Carving a Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee
Jim's Carolina Chickadee

During August 2008 Jim completed a one-week-long wood carving course by carving a Carolina chickadee. His completed project is seen above. Our instructor was well-known bird carver Riley Monroe. Prerequisite for the class was that attendees should be intermediate to advanced carves. Jim has been carving for a long time having taken college classes in carving architectural elements and several other classes in chip carving and relief carving but he had never carved a bird.

Not only had he not previously carved a bird, but also he didn't even own the necessary power tools required for bird carving. Several--repeat several--trips to the Woodcraft store in Parkersburg solved that problem. Jim purchased a Wecheer WE 330R power flexible-shaft carver and a Wecheer micro carver. From experience, jim has learned that the micro carver will accomplish practically all power carving tasks required for songbird carving. The larger flexible shaft power carver is handy for bigger projects as it is very aggressive. He also purchased a Detail Master Excaliber 8600 Burning System. For variety, he has pens with permanently installed tips and pens with replacement tips. He didn't buy a dust collector as the folk school has them for student's use. It also took several trips to the Crafts 2000 store to buy seven acrylic colors--each bird requires a separate color palate.

He had amassed a collection of bird-carving books over the years and always wanted to carve a duck. One of his favorite books, Songbird Carving by Rosalyn Leach Daisey and illustrated by Sina Patricia Kurman, contains precise measurements and details for carving and painting a black-capped chickadee. The two chickadees are similar. So that he wouldn't show up in class lacking bird-carving experience, he embarked on the task of carving a black-capped chickadee. Without anything but his book and new tools, Jim carved and painted a fair-looking bird (not shown here) before going to the folk school.

Even though jim's instructor and book had slightly different approaches to bird carving, there were many similarities. Riley Monroe demonstrated several bits, stones, and sanders for his power carver which Jim had not previously seen and naturally had to purchase some adding to his growing collection of taper, ball nose, cylinder and spherical tools.

Riley was also a big help in demonstrating how to paint a cypress knee to make it look like a rock--as can be seen in the above picture.

The image shows Jim's chickadee after just a few minutes on the band saw and marking position and direction of the beak.The bird began as a piece of tupelo wood. Tupelo is a good choice for this type of work because it carves well using power tools without leaving behind a lot of fuzz.

The bird's glass eyes have been set into its head using 2-part putty and feather burning is nearly complete. The breast was stoned to make it look like tufts of feathers. The bird is positioned on its perch in a natural position and its feet are glued into position.

This view shows the bird after burning in feathers on the bird's wings and tail. Every group of feathers has a purposeful use and a particular name which one should learn if they wish to become serious about bird carving. Notice the different types of burning required to simulate feathers on the bird's head, back, wings, and tail.