What a great weekend of courses, on Saturday I ran another of my Learn to Mow with a Scythe workshops on a glorious sunny day then on Sunday I was teaching a group how to carve fan birds.
I’ve been carving these wonderful birds for a year now and wanted to share the skills and techniques I learned and developed so more people can make them. They always attract a lot of attention when I go to shows because they’re so beautiful and amazingly carved from a single piece of wood.
I’ve spent a lot of time working out my own techniques and designs to create well-balanced birds in the most simple and efficient way. Rolf, Andrew and Peter took plenty of notes during the day and their notebooks were full of drawings and measurements.
We started with a discussion of materials and I showed them the best way to prepare timber for fan birds and split out blanks for carving. Then we worked together cutting the notches for the feathers before the moment came to actually split out the feathers. We used a set of splitting knives which I’d specially made for the course and everyone had a practise on my bird before working on their own.
After making dozens of birds myself, I was confident that the guys would be successful but I was still nervous when they started to fan out the wings as the final carving of the hinge is a delicate process. Sometimes it felt like an extra set of fingers would be useful to manipulate the feathers into place but slowly the wings started to take shape. As it builds, the importance of the various notches on the feathers became apparent and I helped with a few adjustments either to make things easier or improve the final look of the bird.
Once we’d worked through that first piece together, everyone quickly set to making a bird on their own. I always give students time to work on a project at their own pace and working individually is a great technique to reinforce what they’ve learned. We had a busy, fun day enlivened by Rolf’s inexhaustable supply of stories, the good weather and the lively atmosphere in the workshop. By 5 o’clock everyone had completed at least one bird of their own and went home proudly cradling their creations.
I’ll be running another of these courses later in the year. If you’re interested in learning to make fan birds, send me an email to steve-tomlin[at]hotmail.co.uk and I’ll send you the details when they’re set.