A blank canvas can be daunting. I like how the peculiarities in a piece of tree focus the possibilities for me. I just finished this bird bowl from a twisted maple branch and I thought I’d share some photos I took along the way.
Above is the piece after splitting the branch in half and roughly shaving the bark off. It was a tough split, and I probably should have relieved some of the tension by cutting along part of the pith with a rip saw first. Notice that area of torn fibers on the left side; we’ll revisit that spot later. I sketch a line on to get an idea for the flow of the piece.
One of the first things I do is to hew with the axe across the grain at the bottom of the crook to establish the general attitude of the bird.
In the shot above, I’ve shaped the parts of the upper surface with a drawknife and a very course rasp. The rasp works well across the grain especially in highly figured hard wood like this maple crook. I’ve also sketched on a rough outline and have chopped away some excess with the axe.
Now that the bird is taking form, I refine the foot by working across the grain with a plane. I go across the grain because the fibers are climbing from opposite directions as it approaches the foot.
Now a big jump to this photo. The shape is there and the bowl has been hollowed with gouges and hook knives. I left the hollow of the bowl and the flutes under the wings straight from the cutting edge. For this piece, I decided to make the other surfaces smooth beginning with a card scraper.
Here is a shot of the wispy shavings cut by the edge of the scraper. A sharp scraper can actually do some significant shaping and leave a smooth surface. Rather than make this post too long, I’ll follow up with another post soon about scrapers. On this piece, I followed the scraping by sanding with just very fine,400 and 600 grit, sandpaper.
Remember that ragged split I mentioned at the beginning? Those hairline splits in the back of the wing are the remnants of that — there since work first began on this piece. I let a little CA glue wick into them and they are solid, but dang. Oh well, I have a few scars too.
The perspective above gives a good idea of the wind that was present in the branch.
The surface of the hollow is left from lots of light cross-grain cuts from a hook knife.
This bird is 13″ long, 8″ high, and has a happy home waiting.