Carving an Eagle

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

Click on a photo to view it full sized.

I started with a solid piece of pine 48″ long, 18″ wide and 2″ thick. This is half of a 8 foot board I purchased. Glue ups are fine, but I prefer one piece blanks when I can get them.

Using a reusable template to mark board for cutting.

Sorry, I jumped a few steps. Forgot to take photos. I used hand held jigsaw to cut out the outline of the eagle. Normally I would use a band saw, but this eagle was too large. I then cut away wood on the wings banner and tail using a large wood carving gouge. Aside from the jigsaw to cut the outline, all other work is done using hand tools. A board is screwed to the back of the carving and held by vise.

I’ve removed some more wood, establishing heights and levels of the various elements. Still, everything is very rough.


More refinement of the wings, head, shield and banner. I’ve starting the smoothing process using gouges with a straighter profile.

Here you can see I’ve detailed the right talon.

Here you can see the left talon is carved. Actually, I wasn’t happy with the way it came out. I ended up cutting it away and gluing another piece of wood in its place and carving it again. I’ve also begun working on the head details.

The head roughed out. I drilled a few holes around the beak and tongue and then used a coping saw and files to finish the cut out. Some features are exaggerated because this particular eagle will be mounted high off the ground.

With most of the surfaces smoothed I begin to create the feathers.

Both wings are now feathered.

That’s me veining the feathers.

You can see the upper feathers are veined. My veining gouge is on the wing.

Notice the number of carving tools on my bench has increased dramatically since I started carving. There are hundreds of different shapes and sizes.

Laying out the shield. Carving thin lines helps when it comes time to paint. It’s easier to carve a straight line than it is to paint one. For me any way.

Carving is complete.

Here is a better view of the final carving.

And the finished product. Finished in 23K gold leaf and enamel paint. Outside, it won’t need to be refinished for 50 years. Properly cared for, it will be around for two hundred years or more.


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