Great Horned Owl - The Prey's ViewPreamble: This project started off well in 2006 and halted after only about 1 week! Thats when June’s mom, who had lived with us for over 4 years, passed-away at the age of 93. We handled it as well as could be expected; however, I never returned to this project! I just set it down and didn’t feel like continuing. Well, I do now and it’s the end of 2009! Let’s go back to my notes and start at the beginning. I had decided to use Tupelo Wood from my normal source in Bourg, LA., Steve Robichaux. (Robe-a-show) The block had to be 22″ X 9″ X 8″. I also use  Basswood, from time to time, which I  get,  for many years, from Heinecke Wood Products in Cumberland, WI.  Great quality & Service from Dale & Marge. The 24 mm glass eyes are yellow and come from Tohickon Glass Eyes.  Feet will be fabricated and then  attached to the body appropriate to the stance. I used pattern imput from Floyd Scholz’s Book, “Owls” as well as from  Denny Rodger’s new book,  “The Illustrated Owl, Barred Owl and Great Horned Owl.  Additionally, I’ll refer continually to the dozens of photos I’ve saved-up in my bird-photo-reference folders.

GHO Day 1 GHO Day 1


Day #1:  I cut patterns of the front and side profiles which I had modified from Floyd Scholz’s  pattern. I also did a top-of-the-head-pattern with which to later orient the turn of the head. I transcribed both the front and side profile’s outlines as well as the top-of-the-head pattern (turned at about 45 degrees) to the block of wood. Turning a birds head is usually a good thing because it helps to animate the block of wood. An advantage (one of several I can think of) in using Tupelo is that it can be acquired in larger dimensions than the normal stock limitations of Basswood. Basswood usually must be laminated to get larger sizes. An other advantage to Tupelo is it’s user-friendly to the “power-carver” and less so to the “knife and gouge” carver. I’m a “power-carver”.   I then bandsawed the Owl blank on my Jet 14″ Wood Bandsaw”. Scraps of the cut-away tupelo are saved for possible use later on the carving as feet, etc.  At this early stage in this project, it’s not too early to begin considering the base and it’s design. I always tell my students that you can’t make the feet without having the base roughed-out. The base determines the shape and and position of the feet.

GHO Day #2
Day #2 :  A center-line was drawn down the center of the front and rear of the bird. A  penciled center-line on every bird-carving is essential to the symmetry of the bird. It’s your “compass”!  It helps to keep you from becoming “lost” and your bird from becoming “lop-sided”.  When the line gets cut or sanded off, be diligent and promptly replace it. I also drew a similar line on the sides of the bird for the exact same reason. To cut into that line will adversely alter the profile of the bird. Don’t do it.
Day #3:  I then rounded the rear (back-side) of the wooden-blank (Owl) to the lines on the side of the bird. This left the rear rounded and the front still flat.Referring to the pattern, using my calipers and pencil and pattern, I drew-in the feather groups on the rear of the block (from this point, I’ll be referring to the carving as the “bird” and not the “block”). 
Day #4:  Using my Foredom Flexible Shaft Grinding Machine with a hard-sanding-drum, I relieved the groups. Avoid sanding for the most part as it tends to compress the wood pre-maturely. This may possibly impede the carving of  detail later.
day-7-starting-the-base  I scrounged through my stock-wood-pile for suitable blocks & boards to glue & clamp-up for the base. My turned, recessed, walnut base is large enough for this project.  I speculate that I will first carve the stump of blocks into a more rounded, realistic trunk with short branches of some sort.; maybe, pine with clumps of pine-needles here and there. I really don’t see this as a short stump; rather, a section of trunk, higher up the tree. I’d expect to use bamboo slivers for the needles. My “rule-of-thumb” for all glue or epoxy dry-time is “overnight”. With the clamps in place, it was time to walk away from the someday base.
Day #5
day-8-base-blocked-out  Using my 14″ wood-bandsaw very carefully indeed, I shaved corners off of the sides of stump, curving it over a little to more resemble that “trunk” than a “telephone pole”. HMmm, it fits nicely into the base’s shallow-recess. I lately hesitate to use wood-screws to fasten base stock to the bottom bases due to deterioration & loosening over time.   True, I’ve not yet seen this occur, but I am concerned about it (in maybe, a 100 yers or so) on such a large piece as this. Rather, I’ve used larger wooden dowels fitted into holes drilled through the bottom of the base into the top base and glued with wood glue. Maybe several! We’ll see.
OH, Oh! Florida beckons!  It’ll be a few weeks before I think about this bird again. Enjoy.
Day #6 


GHO Day 6b


Now, back to carving the bird’s body.  I screwed a “Clamping Jig” onto the body of the bird, just below the head.  I then clamped the bottom of the jig into the bench-top jaws of my Work Mate Work Bench (below).  This jig will be repositioned  to the other sides as I am required to rotate the bird to carve each side of the head in it’s turn.

GHO Day 6c


I can now use my Draw Knife to cut the head in a taper from the shoulders to the penciled out-line of the top-of-the-head’s profile. 

 7.   More to follow soon….


Happy birding and carving,  Bill