Rooftop Bird with 12/12 pitch


It’s been a couple years since I wrote this post about a bowl orientation I call a rooftop bowl.  In it, I discussed working with this type of blank and suggested experimenting with quarter-log splits and other angles.  Of course, the acuteness of angle will affect the overall design, but there are no magic numbers.  All else being equal, a more obtuse angle will result in a bowl with higher and wider outer edges, while a bowl cut from a more acute angle will have a more dramatic sweep along the rim when viewed at eye level.  This is comparable to the differences resulting from varying the radii of archtop bowls.


This view may make the roof-top angle more clear.

A friend has been spurring me on to experiment more with the rooftop orientation.  In the case of this hen bowl, the angle is 90°, so 1/4 of a walnut log.  In roofing terms, that would be a 12/12 pitch since there’s 45° to both sides of vertical.  The 1/3 log (120° overall) would be about a 7/12 pitch, in the spirit of the “rooftop” terminology.  Here’s the blank after some rough hollowing with the adze.


Notice that I’d already chunked away some material under the tail.  Normally I wouldn’t bother with that before hollowing, but removing that bit of wood actually preceded the layout.  As I was shaving the underside of the blank a couple dark pin knots appeared.


A couple more strokes and a nicked drawknife later, I realized what they really were:


I was able to saw beyond them then split the chunks away.  You’ve often got to be flexible with your designs, working with what the piece of tree brings to you.  I love that aspect.  Thus, I diverted from my first thoughts of a non-bird bowl toward the design of this hen with the tail lifted above where the nails had been.


The bowl after some rough hewing of the exterior with an axe.

There were a number of new elements to this piece, including the shape of the tail and its hollowed underside.  In the photo below, things are starting to take shape.


This shot was taken after some more carving.  One angle of the top rests on the bench, while the other will butt up against the clamped block as the piece is pushed forward between it and the wood peg.  There’s always a way.


The bowl is 18 inches long, 9 1/2 wide, and 6 3/4 inches high.  I’m going to hold on to this one for a bit while I do some exploring with related designs.  Here are a few more photos taken after some oil:





Happy carving!


This entry was posted in bird bowls, bowls, finding wood, holding, layout, Uncategorized, walnut and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Rooftop Bird with 12/12 pitch

  1. John Breiby says:


    this is incredible! Each of your carvings blows me away.

    In one of the earlier photos of you roughing it out–photo #3, it looks like there’s a really sharp point on the head end at the start of the hollow that I bet you didn’t want to hit with your hand holding the adze. That could have really poked a hole in your fingers.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog,


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marie L Pelletier says:

    yes, ditto John plus–incredible–

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marie L Pelletier says:

    and when you decide to let it go, let us know–

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Superb line from head to tail, you should build boats!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. John Breiby says:

    PS: David, after my earlier reply, I thought of a question that you might be able to answer. Years ago, we were in Norway and in the town of Voss (I think) we visited a very old log building with some beautiful ale bowls, some carved with horse heads, others with hens. It looked like there must have been a lot of cross grain in the necks of the heads and in the tails if they had been made from straight-grained wood. Because they were painted I couldn’t be sure and wondered if maybe they’d been carved from curved root material or from a large branch crook. Now, in looking at your “rooftop” bowl, I’m wondering if this is how they might have been made. Any ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Good points, John. I wondered many of the same things myself, although the old ale bowls that I’ve seen have been in photographs. Here’s a list of posts I’ve written about ale bowls The first one at the top of the list features some of those photos as well as a link to a great online resource for more. I also discuss there some of my thoughts on the grain orientation and other things.

      I plan on experimenting with this orientation for an ale bowl design, but the blank I have shaped for all of the ale bowls I’ve made so far is different than this rooftop orientation. It is outlined in some of the posts on that list, but essentially I begin by preparing a blank that is a cylinder with two large lengthwise flutes chopped into the upper side. I have never seen anything about the method of layout and such used traditionally for the horsehead and similar style ale bowls; I just figured out a method that works for me. But I may get to see some old ones this summer, and I’m eager to study them closely!


      • John Breiby says:

        Dave, thanks for sending such informative links! Very interesting! In looking at some of the photos you show, the one with the ram’s heads, then one in the “digital museum” with a big chunk missing out of one side, the grain is quite visible. Based on the curliness of the grain, it looks like they might have been carved out of a burl or a rootstock, perhaps using part of the trunk and another root as the basis for the heads. I’ve carved a spoon and a small bowl out of birch burls. They were as hard as carving on a knot. I “cheated” on one by drilling down with a forstner bit just to get started. Yupik people here in Alaska traditionally often used the curly root balls at the bases of spruce or birch trees for carving many of their bowls, presumably taking advantage of the curliness of the grain for greater strength and resistance to splitting.

        Good luck on your further study of this fascinating subject!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. treg4057 says:

    David, you carry such beautifully carved lines it’s amazing…especially the underside and on the tail…masterful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Karl says:

    As is so often the case with your work, this bowl is just too damn beautiful for words. 😳

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gav says:

    Always inspiring. This is one that really sings- clucks? I have kept chooks, a lot of the noises they make are anything but musical. Aside from that the nails look like they prompted you into a direction which produced an excellent result . Hope the nick was minor.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Emil Dahl says:

    Pro Save, Awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. treenworks says:

    Dave, another beautiful bowl. Thank you for sharing the links to those posts. Gives me ideas for a few projects. I especially appreciate you sharing the work in progress and work holding solutions. I had great success with the wooden clamps and holdfast solution you shared in your most recent ale bowls. Very much appreciated. I hope Tampa was a good time.

    All the best, Martin

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sergey.Sikora says:

    nice,very nice job!


  12. Nick says:

    Hello, and very nice work here I must say. What is the wood you used and dare I ask was it seasoned wood? Was it really from a roof? Also do you stain or just oil finished piece?
    So inspiring! Nick


    • Dave Fisher says:

      The wood is black walnut. Green, not seasoned. Not from a roof; I call it a rooftop bowl because I orient the split log with the angle upwards much like the peak of a roof. No stain, just flaxseed/linseed oil.


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