WHITE CEDAR BIRD

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A marvel of green woodworking, the white cedar bird shown in this sec­tion seems to defy logic. Made from a single piece of cedar, its wing feathers form a 3 14-inch-wide fan that stays in place without a single drop of glue.

Using a technique developed by the late Chester Nutting, Edmond Menard of Cabot, Vermont, crafted the white cedar bird shown at left. Sliced from a single block of fresh wood, the bird’s feathers spread out easily when the wood is wet, but lock into place when the wood dries. Menard has made more than 50,000 birds since 1976; he can carve a bird in under 10 minutes.

The key to success with this technique is to use freshly cut white cedar, which is pliable as long as it stays moist. Start preparing the bird blanks as soon as pos­sible after the tree has been felled, Buck the tree into 18-inch lengths, square up the log on the jointer, and cut it into 14- inch-thick strips on your band saw. Next, move to the table saw and rip the strips 1 inch wide and crosscut them into 8- inch lengths—enough for two birds. If you prepared more blanks than you can use right away, wrap them in plastic and store them in the freezer.

The only remaining tool needed for this project is a sharp shop knife, used to notch the feather shape and slice the individual feathers, and a scroll saw to cut the profile of the bird.

CRAFTING A CEDAR BIRD

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1

Carving the blank to shape

Trace the profiles of the bird (above, left) on the top and bottom of your blank. Draw lines along the sides to connect the transition points. The notches in the tail section will allow the individual feathers to interlock, as shown in step 4.

Once the outlines are done, secure the blank with one side facing up in a bench vise. Use a shop knife to slice away waste to the marked outlines, cutting away from your body (above, right).

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image289"image290image291Splitting out the tail feathers

Use a sharp knife to slice the tail section of the blank into feathers. Holding the blank firmly, pull the blade squarely into the end grain, cutting slices of about & inch thick (above). Stop the cut when you reach the body section of the blank. Since you are cutting toward your hand, push the blade slowly and carefully through the wood. Once you have shaved halfway through the thickness of the blank, turn it over and work toward the middle from the other side. You may need to snap off a feather near the tail’s center to make room for the blade as the pieces begin to spread. With a 1-inch-wide blank, you should be able to produce about 30 feathers.

Cutting the profile

Once all the feathers are cut, outline the front of the bird on the blank, then cut it out on your scroll saw. To keep the workpiece from chattering, press it against the saw table with hold-down (above). Use the knife to finish the shaping. Proceed quickly to the next step while the wood is wet and pliable.

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4

Spreading the wings

Starting at the top of the bird, spread the second feather to one side and tu< к its arrowhead-shaped end over the top feath er. Repeat with the next feather t < w but spread it to the Other Side Continue in this manner, spreading the feather, outward (left) and tucking their ends over the previous feather. To complete tin* project, you can burn in eyes, a mouth, and marks on the tail feathers Oie •• the wood has dried, finish the bird with a sin­gle, light coat of shell.»’