anatomically correct, full size, dimensional loggerhead carapace made from scrap plywood and 2x2 pine
Step 1: Build It Like You It Grew It- the Skeleton
So, I tried to design the skeleton based on the rib structure of the real deal. The plates of a turtle's shell are called scutes, and are part of the rib cage. I wanted my scutes to have a rib behind each one. I also tried to model the scutes to be as close to the real thing as possible. The spine and ribs are notched and glued plywood slats of 1/4” scrap that was laying around. The medial scutes have the stability of the spine and at least one rib. The radial scutes anchor on the ribs as well as the medial scutes. They are from the same 1/4" scrap, glued in place. I think I intended to build this one as a prototype and use better material on the next one. This thing took three years start to finish, there won't be a next one. Maybe.
Step 2: A LOT of Custom Cuts Later........
All of the plywood cuts were done at the table saw, with beveled edges to match the neighboring scutes. I learned to cut them big and shave them down. All glued down with wood glue, no fasteners. The radial scutes were left with squared edges. Costal scutes around the edges are cut from white pine 2x2"s to give it the look and feel of heft and thickness. The woodgrain radiates out from the spine to mimic the burl of a loggerhead's shell.
Step 3: Knocking Down the Corners
Filled any seams with putty, and sand sand sand. I liked the natural finish so much, it hung for a couple of months like this, while I thought about color. I didn't want to screw it up with a crappy finish after so much work. But finally....
Step 4: Color and Finish
Loggerheads have this great red/orange when they are adults, so I started there. I didn't love it, so added a darker tone on the scutes. The top layer of real scutes are made of dark keratin that grows new along the seams, newer tissue defines the edges of the keratin plates. Anyway, another layer of dark stain on top of that, then a coat of wax finished it up. Cool project, glad when it was over and on the wall!