Winter Whittled Bird

On a “cold, cold, wet day” this past weekend, I sat warm and dry in the shop by the window and whittled a little bird from a pine branch. Winter birds bring a special joy. It’s magical to be in the snowy woods and have an enthusiastic bunch of chickadees gleaning the twigs just overhead. Or to see the brilliant flashes of bluebirds darting around tattered brown stalks of goldenrod. A carved bird like this can bring a little of the magic inside.

It’s a fun project any time of year, but maybe there’s even time to carve one or two before Christmas. I didn’t think to take any photos until I was quite a ways along, so I made some notes in my sketchbook showing the basic procedure and suggested dimensions.

All you need is a stick and a knife. Starting with a saw cut at the feet of the bird makes the initial roughing a little easier, but even that isn’t necessary.

I carved mine from a pine branch that had been around awhile and was dry. It was about 1 1/2″ in diameter. I think the relatively small size makes it possible to leave the pith in such a piece and not have it crack open. I’ve carved similar ones from green sticks, crack free. I suppose it would be best if the branch is harvested in winter. Experiment with what you have around, but species like aspen, poplar, basswood, birch, and many others would surely work well.

There’s no one right shape or size for a bird, but if you use a bigger or smaller diameter stick you could scale the other dimensions up or down accordingly. Or you can ignore even these few measurements altogether. It’s just a whittled bird. Relax and enjoy.

I worked eight long facets around the surface. In a sense, the form ends up as an octagon that has been pulled, pushed, and stretched. Then again, facets like this aren’t necessary at all. You could experiment with other textures, paint, or maybe designs or letters on the base.

If I have a choice, I prefer light coming from my left when I’m carving. In the final stages I work progressively around the bird from one facet to the next, concentrating on the flow of the ridge between them.

Warm up with the bird, then get inspiration from this fantastic episode of the Woodwright’s Shop with Roy Underhill’s fun wood toy ideas. And here’s a link to a toy post I wrote a few years ago with a few more ideas for carved toys, some of them also inspired by Roy. Another wonderful gift for yourself and friends is the 2022 Dickinsons Reach Calendar. Mine is on the way.

Wishing you a joyful holiday and a Happy New Year full of birds and wood chips!

This entry was posted in bird bowls, carving, finding wood, nature, patterns, sketch, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Winter Whittled Bird

  1. francedozois says:

    and many birds to come I hope–

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Merry Christmas to you, your family, and all the FisherFans.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bobs Email says:

    Thank you for bringing enthusiasm and joy of nature today. Otherwise, for AZ, it is bleak, overcast drizzly day.

    Bob Simmons

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jed Dillard says:

    How timely
    I’ve been trying to think of the best way to carve an owl on a branch or stump. Maybe this will break the self imposed action barrier

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Drew K says:

    What a great little gift idea! Thank you for sharing this, Dave, and best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a wonder-filled New Year.


  6. Chris DuBois says:

    Thanks David for your inspiration! Happy Holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved this post! Hopefully I can duplicate your efforts!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Bob Easton says:

    And we have to have bunches of these little birds. They usually travel as large groups. Thanks for the beautiful ideas.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Eric Goodson says:

    Beautiful post, Dave. Thanks and Happy Holidays.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Rob Thornton says:

    Dave, Thanks for this post and a year’s worth of inspiration! The very best to you and your family this Holiday season and throughout 2022!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thomas B. Goodman says:

    Really nice! Did you just leave the bird connected to the branch?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Rick Wilson says:

    As always, your thoughts, insights, directions, and comments make me feel warm, safe, happy, energetic, so many other emotions. Truly a wonderful part of any day. Sincerely wish you and your family, peace, happiness, and good health in the new year.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. John Reed says:

    I have a few pieces of Yellow Birch sitting outside my shop, looks like a fun project. Thanks for sharing David.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Very inspirational and timely, I had a few days at a cabin with the family and without electronic distractions so I took this image in mind and sought out a branch on a small hike. I finished most of it before the girls were even out of bed the second day. I can’t say that mine turned out as good as yours, but then it was my first try and now I have a reference point from where I started.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. John Mullaney says:

    Happy New Year Dave.


  16. Michael Slyzyk says:

    Thank you David for another generous share, a great idea for a new little project… setting off more ideas.
    I hope your year has started well and continues that way.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s