Carving Rippled Feathers

This demo is about making ripples and separating feathers. The example I'm using is a male American kestrel's tail, underside. Ripples, when they occur, will be on the trailing edge of the primaries, secondaries, tertials and tail. In certain species, ripples may also be found on the leading edge of the secondaries and tertials. Check your reference material to determine if, and where, any ripples are present.

I use a medium or coarse ruby carver to make the initial ripple groove, then I will refine and separate the feathers with an elongated flame shaped diamond carver.

Photo 1
This photo shows the tail feathers carved and "stepped". The ledge for each feather is about 1/16 inch thick.
Photo 2
This shows the individual feathers from above. This is just a "rough draft" of the individual feather shapes. I will further refine and shape each feather as I ripple and separate it.

Photo 3
After checking my reference for the kestrel, I found that the ripples on the underside of the tail were "V" shaped, with the widest part at the edges. Also, the ripple followed the flow of the barbs. Here, I've sketched in the barb flow as giudelines for forming my ripples.

Photo 4
This photo shows the ripples drawn in and shaded, following the guielines I drew in earlier. Note the "V" shape of the sketched in ripples. The widest point of the "V" is at the edge of the feather and it gradually narrows as it gets closer to the shaft. In this case, the ripple will "flatten" to the normal contour of the feather at the shaft. Upon checking various reference material I found that there were two, sometimes more, ripples on each tail feather.

Photo 5
I've carved the grooves with a flame shaped ruby carver, coarse grit. Think of the ripples as "hills and valleys". The "hill" is the portion we are raising....the "valley" is the groove we just carved.

Photo 6
The arrows on this photo are pointing to the two ripples that the rest of this demo will focus on. They actually point to where the "hills" will be undercut and raised. I've shaded in one of the "valleys" to illustrated the "V" shape carved in. It is deeper at the edge of the feather and gets shallower towards the shaft.

Photo 7
With and elongated flame diamond carver start to separate the feather and form the "hills" of the ripples by running the point along the edge of the feather. Undercut the contour of the "hill". This is why the feather was initially carved so thick, so there will be enough wood to raise the point ofthe carver up along the contour of the "hill". The edges of the feather that don't have a ripple will be sanded down to a thin edge.

Photo 8
This is a close-up showing "hills" raised. Notice that the feather is still quite thick where there are no ripples. Again, this portion will be sanded down to a thin edge after all the ripples have been carved in and the feather separated from the one below.

Photo 9
What I'm trying to show here is further refinement of the raising of the "hill" and further separation of the feather. I used a needle taper diamond carver for this. Make the same passes with this carver that you made with the elongated flame, only go deeper under the feather. Be very careful here, you can easily push too hard and poke this thing right through to the other side. This is a slow process and requires a light touch. I make perhaps 5 passes minimum to separate and ripple each feather.

Photo 10
This shows the feather at the final stage, cleaned up and sanded.....ready for burning. The edges have also been sanded thin. I use a sanding cloth called Swiss Red. It comes in several grits. I started the sanding process with 150 grit, then progressed to 220, 320 and finally 500.