Carving an Eagle in the Round (part 5)

I’ve finally finished up with a bunch of customer work and had some time to work on my in-the-round eagle. I was planning on carving feathers on the back of the wings and body. But I visited an exhibition of John Bellamy’s carvings in Massachusetts over the summer and liked what he did to the back of one of his large eagles. The photo below is my interpretation of his technique. It was quick and easy to do, but I like the effect.

Maybe I was being lazy, but the back of the eagle will seldom be seen. The original eagle that I modelled this one from had absolutely nothing carved on the back. I think this is a good compromise.



After an hours worth of work on the back, I spent an entire day carving the quills and vanes. I makes a big difference–the eagle comes alive.


So I was finally done with the carving and was trying to decide how to finish it. Should I just dye it, cover it in 23k gold leaf, or give it an aged gilded look. Then I got thinking about the ball and how “bald” it looked. A brainstorm! I should carve the globe on the ball. Easier said than done. I can’t draw to save my life, so I had to come up with a pattern. I found a pattern online that splits the globe into slices called gores. I played with the pattern until I got the size right and cut out each of the gores and glued them to the ball and started carving. Here’s is what the pattern looks like.



And here is the ball with the gores glued on. It was tricky glueing them on around the talons and tail. I wanted North America to be in the front underneath the talons so I had to tilt the entire globe forward. This makes the other continents too far south and sitting on a strange angle, but I don’t care. I’m one of those arrogant Americans who think it’s the only place on earth.

Here is a close up of the globe. I used a small gouge to texture the oceans and set them apart from the land.


Here is a photo of the finished eagle.


Here is the eagle after dying it. The water based aniline dye I use serves two purposes. The first is to darken the wood in case I do decide to age the finish. With the darker wood, if I rub through the finish while aging it I won’t have brand new wood showing through. The other benefit is that the water based dye raises the grain of the wood. Once dry, I give it a fine sanding and it makes the wood smoother which will help when I apply the gold leaf.


I decided to finish the eagle in gold leaf. I used to use automotive urethane primer on my carvings when using gold leaf. It leaves a beautifully smooth surface after sanding, a surface that is perfect for applying gold leaf. Unfortunately is builds up too high and fills in the details. Sometimes after applying this primer I have to go back over some of the details with my carving tools to deepen them. I did some experimenting and found that One-Shot pinstriping enamel goes on thinner, but seals the wood just as well. It also leaves a smoother, shinier finish that I don’t usually have to sand. I use two thin coats to get the coverage I need. It’s ready for the gold sizing as soon as it’s dry. Using the bright yellow color makes the gold look brighter and helps hide any small spots I miss with the gold. It’s ugly now, but will look great soon.


Due to the size of the eagle and the deep carving of the feathers, it will take a lot of gold leaf to cover everything. I’ll post a couple of photos when I finish it.

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