Little Hens


The walnut rooftop chickens I roughed out back in the spring are waiting for me.  Meanwhile, a friend took down a cherry tree in his yard and I used a piece to make a pair of mini versions.  It gave me a chance to experiment with a couple things before returning to the large ones.


There they are above, carving done but waiting for oil.  Basically a matched pair except for the carving on the wings, which may be more clear the way the light is hitting them in the admittedly odd photo below.  I guess I was curious about the negative space.


Much of the process is the same as for making the larger versions.  These two are 7 1/2 inches long and started as a 1/4 section of a green log.  After trimming the bark and a little wood off the outer edges, the blanks had a radius of 3 inches and a length of 7 1/2 inches.


After roughing away most of the material with a carving hatchet, I hollowed the interior with a little gouge work, followed my a hook knife.  The sloyd knife followed the hatchet on the outside.  After drying, I refined the shape and went over all of the surfaces again.  I carved the flutes in the dry cherry with a gouge.

It’s nice to hold a small piece like this up off the bench top to work in a more comfortable position.  This was a good occasion to get out the vise above.  You’ll see it called all sorts of things from a pattern maker’s carving vise, to a guitar repair vise, to “exceptionally flexible workbench vise”.  The details and the price vary.  I purchased mine from Woodcraft, but it looks like they no longer carry it there.

Another option is the ever-versatile….


Wooden Handscrew Clamp.  My daughter, Emma, and I have been doing a 10-15 minute sketch each day together for a month or two now.  Often, we just grab something out of the house or workshop as a subject, like a handscrew clamp.


You can do all sorts of things by securing wooden handscrews to each other, and or to another surface with holdfasts, a vise, screws, etc.  The Dubuque Clamp Works makes some nice ones over in Iowa.


They come in all sorts of sizes, and are easily modified since the jaws are of wood.  One of these days, I’m going to take the fifteen minutes to glue the pads onto the jaws.


Other than the fluting, I did the rest of the carving with bowl in one hand, knife in the other.  Of course, you wouldn’t need to carve flutes at all.


I snapped a bunch of shots with the timer while I was doing the knife work, so I’ll just pile some into a slideshow below.  If you want to make one, they may at least provide an idea of some of the cuts and grasps.  I don’t think the slideshow will show up in an email program, you’ll have to go to the actual blog site to see it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This may help too.  Here’s a pattern that you can print out to whatever size.  This will only represent the edges on the flat surfaces.  The rest is revealed as you carve according to your eye.  For example, the curve of the front of the chest from the foot (the foot is represented by the lower shape in the drawing) up through to the tip of the beak.  That can’t be on a pattern.  Just keep taking wood away until it looks and feels right.


While the oil on these two little ones is curing, I’ve got some lettering to design and carve.  I’m looking forward to it.  The big walnut hens are patient.

This entry was posted in bird bowls, bowls, cherry, green woodworking, holding, layout, patterns, sketch, tools, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Little Hens

  1. Steve b says:

    Beautiful! Nicely done. And thank you for the reminder of the usefulness of the old wooden clamps—perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. francedozois says:

    looks like fun–

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wendy Owen Antonini says:

    David, it’s a joy to receive your emails and then share your experiences. Thank you so much for your generosity. In such troubled times, your calmness, intelligence and respect for beauty that can be achieved through one’s own quiet and persistent efforts gives hope. In my own semi isolation I have begun experimenting with what is available- mostly logs of rough chopped red gum sold in packs for firewood as we move into Southern Hemisphere winter. I have also had a lot of fun with lettering on scraps of odd-shaped offcuts of lime (tiglio) that is not available in Australia but which I brought back from Italy, home of my husband. I have found my passion (editor/ writer was my day job!). Oh, and thanks for the tip on using the wood clamps. I had one and didn’t really know how to use it. Now I do. Wendy


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thanks very much for those thoughtful words, Wendy. Glad to hear about your resourcefulness with the materials available to you. So much creativity happens when we are faced with limitations. I hope you continue to enjoy your winter and wood!


    • trippedoveraroot says:

      Hi Wendy, my name is Rory. I also live in Australia and I have just recently discovered the joys of green woodworking. I have been under the impression that carving Eucalypts was far to difficult due to its hardness. I’m interested to know how you’re finding it because as you know it’s the most readily available. Regards Rory


      • Gav says:

        If you can get your hands on some Silky Oak it is quite workable compared to many. Huon pine is nice but usually pricy. Even messing about with Radiata pine can be satisfying. Don’t know where you are Rory but fruit trees, not citrus ,can be a good source and I have heard Jacaranda is good to use as well. Hope some of this may help. If you have a local Men’s Shed you could probably get some info there as well.


      • trippedoveraroot says:

        Thanks Gav.


  4. Scott Kinsey says:

    A good bet for anyone looking for a guitar repair vice would be the Stewart-MacDonald company.
    To all out there…. stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sydney Smith says:

    I think Lee Valley carries those guitar vises as well. With some added bits and bobs it also works pretty well as sort of a spoon mule substitute. One nice thing about those vises is that they are so easily moved around.
    Thanks for the reminder about the wooden handscrews, I often forget about how useful they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jari Hirvonen says:

    I have been following these RooftopBirds… First I searched with google about the species, what is the model for this kind of bird :). I was wondering to ask if You would make a drawing for us to help in the beginning… So many thanks for the Drawing. Now I wonder, would you provide also some cross-section view from the middle bottom part, please? Eg The “bowl part” in the middle, is it undercut? Do You start with 90 degree sector, so a quarter of a log? The undercut also depends on how wide or narrow is the sector?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Skip Florey says:

    As always wonderful work and excellent tips on clamping the workpiece and technique. I really look forward to your postings Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Phil Teeter says:

    David- I know that vise as a ‘stock maker’s vise’ might be available from gunsmith suppliers like Brownells.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. onerubbersoul says:

    Just beautiful.


  10. Geri Lawhon says:

    Such gorgeous work. Thank you for sharing your pictures and experience of wood carving with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Bowl from Dry Walnut | David Fisher, Carving Explorations

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