Over the course of my adult life I’ve built a series of skin-on-frame boats. Most were kayaks. A skin-on-frame boat is just that. A very light and strong frame is constructed over mold. Bent wood or plywood ribs are inserted and stringers are attached to these. The skeleton is removed from the molds and a fabric skin is stretched over the frame. The skin is then painted to deter rot, sun damage and to repel water.
(The big kayak was built from the plans in George Putz’ Wood and Canvas Kayak Building. George lived near me in Maine and passes away before I discovered his work. I suspect that he knew my old [also late] friend Max Wheildon who put me on to canvas covered craft when I was a little paddler.)
My last skin-on-frame boat was high tech. It was built from a super light steam bent frame and aviation skin. The skin was attached with heat sensitive tape and shrunk to drum tight when an iron was passed over it.
A little over a year ago I began to explore bird forms in the same manner that boats are developed and built. I carved birds and sawed them into sections and half-“hulls”. I drew and laid out lines like I would when designing a boat.
I made sense to approach building large birds like a skin-on-frame boat. The same technique was applied, with great success to early airplanes. In fact some modern airplanes are still fabric covered.
Developing the techniques for this work has been difficult and there have been setbacks and failures. I’m writing now because I’ve finally a large bird in frame.