Carving a Bellamy Eagle

The following is a step-by-step process used to make a recent commission.

Click on a photo to view it in full size.

I started with a solid piece of pine 25″ long, 4″ wide and 1″ thick and cut out the pattern. This is a recycled piece of wood that was once a shelf, that’s why it’s painted white.

Using the pattern I’ve drawn out the main features and started to carve away the wood from the wings.

The wings are carved using progressively straighter gouges till the wood is nice and smooth.

Defining the banner with a V gouge.

The customer wanted a trailing tail on the banner.

Trailing tail is roughed out.

Trailing tail is finished.

Moving on to the head. Using a template I’ve cut out the basic shape.

A few more cuts are necessary.

The head is ready to be shaped.

I mount it to the body as an easy way to hold it while I carve. I use the same screw holes that hold it to the carving board.

Mounted and ready to rough out.

The head is roughed out and removed so I can work on feathering the wings.

Marking and carving the feather outlines.

The first step of feathering complete. Now onto the veining.

Quills are drawn and ready to be cut.

The quills and veins are complete.

Now I remount the head and finish the details on it.

I use a drill begin cutting out around the tongue.

Once drilled I use a jig saw, gouges and a file to finish the holes around the tongue.

The eye and other details are roughed in.

The completed head.

Banner is marked out and ready for incising. Light lines carved on the banner make it easier to paint, and it also define the pattern. It is probably why Bellamy did it. He probably had a helper painting the eagles for him.

This particular design calls for 7 stars. Very difficult to carve in this small space. But they are easier to carve than paint. Once carved painting is easy, just fill the recess. The carving is now complete.

I use a sealer on the wood to keep the paint and gilding glue from soaking in.

Once sealed I use high solids metallic gold spray paint if I’m going to apply gold leaf. This will ensure that if I miss a spot or have difficulty getting the gold into the carved lines it will be very difficult to tell. This spray gold actually looks very similar to the gold leaf but it would never hold up to the outside elements.

Once the gold spray paint dries I apply a slow drying gilders glue, which is actually a high quality varnish. The glue changes the gold paint to more of a dull tan, but still good enough to hide any very small missed spots. Once the glue is dry enough, but still tacky I apply the gold leaf. On a small carving like this I tear the slightly larger than three inch square pieces of gold leaf in half so I don’t waste much, and it’s easier to apply. Once the gold is applied the rest of the eagle is painted with sign painter’s enamel.

Here is the eagle finished. This customer did not want the banner that is typical on most of Bellamy’s eagles of this size. With the gold and enamel finish this eagle could be hung up outside and it would still look good up to 50 years later.


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Craig Casey
8 years ago

can you tell me if I have a John Halley Bellamy eagle?

Thank you Craig Casey

Lester Burgess
8 years ago

Do you have any video of you carving a Bellamy eagle or other eagles?

Armand Circharo
5 years ago

It is very reminiscent of a Bellamy I think. I like the motto as well, though my favorite is “Don’t give up the ship!” Belle my was born & rises in Maine and died in Portsmouth where JPJ lived.

For how much generally do your eagles sell? Do you make them to order?