What am I doing here?

December 14, 2011

The Winter 2011 issue of Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine had an article that shows how to create a simple stylized bird from a block of wood. The author calls them “comfort birds.” He designed them to be comfortable to hold. But they also make really nice hanging ornaments for Christmas trees or anywhere else for that matter.

My wife Debra bought me a Foredom flex-shaft power carver for my birthday, and I chose this little bird project as my introduction to using the power carver. My first project was a bird made from a piece of mesquite I picked up in the back yard. Debra loved it, and so did everybody who has seen it. And I was so struck with the beauty of the wood that I thought I’d see what other woods would look like when carved into birds.

And thus was born the 100 Birds Project. My goal is to carve at least one of these little bird ornaments from 100 different types of wood. Debra has already claimed the first bird from each type of wood. What I do with the others is an open question. I’ve already given some away as gifts.

The rules are pretty simple: find 100 different types of wood and carve birds from them. My goal is to have those 100 birds done by the end of 2012. Whether I can do that will depend primarily on my ability to find 100 different types of wood.

What constitutes a “different” type of wood is left to my discretion. However, I’m very interested in getting as many visually different woods as possible. There are, for example, something like 600 different kinds of oak, but the wood for many of them is very similar. I don’t expect to have more than two or three different types of oak in my collection of birds: white oak (the wood of which is brown) and red oak (which really is red).

Although I’ll use wood from whatever source I can get, my preference is “found” wood. I prefer to work with wood that I’m able to collect from my back yard, from the neighbors’ yards, from my walks in the woods, or fallen or trimmed branches that I see while driving. My second preference is for wood that I get from others, through gifts or trade. For example, I’m unable to obtain chestnut here, but a friend back east is going to trade me some wormy chestnut for some mesquite, which he can’t obtain there.

My least preferred source will be purchased wood. I can’t say that I won’t buy some wood to work with, simply because it’s unlikely that I can find somebody who’s willing to part with a piece of ebony, for example, or lignum vitae. There are a few specific woods that I want to include in this project, and I’m not against buying them if I can’t obtain them elsewhere.

This blog will contain a post for every bird I make from a new type of wood. In addition, I’ll talk about the tools I’m using, my process, and perhaps other interesting things that come up along the way. I already have several different birds finished, and will be posting about them soon.