Marvellous Mallard


Marvellous Mallard:
Marc Cotterill shows how to carve a mallard duck stick head.

Marc Cotterill shows how to carve a mallard duck stick head

The mallard duck is closely related to domesticated ducks. More than 60 subspecies have been identified.
The overall size of this duck can depend on the subspecies of parents, location, and food resources. They range in size from 20in to 26in long, while their wingspan ranges from 0.9-1m.
It is simple to tell the gender of a mallard duck based on the colour of the top of the head. For males it is a very bold green or blue. For females it is a light shade of brown. The body can be various shades of brown with white and even some blue on the feathers. They are very pretty and also very graceful when they are in flight.
The mallard duck lives in subtropical and temperate regions. They are found around North Africa, New Zealand, Australia, North America, Asia and Europe. They tend to live in the wetland areas where there is plenty of humidity. They do migrate for mating and to avoid cooler weather times of the year. It may surprise you to learn that some of them even live in the Arctic tundra.

Things you will need
 No.3 or 4, 10mm, 15mm & 20mm
 No.39, 2mm, 3mm, 5mm & 15mm V-tool
 20mm skew
 6mm drill bit and drill
 Straight carving knife
 Epoxy putty
 Orange & black watercolour paints
 Pyrography machine
 2 x centre punch
 6mm dark brown glass eyes
 Lime (Tilia vulgaris] 110mm x 160mm x 40mm 

Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.

1. Start by cutting out the head on a bandsaw. Make sure the thickness of the head is 37mm. Mark out the blank as shown in the diagrams. Always make sure you start with the centreline

2. Using a large V-tool separate the beak from the head, making sure you don’t carve too deep, and go over the line for the thickness of the beak on each side. Now use a large flat chisel to remove the excess from each side if the beak. This will give you the thickness of the beak. Now take a knife and carve the beak inwards on both sides, starting at the top and working downwards in a scooping action

3. From the side view of the beak mark a curved line from the top of the beak to the bottom. Remove the excess using a knife in a scooping action – this will give the beak a nice curve. When using the knife to carve make sure you carve towards you holding the knife with two hands

4. Mark a centreline on all four sides of the neck. Using a Microplane remove the corners, making sure you leave a nice curve from each centreline. This will also form the bottom cheek so make sure you don’t remove to much on the right and left of the head. When using a Microplane you cut forwards and then remove from the surface to come back. This then doesn’t flatten the blades or damage the Microplane

5. To form the head, shape from the aerial view, draw a curved line starting at the beak to the back of the head. Using a large flat at a slight angle, carve the excess to form the curve of the head. Note that the top of the head is slimmer than the cheeks and this will also form the rear cheek. Note that the back of the head is slightly thinner than the top of the head and becomes thicker at the base of the neck

6. Now, to form the top of the cheeks mark out a curved line from the top of the beak to the centreline on the neck. Using a medium shallow gouge carve in the line to form the top cheeks. Note the eye socket is in line with the top of the beak so the top of the cheek should be just below the eye socket

7. Using a medium shallow gouge the opposite way around, create a nice curved head making sure there are no sharp corners left. The head is now in shape and ready for sanding. When sanding I use coarse abrasive and work my way down to fine. The head should be smooth when finished, making sure that all the cuts from the bandsaw are removed

8. To form the egg-tooth, which is the only hard part of the duck when it’s in the egg, use a knife to press into each side of the egg-tooth and carve a curve to form the front of the beak. Make sure the curves are not too round – this will cause a peg-shaped beak if they are

9. Create the bottom beak by marking out a line from the centre of the beak to a third of the length of the beak. Using a V-tool and knife remove the excess. Picture 10 will help with how thick the bottom beak should be

10. Under the beak pencil a W shape as shown and push in a small shallow gouge on both the inner lines of the W. this will form the tuft that protrudes in the bottom of the beak. Now pencil in the curve to form the front of the bottom beak

11. Now complete the bottom beak by using a V-tool to carve the front curve. Using a medium shallow gouge create a curved shape in the bottom beak, making sure you don’t remove the tuft. The bottom beak is now completed

12. Use a V-tool to form the lip of the top beak

13. Use a knife in a scooping action leaving the lip of the beak. This will form the lip of the beak where the teeth are. Now remove the excess and create a nice curved beak. Pencil in the V at the top of the beak and the curves at the end of the beak

14. Now use a small V-tool and carve the curves at the front of the beak. With a medium V-tool cut into the V shape and, working down from the forehead, remove the excess as shown in the picture

15. Using a small V-tool, cut into the lip creating the teeth

16. Just over halfway up the beak, pencil in a dot. Now it’s time to find where the eyes are situated. To do this, draw a line from the top of the beak towards the back of the head and the bottom of the eye is around 15mm inwards, as pictured. Once you’ve found where the eye is on one side mark a centre punch in the dot and, looking from the front and the top, use another centre punch to find the other eye. See step 17 photo for how to line up the eyes. Eyes can vary depending on the blank cutout due to the depth of the beak so I would advise studying a duck for eye position, but this method works in most cases

17. Now drill the eyes with a 6mm drill bit (mallard duck eyes are 6mm dark brown) making sure you are level with the other side as explained in step 16. Be careful not to drill through to the other side – I’d advise to drill 10mm inwards. Also drill the nostrils with a 2mm drill bit

18. Use a small V-tool to carve around the 6mm hole to form the eyelid, being careful not to carve into the 6mm hole. Once the eyelid is carved remove the excess around the eyelid so that it is proud as shown in the picture. The head is now ready for the feather work

19. If you study a duck’s feathers you will see that they flow with the bone structure of the head and overlap, starting at the front and working backwards. Now draw in the flow of the feathers on the photo. As I mentioned before, looking at photos of a mallard duck will help you with the feather work.

19.1. Using a really fine V-tool start at the front of the head and carve the lines as shown

20. Once the lines are carved with the fine V-tool, carve between the gaps keeping the flow of the feather work. Continue this process for the whole head. Note that two lines cut with the V-tool form one hair. Keep referring to your pictures of a mallard duck, this will help with the flow

21. The head is now completed with the V-tool work and ready for pyrography. Using a pyrography machine on a high power create the feathers as shown in the picture. Start at the front of the head and work backwards as you did with the V-tool work. You can also make light and dark feathers by turning the pyrography machine down or up in temperature

22. Now the top and back of the head are done work on both sides, creating a curved feather affect with the pyrography machine – this will follow the shape of the cheeks. Remember everything flows with the shape of the bone structure. Just a note on pyrography, I’ve always found when teaching I can show how to do my style of feather work, but after that it really is practice. After a while, you do tend to get your own style of feather work and in truth it’s optional as to how you create. Do take your time though – it looks easy until you come to have a go, so practise on some waste material first

23. You will now need orange and black watercolour paint for the beak. Starting with the black paint, as shown in the photo, paint the beak and the egg-tooth

24. Now paint the remainder of the beak with orange, blending the black with the orange

25. The final step to complete the head is to fit the eyes. I use two-part epoxy putty. Mix the putty together and insert into the 6mm hole, making sure you don’t put too much in. The eye wants to sit just inside the socket. A duck’s vision is from the sides, front, rear, up and down – all it has to do is tilt its head slightly to look for predatory birds or animals. The head is now completed and ready for the stick. There are various sticks that can be used – blackthorne (Prunis spinosa), holly (Ilex spp) and, the most common and preferred, hazel (Corylus avellana). With a holly stick the bark is removed, which leaves a lovely cream finish after sanding and sealing

26. Here is a picture of a finished drake mallard to show the colouring variation


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