 pounds which is a really good deal , so I can sit on it and work on the fan birds
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby gavin » Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:51 pm

mac1012 wrote:
I am having a American drum head shave horse made for 100 pounds which is a really good deal , so I can sit on it and work on the fan birds

Usually called a dumb-head shave horse - refer Drew Langsners book p65 where he gives instructions on its making dumb-head.
And that is a good price - mine took me more than £100 of time and materials.
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby mac1012 » Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:21 pm

ok thanks . the guy who making it called it a drum head in email maybe a typing error !

yeah the price is good it made of hard woods various his standard shave horses are really nice I not complaining at that price he down devon somewhere

this is all new to me as I said I an avid scroll saw worker selling my wares in spare time

on a wood note I been looking at clear pine in b and q seems to have nice properties but will prob need boiling buy nice even grain and not too resinous

a guy i sold something too said he was using it for whittling
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby Paul Thornton 2sheds » Wed Oct 02, 2013 8:25 pm

good luck with your adventure away from electrically powered tools and into hand tools and greenwood working! Its great.

For fan carving I have used freshly felled pine, ash, willow and poplar. I believe some fan carvers use kiln dried close grained softwood bought from timber merchants/diy stores which they boil. I have some blanks from air dry ash & douglas fir which I have boiled up and frozen to retain the moisture content. The larger the diameter of the log the better the blank I have found. Fan carving is not easy but it is exciting (you do a heck of a lot of work before getting to the critical bit!) and the resulting product (or demoing it) impresses customers. If you can buy David & Sally Nye's books about fan carving they are worth while. Or do as I did - I tried and tried and failed and tried again and after a cumulative 48hrs produced my first bird which had 9 feathers in the wing and 3 in the tail! Once you understand the process though improving is fairly quick.

Paul

PS: ask around local tree surgeons, parks, nature reserves etc, maybe you'll be able to source greenwood. Maybe put you location on your profile as well so we know where you are - maybe wood or advice lives just down the road!
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby mac1012 » Thu Oct 03, 2013 10:18 am

Thanks paul I little confused as to how long one takes as a lot of info I seen about them say they are a good beginners project , I guess if you are starting from a log blank it will be more time consuming , but I will be using blanks that are near the correct size to start cutting the hinge and notch .

I know they wil take practice and time to get to a good standard and the riving is not easy , as I said earlier not as easy as it looks !

I just fancied having a play around on my dumb head horse and getting a few hand tools and practicing in my workshop through the dark winter months ! hopefully by the time armageddon arrives I will have made on that looks ok :D

if you know any fan bird carvers that use diy store wood send them my way as I have yet to come across one in the uk and I would be interested in how they have got on

I realise this wont be technically green wood working so maybe I would be better annoying other people on carving websites :mrgreen:
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby emjay » Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:27 pm

I don't know the sequence of operations that others use for their fan birds, but for what it's worth, here's mine.
From a 12 inch dia' x 6inch long sitka log, cleaving around the circumference I can get up to 20 pieces.
Mark out and shape the feathers section making it about 1/8 inch at the hinge.
Boil until it sinks.
If possible while still hot cleave the feathers. The first few may be sacrificial.
Carve the birds body shape.
Fold the feathers.
And that's it.
I used to have trouble cleaving the feathers, I only had one knife that would do a decent job, but I've now made a special two handled one from a power hacksaw blade that does a neat job. I think Sean sells specials for cleaving fan birds. Might be worth getting one.
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby SeanHellman » Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:43 pm

Go to the builders merchants and buy a small plank of soft wood, up to 20 mm thick, a tangential cut so you are riving radially. Go for the slowest grown stuff you can find with the straightest grain possible. Split the wood into smaller sections so you can find the grain direction. The wood can be worked dry but the hinge will need to be wetted before fanning out.
I do sell push knives of various sorts, but you can make you own from old bandsaw blades, ¾ to 1 inch wide blades. You want to aim for feather thickness of ½ mm up 1 mm maximum, thicker than this and you will not get a good fan shape for the wings.
Good luck and post some pictures
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby mac1012 » Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:47 pm

ok guys thanks for all your help and advice , shaun interesting comments I have worked out you can check the growth by counting the rings (should have remembered from school) I take it by straightest grain you mean the pattern on the front being in straight line as opposed to any swirls or patches ?

As a scroller its all been about what grain patterns look the most attractive on my pine so this is a learning curve for me , have you ever made a fan bird from stock timber like from a merchants ?

a question for all of you I need some advice on tools being a complete novice , I worked out you need a riving knife I going to go for the flex cut 3 inch one that seems popular

I am thinking of getting a set of marples or maples ? blue chip chisels , I know they not top quality but they have had some good write ups by renowned woodworkers and they seem ok for a beginner like me , now gouges I think a 6 and a 12 will do me any advice on makes anyone ?

