Carve this Barn Owl archive

Thursday 22 October 2009

Ian Edwards carves this elegant barn owl, in lime


Just recently I had the fortune to see a barn owl returning from a hunting trip, still carrying its prey and this inspired my latest carving, my third sculpture of a barn owl.

This carving is an adapted version of an earlier sculpture of a barn owl, Nightwatch, that I originally sculpted in clay. This piece has now been cast as a limited edition bronze.

I used the original sculpture as my model, but this time wanted to make a wall hanging piece to keep it in line with my current style. To do this, I have sanded the piece and kept the lines clean. This carving will also be cast in bronze.

As always, collect good references and model a small replica of the piece. I have used a block of wood that is screwed to the carving, keeping it in place.

98% of this piece has been carved using power tools, the largest proportion of this has been achieved using the Powerfile, Arbotech and the Sintered Carbide Tools on the flexi drive. If you would prefer to use hand tools, feel free. The process is still the same, but replace the burrs with U-shaped gouges.

Getting started

First, work out the movement and proportions of the barn owl in clay. Familiarise yourself with the finer details and form of the bird. I have used Nightwatch as my model.

Photo 1: Mark out the shape of the barn owl on your chosen piece of timber. I have chosen to use a piece of lime wood

Photo 2: Using the arbotech, start roughing out the main form. The downside to the arbotech is that it can easily remove more timber and fingers than desired

Photo 3: Continue using the Arbotech until you can start to see the full form of the barn owl

Photo 4: Once you have created the outline and general form with the arbotech, you are ready to move on to using the sintered carbide burrs

Photo 5: Using the power file, start to shape the body. Turn the power file down to its lowest rating in order to gain maximum control over the tool

Photo 6: Now using your sintered carbide burrs, start to form the shape of the face, eyes and beak. Once again, be careful not to remove too much timber

Photo 7: Once you have formed the rough shape of the face, pencil on the details of the eyes and beak. Use a 4mm (5/32in) veiner to mark out the outline of the face

Photo 8: Using the power file, start to shape the owl's tail feathers

Photo 9: Check the form of the bird from the side. See that you have correct movement in the head and body

Photo 10: Repeat step nine to form the opposite side of the piece

Photo 11: Check that the general form of the face is in proportion and correct. If so, you are ready to start shaping around the eyes

Photo 12: Using the cone-shaped sintered carbide burr, start to create a more definite shape around the beak

Photo 13: Still using the cone-shaped sintered carbide burr, start to create the depth around the eye

Photo 14: With the diamond burr, go around the outside of the eyeball, creating a division between eyelid and eyeball

Photo 15: At this stage, all the main proportions need to be in place before moving on to any finer details

Photo 16: Draw on the flight feathers ready for carving

Photo 17: Shape the flight feathers using the Powerfile with the speed turned right down

Photo 18: Drill out the centre of the feathers in preparation for cleaning out the wood with a No. 4 fishtail

Photo 19: The flame-shaped sintered carbide burr is ideal for getting under the main body and tail feathers

Photo 20: A No.4 22mm (7/8in) gouge is ideal for cleaning up around the head and body

Photo 21: Go over the whole piece using 100grit carbon paper. You will now start to see the whole carving take shape

Photo 22: Draw in the detail around the eyes, emphasising the crease that runs away from the outside of the eye

Photo 23: Use a 1mm (3/64in) veiner to carve the details around the eye and crease, emphasising the tear duct

Photo 24: Create a nice clean round eyeball, using a No.3 5mm (3/16in) detailing gouge

Photo 25: Undercut the beak using the detailing gouge, creating the hooked beak

Photo 26: Ensure the tip of the beak is tucked in tight to the downy feather of the head

Photo 27: For the details to be sharp and crisp, your carving tools need to be razor sharp

Photo 28:A common mistake in carving an owl's head is to not give the face enough depth

Photo 29:The background has been carved using a macaroni. Lay the tool on its side, making small uneven cuts towards the centre

Photo 30: Sand the overall piece starting with 100grit working down to 500grit. To seal the carving, use spirit-based sanding sealer. Go over the whole piece with 0000 wire wool to give an excellent finish

Michelle Robertson

Tagged In:

Ian Edwards , carve , Barn owl , lime

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Tools You Will Need

Lime (Tilia spp)
90 x 130 x 290mm
Powerfile, Arbortech, flexi-drive, sintered carbide burr
1mm and 4mm veiners
No.3 5mm gouge
Sandpaper 100-500grit
Sanding sealer
0000 wire wool
Black Bison wax