Waiting in the Wings, Part 1

In this  project as well as the ones Doris has done it only goes to show how much easier and accurate carving can go if you have some sort of model to use as a reference.

Here I had a model as I need to copy the existing wings. You can follow the sequence as I roughed out one of the wings.  This process will be used regardless what you are trying to carve.As in most carvings I needed to make some sort of pattern to use as I band sawed the major form. Then it’s a matter of using your model to transfer the major shapes and their location to the block to begin carving. Measurements can be taken from a good drawing, clay model or whatever you are using as reference.

Trying to carve from what you think something looks like is very difficult. A popular subject such as an eye  or a nose for example is difficult to carve without some model even though you’ve looked at them your entire life. You THINK you know what they look like until you go to carve one.

My first attempts at carving was carving birds. I had watched them at my feeders, looked at photos of them and I thought I knew them pretty well. Until I tried carving one!  Then it was an endless string of questions of  ,,, where does the wing start, how is this feather shaped,,,, where and how does the tail fit in,,, what about the size , shape and location of the beak etc. I quickly realized that in order to carve a decent looking bird that actually looked like a particular bird was impossible without good reference material.

The same holds true even if you want to carve a generic eye,, or nose,, or anything else for that matter. Not much is generic. Every body part is true to a particular person. Get good references in order to make a convincing carving so everything falls into it’s proper place.

Here is the sequence I followed and using primarily photos to spell out the story you can readily see how I made the major shape, was able to remove the proper amount of wood to refine the essential forms and only at that point attempt to carve individual features and details. This process is the basis for any carvings I do. And as you follow along you will naturally see the progression of  a carving take place. In your mind you’ll say,,” Ah,, now he has the major form and he can now do this part of the carving”

Trying to skip a sequence, say , drawing the details on the large block and attempting to carve them,, would only lead to frustration as it wouldn’t be the proper time to consider the details. Everything happens in it’s own time. Think of the sequence of your own carvings and only do what needs to be done at that time. Everyone loves the details. But remember , they can only be considered  last as they have to fall WITHIN the major forms. Don’t carve the details, carve the forms. That’s when you ‘ll be able to find the details.

A piece of poster board served as my pattern. I traced the outline from the existing wing and ended up with either a positive or negative pattern to follow which I transferred to the blocks of wood. The blocks were prepped to the basic length, width and thickness of the largest dimensions of the wing.

Just a band sawed shape makes it easy to see the basic form.

Ignoring the squarish block that holds the wing to the Angels body you can see that the mounting surface of the wing needs to be beveled. I established this surface early so as to have the wing at the proper orientation to the Angel and the main block of wood in the proper location relative to the existing wing.

The main block is now angled properly on the Angel.

And where it will mount to the surface is now established. Now I can proceed to rough in the major form of the wing.

I’ve roughed out the major sweep of the leading edge of the wing,,relative to the full block .

Here I roughed in the back of the wing to get the major shape. L to R the uncut block,, the shaped block and the existing wing.

The roughed in block against the mirror image plaster wing.

The opposite edge of the wing. Plaster /Wood.

Only after the overall shape and form was established, and I pushed down the area next to the leading edge of the wing was I able to sketch in  where the feathers would fall. Trying to do this too early would have been a waste of time. Any drawing , let alone an attempt at carving them would have been a waste of time. All the drawing or carving would just have to be removed as the major shape wasn’t in place.

Still in the full stage as I work my way down to the final shapes. Areas such as the bulge in the hooked area of the wing needs to be left in place while the rest of the wing needs to be pushed down.

Getting pretty close at this point. Now I can refine individual feathers and shapes.

I also made the block that inserts into the Angel to hold the wing. They won’t be mounted permanently. Interestingly enough each Angel had a different mounting surface for their respective wings. One , the surface swept up to the wing,, the other the wing was recessed into the body of the Angel.

You can see the two different ways the wings are mounted here. The one on the left makes it a bit more difficult to fit the wing properly.

The block fitted securely into the pocket in the Angel. I added the screw only as a handle to insert and remove the block into the pocket. Now that the block is cut flush with the Angel, and the wing has been fitted to the mounting surface it was just a matter of putting glue on the block mating surface and holding the wing in it’s proper position .  To keep a bit of pressure on the joint I put some foam in the base of the pocket to get the block to protrude slightly as I pressed the wing into position. Epoxy made the joint plenty strong.

I’ll finalize the sanding and shaping of the feathers, seal the surface until it’s completely smooth and non porous before priming the wing as well as the entire Angel prior to final painting.

This isn’t so much a story about how to carve a wing as much as it is a story about how to do a carving. The process is the same regardless what you are carving. Following the proper sequences makes carving so much easier and faster. If you don’t follow them, you’ll find yourself picking at a piece here and there and wondering what to do next or why it isn’t looking quite right.  This is why so often a beginner’s carving will have some attempt at details while the entire piece still looks like the original block of wood. I do understand that there is a fear of carving away “too much wood” and their won’t be enough left for the details. And as I said most see the details only, without seeing the major forms. The major form has to be established first.  You can’t band saw a block in the shape of a bird for example and start carving feathers at that point. There will be plenty of wood left for the details at the later stages.In these steps you automatically see what needs to be done and all the guess work is taken out of the equation. The steps show you the path.

I’ll show the finished results in a later post.

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