Bird number: 133
Date: December 18, 2012
Wood: Banksia pod (Banksia grandis)
Banksia is a genus of about 170 flowering trees or woody shrubs native to Australia that have distinctive flower spikes and fruiting cones and heads. The Bull Banksia tree, native to Southwest Western Australia, develops very large (up to 35 cm, or 13 inches) seed pods.
This one is about eight inches long and about four inches in diameter.
The outer surface of the pod is kind of fuzzy, and the wood directly under the fuzzy layer is very soft and crumbly. I cut the ends off and squared up the sides so that I could get a bird pattern on the thing.
Cutting this stuff made a huge mess. The wood is somewhat brittle, and the harder bits around the cavities tended to break off. I had to be extremely careful with this because the blade had a tendency to wander. But with patience and care, I ended up with a bird cutout.
I thought I’d be able to carve this bird with a knife, but the wood alternates between crumbly, brittle, and very hard. So I instead used the Foredom power carver, using a light touch to avoid getting the bit caught in one of the seed holes. I learned a while back that a bad things happen if that bit grabs an edge.
Sanding, too, was somewhat difficult. All those holes. But it was worth the effort. The final product really is unique.
You might notice that I left the tail a little thicker than with most of the other birds. The pod really is brittle. I was experimenting with a piece slightly thicker than my typical bird’s tail, and it snapped unexpectedly. I figured I’d leave this one a bit thicker to prevent it from breaking off.
The figure’s back is about at the center of the seed pod, so you don’t see a lot of holes up there. A shot of the bottom shows a lot more holes.
The wood sure finishes up nice, though! And the holes add a unique character.
Wood turners really like Banksia pods. Just do a Google images search and see some of the beautiful turned objects. The pods are kind of expensive here in the U.S., though, so you don’t often see turned objects at craft shows and such.
I enjoyed carving the Banksia pod, especially after somebody told me that there was no way I’d get a bird from it. He sure was surprised! That said, I doubt I’ll be buying another one of these pods any time soon. Unless I come up with some crazy idea . . .