I’ve had a brilliant day teaching a group how to make fan birds. This is the third time I’ve taught fan bird carving at my workshop in Cumbria and I’ve made some modifications to the way I teach which really paid off.
The course was full which meant stocking up on extra tools for everyone and gave me the opportunity to make some new knives for splitting the feathers which worked really well. Extra wide chisels also made cutting the notches easier while the piece of larch I bought for the course was a dream, splitting almost on its own into billets.
Half of the group were complete beginners to woodworking which I really like as they can learn to work wood without dust or the use of machine tools. Jim, a forester from Perth, came especially to get away from the usual noise of his work.
With this course we work through each of the stages together and I demonstrate the cuts along with the important features of the finished shape. By the afternoon we were splitting feathers and, once the body was carved it was time to spread the wings. After making so many fan birds, I’ve got a lot of confidence in how far the feathers will bend but for beginners it’s a nervous time as the culmination of their work. This is the magic of fan birds and the thing that made me want to make them myself so it’s a great reminder for me of that trepidation and wonder.
We ended up with some terrific birds, a testimony to good work from the group and I got some new ideas of ways to make the course even better for next time.