Kingfisher archive

Thursday 3 July 2008

A rare sighting of a kingfisher bird is the inspiration for this beginner's project from Bill Prickett


A recent and excellent sighting of a kingfisher - I even managed to get some photos - on the River Cray, provided both the inspiration and reference for this kingfisher project.


To carve the life-size kingfisher, and to make certain that the grain direction of the wood ran down the length of the beak - to address strength issues - I needed a block of wood 150 x 230 x 70mm (6 x 9 x 23/4in). I decided to use lime (Tilia spp) partly because it has good characteristics but mainly because I had an offcut from a larger, previous sculpture, which was just the right size.

Getting started

When removing the bulk wood, don't bother drawing all four views from the templates on to the block, just cut the wood to the correct thickness, about 60mm (2 1/2in), then draw on either of the side views and remove the waste by bandsaw, if available. The other elevations become useful when applying some of the relevant details as the carving progresses. Gathering your own photo reference is still always a good idea.

To make the pose less rigid and a bit more natural, it is nice to add a bit of a turn to the head, in this case a little bit to the left.

When removing larger amounts of wood with gouges, I find it is easier to use a 12mm (1/2in) tool with a large sweep (6-10) but as one gets near to the finished level, drop down to a shallower sweep (1-2) as this leaves a nice clean, smooth surface, which helps when drawing on the next level of details.


To create a contrast between bird and wooden stump, I decided to leave a fine, sanded finish for the kingfisher and a tooled finish for the stump. When using this combination, it is important to complete all of the sanding before starting on the tooled finish - this is because even a single brush of abrasive across a pristine tooled surface can ruin it with visible scratches.

To finish, I went for a combination of oil and wax. 24 hours after a single coat, a finishing oil is applied, a light coat of wax is brushed on, left for 20 minutes and then buffed to a soft sheen.

Woodworkers Institute

Tagged In:

kingfisher , bill prickett , Birds

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"To make the pose less rigid and a bit more natural, it is nice to add a bit of a turn to the head"

Technical Breakdown

Material: Lime (Tilia spp)
Size: 150 x 230 x 70mm (6 x 9 x 2 3/4in)
Tools Used: scalpels - Swann Morton, No.4 handle, No.26 blade. Gouges - No.1 19mm (3/4in), No.2 6mm (1/4in), No.6 19mm (3/4in), No.10 6mm (1/4in), No.10 25mm (1in), 6mm (1/4in) 45 degree V-tool, and 3mm (1/8in) veiner
Abrasives: Grades 180, 240, 320 and 400grit
Finishing: Liberon Finishing Oil and Liberon Fine Wax Polish (Golden Pine)

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge

Further Information

Bill Prickett is based in Kent. He teaches on a private basis. To see other examples of Bill's work and information on courses offered, visit his website: