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Notes From the Net

By Loren K. Woodard
Email Loren at wdcarver@lakeozarks.net or visit his web site at www.naturesnaturals.net

It is once again time to expand on and reintroduce tips that were shared on several wood carving listserves that are located on the Internet. As is the case every month, the tips are varied and many. The tips presented here are just a few of the many submitted to the Internet over the last couple of months.

Use of Patterns

First off, let me say we are fortunate to have many excellent carvers using the Internet. One such carver is Laurie J. Gmyrek. Laurie shares with us her thoughts on the use of patterns for wildfowl carvings. I would think that it would be a safe bet to consider this information when looking for patterns for any carving subject. Laurie's comments are as follows:

To rely solely upon any ONE pattern is dangerous, remember these are all ARTIST'S RENDITIONS and are subject to discrepancies. I draw my own patterns using photos, video, and the actual specimen.

Even Pat Godin's & Jim Sprankle patterns, I have to say, are not always accurate. Pat Godin has told many carvers that his patterns are not really made for you to copy EXACTLY! They should be a guide or reference to your own patterns.

As a judge at many competitions over the years, it is very common to see in the NOVICE level, CLASS BIRDS where there are say, five of the same decoy, all the same pattern EXACTLY because they all took a local class.

In the INTERMEDIATE level, it is common to see birds that have OBVIOUSLY been carved using Godin or Sprankle patterns. We as judges can spot them in a heartbeat, and we will give more consideration to the carving that is uniquely different, than to those from these WELL-KNOWN patterns or copies.

We even see these patterns in the OPEN level, where this is against the rules!

What I do is this:

Gather as much reference as possible. This includes, photos, video, patterns, books, study bills and castings, reference measurements both printed, and my own.

For Duck Decoys, I will start first with the measurements in the back of Bruce Burke's Gamebird Carving. Then I measure up any existing patterns I can find. I usually have acquired a FROZEN specimen and take my own measurements. If I can't get a FROZEN specimen, I go to the Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota and measure up a skin. If that's not available look for a taxidermist or a breeder who will allow you to photograph LIVE specimens or measure up some of his FROZEN specimens.

Beware of taxidermy mounts! These too are artist's renditions and can be VERY wrong. Mounts are best used as reference for feather shape, basic feather layout and feather coloration. Again, never use a mount as your only reference. Also, plumage can vary so much, and it is necessary to determine if it's the NORM or if it is not. This can be done through photos, video, and personal observation.

Check with your State Department of Natural Resources (DNR here in Minnesota), and see if they have any frozen specimens. This is an excellent source for protected birds like LOONS, and SONGBIRDS, as these are turned in by citizens, and even confiscated from poachers. This can lead to some very unusual species that aren't necessarily in your region. I had access to a PUFFIN that was confiscated; this was a real treat for me!

Armed with all of this reference material, I develop a pattern. I have an idea in mind for the pose I want. If it's REALLY complex, then I will make a clay model using Roma Plastina oil based clay, because I can use it again and again.

If you are lucky you might find a pattern from one of the CHAMPIONS like Pat Godin, Dennis Schroeder, or Jim Sprankle, that is CLOSE to what you want. However, it is VERY important that you use this only for a BASIS and not VERBATIM. Though these are all good patterns, but they should be used as reference and not for your own pattern.

It is those carvers who have taken the RISK of their own pattern, and their own mistakes, that will dominate not only the competition, but the sales market as well. This is because their work is UNIQUE and not the SAME as the other guy's/gal's sitting on the table next to them in competition, or on the other website they just looked at.

Speaking of web sites, here's a few that may help you in your search for reference materials:

Good Luck!


LoonLady Laurie J. Gmyrek mailto:Laurie@TheArtistry.com http://theartistry.com

In addition, Stacy Mitchell, a member of the Fishcarver's List shares his method of pattern making. Stacy wrote:

When you go fishing take along some white poster board paper, pencil, a pair of dividers. After you catch you fish clean it of all debris and get it as dry as you can. Next, lay it flat on the poster board, lay the fins out and trace around the fish and the center line fins. Next, get your calipers and find a spot where you can take measurements from (like the center of the eye) and start taking measurements from that point and transfer them from the fish to your pattern. After you get all the points then start drawing in the lines and soon you will have a pattern of your fish. Then when you get home let the poster paper dry and transfer it too a clean piece of poster paper.

