6 Steps for Perfectly Set Eyes

By: Bill Einsig
Updated March 12, 2018
6 Steps for Perfectly Set Eyes

Before he carves the head, Rick drills a hole through the head block and fits it with a dowel the same diameter as the eye. Then he cuts and sands the dowel section to the proper length and mounts the eyes to the ends of the dowel. Rick feels this ensures the proper distance between the eyes and symmetrical angles for each eye.

This is part of the Bobincheck's Birds article.
For more on Bobincheck's painting techniques, click here

Setting Eyes

Click on the photos below for a larger version. 

  1. Note the completed dowel section with mounted eyes in the upper left. The drawing shows the recommended distance between the outer surfaces (cornea) of the eye pair. For Rick Bobincheck’s black duck, the distance is 1 1/4 inches (32 mm). Rick then subtracts the thickness of each eye—in this case 5 mm—from the length of the dowel. (Rick measures this thickness because he has found it varies with eye manufacturer.) He drills a small registration hole in the center of the dowel and uses it as the center point for the layout lines on the dowel. He will use the brass rod in the registration hole to ensure perfect alignment.

  2. Rick normally carves his head from the same block as the body of the bird. For this demo, he’s working with a separate head. Rick uses his pattern to lay out the eye position on the side of the head and then extends the vertical line over the top of the head and down the opposite side. He then draws a centerline on the head block from front to back. This gives him an intersection at the eye position and another on the top of the head where the centerline crosses the eye line.

  3. Next Rick drills two holes with his accurately set drill press. He uses a 10 mm bit to drill the eyehole through the head to fit the 10 mm dowel. If this dowel is too snug, Rick puts the dowel into the chuck of his cordless drill and spins it in the hole to smooth it. Then Rick uses a 3/32" bit to drill the registration hole in the top of the head to fit the 3/32" brass rod. Typically, Rick drills both holes, then inserts a length of dowel through the eyehole and runs the 3/32" bit into the registration hole again, this time drilling through the dowel. Rick uses his measurements to lay out lines on the dowel with the 3/32" hole as the midpoint and draws lines at 16 mm and 11 mm on each side of the hole.

  4. With his miter set at 12 degrees, Rick uses his disk sander to sand the right side of the dowel from the 16 mm line to the 11 mm line. He can trim excess dowel from this end before sanding. He then repositions the miter and fence to the other side of the sander to shape the left side of the dowel spacer.

  5. Rick has found 12 degrees to be about right for the forward slant of the black duck’s eyes. But there is one subtler trick. Notice in the first photo how the brass rod is vertical. This produces a 12-degree forward slant to the eyes. But in the next photo, Rick has rolled the brass rod over against the fence. This produces a slight downward slant to the eyes. In other words, this sanding produces both forward and downward slants so the eyes focus on the critical area at the tip of the bill.

  6. After sanding the dowel to length, Rick mounts the eyes to the dowel, keeping the 1/4" eye set measurement with a temporary adhesive and experiments with the fit using the brass rod in the 3/32" top hole to align the eyes. Then he removes the eye assembly, band saws the head, and begins to work the body and head with Foredom and Gesswein. Rick says he never adequately learned to use knives and gouges but works with power except for cutting in the eyes with an X-acto knife. After the body and head are worked to rough shape, Rick mounts the eyes to the dowel and cements the assembly in place using the brass rod in the top register hole for perfect alignment. He then finishes the piece with wood burning for detail and oil paint.



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