Thankful for Birds and Trees



This past summer, we were fortunate to have a pair of wrens make a home in our yard.  We enjoyed watching them flit around and hearing them sing.  It also reminded me of my grandmother who loved her “Jenny wrens.”


Check on the brood in the nest box, then fly to the nearby hemlocks for a song.



I wasn’t able to catch it with the camera, but that tail is always flicking upward to a jaunty angle.  I was thinking about that when I saw this tight bend in a piece of Norway maple this fall.  In the photo below, I’ve hacked away everything on the outside of the pith.


I didn’t set out to make a wren, but rather a general bird form that was inspired by that lifted tail and the piece of tree itself.  After some rough chalk marks, I’ve hewn away much more of the excess below.  This is such a free and fun process.  I’ve hewn a flat for the foot of the bowl already at this stage.  I want to be able to set it upright and see the overall attitude of the lines.


Then I chop and shave away the bark and shape the upper surface.  Considering the wild grain in this figured crook, I used a very coarse rasp in certain areas to roughly shape the contours.  You can see the marks from the rasp on parts of the surface at this stage.  I also draw a centerline and the other guidelines.  This is simply freehand sketching, like drawing the form of a really big spoon.


After more axework on the exterior, I do a little work with an adze on the hollow from the sides, but otherwise the quarters are just too tight.  Here I’m continuing to work the hollow with a spoon-bent gouge.  The hollow is too steep and deep for a standard bent gouge.


It’s not long before that tool has reached its limits and I switch to a hook knife to continue the hollowing.  The hook knife can reach back into the undercut portions of the hollow and refine the shape nicely.  Lots of light cuts in this maple.


After a little more shaping to thin down the sections a little more, I set it aside to dry.  Then I refine the shape and all of the surfaces.  Here are some more shots of the recently finished piece.


There is a subtle contrast in textures.  The main hollow and the flute under the wings are left straight from the tool, while the other surfaces have been smoothed with a card scraper and a little very fine sandpaper.  Finish is flaxseed (linseed) oil.  9 1/2 inches long, 4 1/2 inches wide, and 9 1/4 inches tall.  This one has found a good nest box.




I’ve got plenty to be thankful for.  Thanks for taking the time to check out my posts, and I wish you a very happy day of thanksgiving.

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17 Responses to Thankful for Birds and Trees

  1. treenworks says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Dave. As always, very inspiring carving.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. francedozois says:

    very sweet, captures the bird–


  3. francedozois says:

    very sweet, captures the bird–and happy TG

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bob Easton says:

    And a full-throated THANKS to you for showing us the beauty of bowl carving and for sharing your how-to knowledge. I’m very grateful for what I’ve learned from you David. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Richard McCarty says:

    David, SO much to be thankful for today – and everyday…. But, having JUST discovered you and your absolutely incredible and beautiful work, I am thankful for your spirit of Sharing your gift…! As a retired architect and novice woodworker who lives in the woods, I have a brand new interest in carving – spoons & bowls…. Hence, my finding you….! I will be attentive and today, send deep gratitude…! Richard

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thank you Richard. I wish you the best on this new journey in the woods. If you have any questions along the way, I’m glad to help.


      • Richard McCarty says:

        Dave, thanks for responding… just finished Episode 8 of your FW bowl carving video series – LOVE IT…. Working toward acquiring tools, just built a horse (adaptable to either carving OR bowls) and have done a few kitchen utensils, spoons….. Do you have an instruction schedule for 2020…? Do you ever do anything in Western NC? John C Campbell, Penland, etc…? Would definitely consider a class if accessible…. We live in MS but visit NC often…. MANY, MANY THANKS…..! Richard

        Liked by 1 person

    • onerubbersoul says:

      Welcome to the club, Richard. Be prepared to be obsessed.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Glad you’re enjoying the FWW video series Richard. Ben and Jeff at FWW did a fantastic job putting it all together. I haven’t sorted out my teaching possibilities for 2020 yet, but I’ll make sure to keep you updated through the blog here as things develop. I hope to get to work with you. Meanwhile, keep making and exploring!


  6. Tone says:

    Quirky, beautiful, love it 🙂 I feel you are exploring, pushing boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. forwoodnesssake says:

    Happy Thanksgiving. Never throw away a good stick.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jed Dillard says:

    And thanks to you for your regular inspiration!
    As above, there’s almost never a piece of found wood that doesn’t have something good in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Philip Green says:

    Hi David

    A lovely piece!
    In Ireland, the wren is considered to be the king of the bird’s. There is a tradition that on Saint Stephen’s Day (26 December) young men go out hunting the wren (also know as “ranning”). This is essntially a sequene of visits to houses and hostelries to enquire whether they have seen the wren. Refreshments are taken at each stop. Hence it is an activity for younger men.

    Your description of the finishing on the wren intrigues me. what motivated this approach?



    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thanks for sharing that tradition Philip. Wonderful.
      As for the choices for the surfaces, much of it comes down to the wood. This piece of maple, which is often true in maple crooks, had lots of curl and figure. And there was also the distinct color contrast on the breast of the bird. Sometimes when a piece of wood itself has so much to say, I think I need to quiet down. Other times, I decide to add more to the conversation. I guess my thinking in this case was to allow that visual interest in the wood to come out without competing with any pattern of texture. Even on the areas I left straight from the tool, I worked very carefully to leave a quiet texture. Much of this is only revealed when the piece is picked up and the subtle contrast can be felt by one’s fingertips running over the piece.

      Of course, contrast like that can also be achieved with different techniques straight from cutting edges, which is what I do most by far. There’s no right answer, I just explore and see what happens. I’ve had plenty of flops — but instructional flops!


  10. Pingback: Follow the Bent | David Fisher, Carving Explorations

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