"Ugly Duckling to a Beautiful Swan"




Introduction: "Ugly Duckling to a Beautiful Swan"

All you need to make this project are some basic tools as shown in the pictures and lot of patience.

Step 1: Cutting the Hunk of Wood

I am fairly new to this site and when I saw that there was a woodworking contest, I had to check it out. what magic you can create with a hunk of wood, the contest asked. Then there was a picture of several men and women sitting on a log with a two man crosscut saw. Both the picture and the challenge inspired me to enter this contest. A few years ago, we had a logger approach us to purchase 7 empress trees in our property. Apparently, he mills 10 or 12 of these trees every year and ships them to a Japanese woodworker for a small profit. After he cut the trees, he left two of them on top of the hill because they had bumps and knots on them. The trees have a hole going through the center of them and additional holes go through the center of branches. This was why he had no interest in the two trees; every bump represented a hole. Initially my husband had dragged them near our wood pile to cut for firewood but after cutting a few slices to burn, it was clear that this specie of wood simply refuses to burn. We were at a loss as to what to do with these two logs and were trying to figure out how to dispose of them. After few hours of research on Google, I learned that some carvers use this wood for their carvings. I have wanted to make a wooden swan for a long time and the idea of “making something out of hunk of wood” and wanting a wooden swan brought this project all together. First, visualizing the size of the body, I cut a portion of the log with the chainsaw.

Step 2: Shaping

Next was to create a flat area using the fro so it could sit flat while the body was rough-shaped.

Step 3: Rough Cut

I know, my dog has always been an skeptic. This wood is very fiber-like and sort of spongy and from my research it is milled and stacked semi-vertically in the fields for several years before it is used to make all kinds of wooden objects from shoes to very fine furniture. I used the drawknife to finish flattening the bottom so I could set it somewhere flat and shape the body.

Sorry, although we have a two man crosscut saw, the chainsaw was the tool of choice to rough-cut the rest.

Step 4: Peace

Now came the fun part, using the drawknife and the saw rasp to create a nice semi-smooth body. I love working with hand tools as they provide mesmerizing sounds that immediately put me in a meditative state. The process is so comforting and addictive that I want to continue it even though my tired arms are screaming, “stop””. As I was shaping the body, there appeared a large soft spot by the tail area that was actually the hole that went through the log.

Step 5: Where Is the Head?

Back with the chainsaw to rough-cut the neck and to the band saw to shape it. Ain’t she pretty??

Step 6: Disaster

No wonder the guy abandoned this log; this portion of it had more holes in it than Swiss cheese. There was a huge cavity right at the end of the neck area as well but I didn't want to start all over again by cutting a new neck. After the neck was assembled, the cavity was coated with liquid fiberglass and filled with bondo. The large holes under the belly and by the tail as well as all other small holes were filled-in with wood and epoxy. I inlaid a piece of wood over the tail area to better match the grain. The neck and the body are connected with two dowels and epoxy. At this point I was not too happy with the project as I envisioned a beautiful, graceful swan and instead all I could see was a bird that was shot with a shotgun which had landed on its chest after the downfall.

Step 7: Scarface

I really wanted this bird to be either whitewashed or stained as the wood grains were just stunning but it looked liked the only way to make her pretty was to paint it. Ugh!

Using an carpet Knife, I began carving out the eyes and the more I looked at it, the more I did not want to paint it.

Step 8: Almost Done- NOT

I spent a few hours carefully matching all the grains with various color pencils on all the holes and cracks that had been filled only to have the stain wash them out. Plan B is to redo all the drawings after the stain dries and apply a few coats of polyurethane and hopefully call it finished.

Step 9: The End

So here she is... I named this project ugly duckling because it reminded me of the book about a swan. It is a beautiful children story by Hans Christian Andersen that I encourage everyone to read their children. If you want the short and modified version by Disney, here is a link to the 8 minutes YouTube presentation.

Thank you for looking.

Step 10:

I realized that these birds mate for ever. So, I made a companion for her/him?? I think they complement each other now.

Wood Contest

Fourth Prize in the
Wood Contest



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    34 Discussions

    Great job ! may i ask what's the name of the tree? the wood texture is so beautiful, kinda rough decision to coat it though.

    2 replies

    Thank you abboud.nac ! The name of the tree is called Paulownia Tomentosa. Common names are Empress Tree,Princess Tree or Foxglove Tree. Around where we live people use the proper name, but we call it Empress Tree. You can Google the name and get a description of the tree, flowers and growth. The grains are beautiful, but to just varnish a piece doesn't bring grains out and the color of the wood isn't that great when varnished, kind of a dull yellow gray. May look good for some projects, but didn't think it would be a good choice for my swan. Here is site to check the tree out.

    Very inspiring. I have never seen a saw rasp does ti have teeth like a saw? Does it cut faster than a Surfform? Thanks for sharing.

    1 reply

    Thank you Dr. Joe ! I have never used a Surform Rasp before. I bought a Shinto Rasp Saw and a Shinto Planer Saw Rasp for my husband almost a year ago after watching a video of a man doing wood working, he made a comment that everyone who works with wood needs one of them. Surprise gift for my husband !! And I am getting some use out of them too. :o)

    That is one fantastic animal! Voted. Thank you for sharing.

    1 reply

    this is beautiful. the name gives the project and martial so much meaning. your love and care and extra work really brought out the beauty in what someone else abandoned. you have great skill. it looks like a super fun project. thank you for sharing.

    1 reply

    Wow!! awesome ..In Step 8 you mentioned Pencils are these normal color pencils that you would get at a stationery store or are there special one that you get for wood work ? Thanks.

    1 reply

    Thank you CarmelitoAndrade. It was a lot of fun. The pencils I used are called "Prism"color pencils you can purchase from Hobby Lobby in the art department