I normally use glass eyes on all of my carvings. The facial feathers around the eyes (especially owls) look like soft hair. Small 1mm V-tools define each feather of the face. I usually drill the eye sockets 2-3mm smaller than the glass eyes themselves. I create larger eye sockets behind the drilled openings to hold the glass eyes. I keep testing each opening for fit until I'm sure that the cavity is ready for the glass eye. The glass eye can be carefully "pushed" into the cavity. A piece of soft foam is placed into the eye cavity before each glass eye is pressed into place. The foam pushes the glass eye back against the eye socket opening creating a perfect "real life" fit.
There is no glue holding the glass eyes in place. It takes time to fit the eyes into each carving using the above technique, but the end result is worth the investment.
The detail or veins of each feather are individually cut into the piece using a 1 mm V-tool. A Bald Eagle that was completed for 2010 had over 40,000+ individual veins creating the soft look feathers of this carving.
If a roughed out piece seems to have potential I will first concentrate my initial carving time on the facial area of the bird. Finding the personality of each new bird is something that shows up as the facial detail is carved. When the eyes are correctly set, and the facial detail is defined, the carving starts to come to life. Not every carving makes it past this stage.
Creating these one-of-a-kind pieces takes time and attention to detail. A typical piece may take 20-30 hours of "roughing-out the piece" work alone before a carving tool ever touches the wood. As you can see in the pictures below, the entire process from start to finish is multi-step and requires the use of several essential power tools. Using one of my chain saws, I begin roughing out the bird. (A friend once told me... "That's easy, just remove everything that doesn't look like a bird!") The next step is to use a hand grinder to continue the sculpting process. Each roughed-out carving is allowed to dry thoroughly before moving to the next stage. After hand-sanding each piece, I finally proceed to carving with hand-held carving tools. Check out the photos below to view the many steps each piece goes through to become a Wildlife in Wood creation. The featured bird shown in the hand carving process is a Barred Owl carved from Butternut. This piece was completed in early spring of 2009. Click on the Gallery to view more images of my newer carvings.