In addition, Stacy writes that Bob Berry's new tape shows him making a pattern like this. Drawing a pattern this way gives you the information needed to get your fish carved. Stacy has S&K Wildlife Art. His web pages can be found at http://www.enol.com/~smitchell/sk/index.htm.


Painting Fish

Speaking of fish carving, the following is a tip that was shared on the Fish Carver's List by Ed Walicki. Ed is one of the owners's of the Fish Carver's List Serve.

I was in the shop fooling around painting a king salmon carving for a customer this afternoon and was experimenting with different effects to achieve the bright clean silver you see on a summer run king from Lake Michigan. I didn't like the dull look of silver paint so I brushed on a good coat of foil adhesive and let it dry clear for an hour. I then lightly sprayed a piece of veil with 3M contact adhesive and place it onto the carving as if I was going to do a "smoothie" and veil paint the scales. I then laid thin pieces of silver foil used in sign making onto the entire side of the carving covering overplays I wanted scales. Using my thumb I pressed hard on all the foil to get a good bond with the adhesive. In one quick pull I removed the veil and was left with scales that were an exact match to the pure chrome looking scales of the real deal. They look unbelievable. The veil acted as a mask to prevent the foil from totally covering the entire side of the fish.

One thin coat of clear lacquer and the foil was sealed in the finish and the remaining paint process I used transparent colors. It is the deepest looking paint job I have ever done. All because of the highly reflective base of chrome foil scales. I can't wait to do some saltwater fish like bonefish or tarpon with this foil.

Next time you are painting a trout give it a try and let me know if it works as well for you. I found the foil at Michael's art store last week and bought a few flavors in gold, copper and silver.


Habitat Construction

There was an interest chat taking place on the Wood Carver's List concerning habitat making, specifically, techniques for making pine needles. Following are some of the different techniques shared.

Doug Deller wrote:

Try splitting a bamboo skewer. Get the long wooden skewers that are used to hold vegetables or meat on the BBQ. They are sold in most grocery stores. They don't look like bamboo because they are not hollow. Cut the skewer to the length of pine needles you need then split that piece into many (depending on your scale) needles. I have found the bamboo to be stiff enough to hold its shape but flexible enough not to break if anything bumps against the needles. Bamboo also holds paint well.

Along the same lines, John Blackwell wrote:

I've used bamboo, finely split and then tapered using very fine grade sandpaper. Takes a long time but the results are worth it.

Gordon Paterson advised us of a description of building pine needles that was posted by Jack Royer. Jack's process was as follows:

Jack indicated that this was a basic branch structure he learned from Bob Guge. The pine needles and construction are of his own design. The first thing Jack does is gather several small pieces of pine branch. He stated that while he was at it he also picks up a some small pine cones for models to look at.

The tools and supplies that Jack uses are as follows: Round brass tubing in 12" lengths, in 1/16" to 21/32" diameters, graduated so that the next size slides over the previous one. Square tubing 1/16" up to 1/4", also in 12" lengths, and solid brass rod 12" long in diameters of .020 to .072. You will need some ribbon epoxy, some zap-A-gap and an accelerator to set it up immediately. You will need a torch of some kind. Jack stated that he uses a micro torch that heats up to 2500 degrees. He said that you could solder, silver solder, braze or sweat with it. It will help a great deal if you have a mini tubing bender and an inexpensive set of 6 tightly coiled springs of different diameters. They slide over the round tubes and allow you to bend them without kinking them. Jack also has a set of craftsman miniature tools including side cutters, long nose pliers, etc.