I would like to get a carving knife , again any advice on suitable one that wont break the bank I also going to get a japanse saw

I been looking at suitable ways to keep my chisels sharp , I had to gulp when I seen the price of the top quality diamond stones I cant run to paying 200 pound for a set of three , any advice on a cheaper alternative ? if I get really into it I will upgrade later on.

again any advice would be great

thanks mark
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby gavin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 7:57 pm

re sharpening
mac1012 wrote: any advice on a cheaper alternative ?

yeah. Get some MDF strips cut approx 40 to 50 mm wide 250 to 350 mm long and about 18 mm thick. The thickness is pretty standard for MDF shelving. Glue sandpaper of grits 80 thru to 2500 if you can be bothered to do it that fine, but certainly down to 1000 grit. Get this from auto supply store - Halford if you are in UK. Glue with Spraymount adhesive the sandpaper to the MDF strips and cut the sandpaper to fit your particular battens. I'd suggest 80, 120, 240, 400, 600 1000 grit increments at a minimum.
Get a 10X lens or jewelers loupe or ideally binocular microscope so you can see what you are doing.( Search this forum for 'microscope' , find the most relevant answers and do your bit to help the forum by posting the links you found most useful in your response that you will write below.)
Get a felt pen or Sharpie marker pen. Colour the blade you are about to sharpen with that. You'll then see where you have applied pressure accurately.
Also look at Ben Orford's sharpening videos.
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby SeanHellman » Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:33 pm

mac1012 wrote:ok guys thanks for all your help and advice , shaun interesting comments I have worked out you can check the growth by counting the rings (should have remembered from school) I take it by straightest grain you mean the pattern on the front being in straight line as opposed to any swirls or patches ?

As a scroller its all been about what grain patterns look the most attractive on my pine so this is a learning curve for me , have you ever made a fan bird from stock timber like from a merchants ?

a question for all of you I need some advice on tools being a complete novice , I worked out you need a riving knife I going to go for the flex cut 3 inch one that seems popular



You will find my name is spelt Sean, do give people the common courtesy of getting their names right, especially when it is right there in front of you. Sorry about the rant but I have had a lot of it recently . What I mean about straight grain is the fact that when you split the wood it splits straight. Looking at the tangential face will not help you, looking at a radial cut face will give you a good idea of what is going on with the grain, but is not until you actually split the wood do you know what is going on. You will need one chisel, flat and about an inch across. one gouge and the 7mm or so U shape flex cut one is best, the one that fits into a palm handle, the smallest one they do. a 106 frosts is the only craving knife you will ever need. Do not buy lots of tools just the one of a kind at a time. The old timers only used a knife to carve the birds with, as does Owen Jones, who is not an old timer.
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby Paul Thornton 2sheds » Wed Oct 09, 2013 7:49 pm

I use an axe, flexcut riving knife, frosts 106 and a 2in carpenters chisel - must drop some off this list I wanna be a old timer :)
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby mac1012 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:48 am

Thanks guys for taking the time to reply , Sean as for getting your name wrong all I can say it was unintentional , I never been good at spelling(I had to go back and check your name for spelling when I was writing this) as unlike you said the names aren't right in front of you (not when writing the reply) I am a bit dyslexic and spell words as they sound sometimes , I disagree with not showing you courtesy as that would have meant I intentionally did it which wasn't the case I am well mannered and polite my mum instilled that in me and I have instilled it in my 16 year old daughter I cant stand rudeness

anyway I digress, but thanks for your help I have got my head round what you mean by the tangential and radial cuts it has been good looking stuff up and learning about it , the wood I get looks like its cut tangential.

my local town has a flea market on a Thursday and going to see if I can pick some tools up from there , well the chisel and gouge at least ! If I cant then any advice on what make of single chisels are any good and gouges , only reason I ask is like a lot of stuff sometimes the not massively expensive stuff is as good as top end and other peoples experience is valuable for a newbie like me , for instance like the 107 knife sean advised me to get , I probably would have got something costing twice as much , plus some tools hold a edge better and balance better in the hand.

Gavin I already have a magnifying visor which I use for my craft work.i will have a go at your method I have been looking at some inexpensive oil stones at axminster just a matter of looking which is best for money as another option.

I haven't got the flex cut knife or the 107 yet as like a lot of stuff you cant just walk in a local shop and pick them up , not in my neck of the woods !

I going to get the chisel and gouge hopefully today and boil some wood and then I can practice the hinge and notch cuts

paul I am getting pretty much the same tools as you apart from the Axe , I may need one when get the birch logs someone is saving me , wouldn't have a clue how to get it down to workable pieces but I pit that as another learning curve on the back burner :)
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Re: fan bird carving

Postby mac1012 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:01 am

Just another thought I been looking at vids on how to sharpen chisels , if anyone has any links or ideas on how to sharpen knives and the flex cut riving knife it would be a help , thanks :D
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