Draw or decide the general shape you want the main branch or branches to take. You then slide the round brass tubes together and solder. You can do this as many times as you want to get a taper to your branch. Jack cuts at least three solid pieces of brass rod and strategically places them where the branch is going to rest on the base. Drill appropriate size holes in your branch to receive these and solder them in place. Cut them to length, realizing that you need to maintain stability. Drill three holes into a base to match the configuration of the three pegs you have soldered on your branch. (Jack uses a 2x4 for a work base) It should plug right in.

When you have finished the branch you can decide whether you want to glue it to the base or not. He usually leaves it so he can unplug it from the base. If you are going to have your bird flying or suspended you need to have a branch coming off from the main branch in the direction you want the bird to be. Cut a piece of square tubing and solder it onto the round tubing extended toward bird's location, take the next size square tubing that will slide over the piece you have soldered onto the branch. Drill a hole a little larger then the tubing in the bird after you have figured the best spot for it to position the bird as you desire. Jack inserts ribbon epoxy around the tubing that is inserted into the bird, packing it fairly tight. Then you can slide the bird onto the branch and turn it to get your positioning synchronized with the positioning of the square tubing on the branch. When you get it where you want it carefully slide it off without disturbing the positioning between your square inset and the bird. Let it set up until the epoxy is hard.

Now comes the fun part. Jack uses a cable about 1/16" dia. Jack didn't know the gauge of the wiring. He just tried to pick a size that appeared to be about the same diameter as the pine needles he wanted to make. He purchased a suitable length, stripped the insulation, put one end in a vice and unraveled a strand. He then put on a leather glove, pinched the wire tightly and pulled his thumb and forefinger along the entire length of the wire. He did this three or four times until the kinks were worked out of the wire. Then Jack cut a board about 3 and 3/4" wide 1/8" thick and 12" long. He wrapped the wire around the board tight and close together. He tries to get enough wraps on the board to make 100 to 126 needles. After they are wrapped, take a palm sander and sand one side of the wire to get a flat spot the length of the wire. Now turn the board and sand the other side. When that is done take a pair of side cutters and nip the end of the wire on each one on just one side of the board only. They should fall off in pairs of V's. Now each pair of needles needs to be bent completely around so that the flat sides are on the inside. When that is done take a pair of side cutters and nip the bent edges off, Jack then uses a small bench grinder to grind the ends to a tip (not sharp). After this is done you can shape and slightly bend the needles as we did the strands of wire when we first unraveled it. Now we will place the needles in a clean soup can or container and fill with a degreasing solvent. Jack uses lacquer thinner. After drying them he uses a rubber glove so as not to get oil on them and paints them all with gesso. He then paints them green. If you notice there are slight variations in the green and towards the end they are slightly lighter.

Jack stated that he used ribbon epoxy to make his pine cones. Rough shape them on the end of your branches then lay them aside to harden. After they have hardened Jack uses a combination of a burner and a Foredom to carve the details in the cones.

Now comes the fun. In the past Jack has held the needles in place put a little Zap-A-Gap glue on the joint and sprayed with accelerator. He stated that he was currently working on a branch and was going to use very fine copper wire in the V of a pair of needles and then around the branch and twist the wire. He then was going to cut the tie-down and then glue it. Place the needles in a natural conformation. You can attach from two to three inches on the branch and then work some ribbon epoxy around that portion of the branch. Using the real branch as a pattern, use dental tools to texture the bark. When this is completed paint the bark, making sure to get some variations in your colors.

As a final note, Jack indicated that he hoped that someone would get some good from his post. Personally, I don't think that Jack had to worry about that.

That wraps up my article for this edition of the E-zine. I certainly hope that you have found something in this article that will be of use to you in your carving endeavors. Take time to drop me a note and let me know what you would like to see in future articles. Remember, my article consists of threads that are sent in to the different carving lists. Therefore, if you want an early preview of an upcoming article consider joining the Woodcarver's List, the Woodcarver's Porch, the Stickmaker's list and the Fishcarver's list. Until the next issue, take care and enjoy your carving. -Loren Woodard


For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Links Page, or click the links below.

Woodcarver's List - Woodcarvers' Porch - American Stickmaker's - Fishcarver's List