Canadian Woodworking

The West Coast’s 10′ Wide Wood Eagle

Author: Rob Brown
Photos: Bill Jorgensen
Published: April May 2014
West Coast eagle
West Coast eagle

Wes Seeley from Comox, BC builds life-size wood eagles in his spare time. His latest masterpiece, a 10′ wide eagle ready to catch its prey, is going to be hung in the new Sea-to-Sky gondola in Squamish, BC this March


Most of Canada’s bald eagle population is located on the Pacific coast of BC, close to Wes Seeley’s home. Since 2009, Seeley has been painstakingly cutting, shaping and assembling the over 1000 wood feathers and other miscellaneous parts that will create his most recent work – a life-sized bald eagle. Seeley has spent over 2000 hours creating this wonderful work of art.

Seeley is a logger and has access to lots of wood, but selects only red and yellow cedar, as well as some Douglas fir, for his eagles. “I’m always looking for wood with the right grain and knot formations for my projects. People often consider wood with knots junk, but I see it as artistic gold,” said Seeley.

Slowly, But Surely
Seeley meticulously cuts, shapes and attaches each of the 1000-plus feathers to the frame. He works in his spare time; mainly on weekends and evenings.

West Coast eagle

Test Flight
The feathers about half complete, Seeley adds scale to show how large and impressive his eagle is.

West Coast eagle

Sharp Talons
After spending about 50 hours on the feet and talons alone, Seeley chose not to obscure them with a wooden fish.

West Coast eagle

The framework

Once he had the general design firmed up in his mind, Seeley started with the most difficult part of the build – making a wood frame to build the eagle around. “Designing the frame for the big eagle isn’t easy. It had to be strong enough to support the wings but not visible to the viewer,” said Seeley. Once the frame was complete he cut, shaped and attached the first row of feathers. Each row is a slightly different colour, to give the finished eagle more depth and contrast. From there he continued adding rows of feathers, and eventually worked the body and tail into shape, as well. Seeley really enjoyed that part of the build, as he could start to see the eagle coming together.

With the wings and body complete Seeley focused on the legs and feet.

“I was going to add a fish in the bird’s talons, but eventually decided against it. I didn’t want people to miss the 50-plus hours of work that went into the talons.”

Once the general shape of the head was complete, Seeley started to create the white plumage on top of it. “I tried a few different materials,” said Seeley, “but using cedar shavings for the head feathers worked best.”

Apply a finish

Once the many parts were fixed in place, Seeley used clear lacquer to protect and enhance the wood. It was a tedious task, but another important step in the process.

“Another challenge with this proj­ect was to get the scale and proportions right,” admitted Seeley. “I was con­stantly re-evaluating scale using photographs and intuition, as I’ve been watching eagles for a long time.”

When asked what inspired him to start this project, Seeley answered “just for the fun of it. I love eagles and woodwork so I thought I would combine the two and see what happened.” Now that this eagle is complete and installed, Seeley has his next project in sight. “I would love to build two big eagles intertwined and fighting,” he said with a smile.

You can contact Wes Seeley at [email protected] or (250) 890-0241.

Is there an interesting woodworking story happening in your community? Send me an email ([email protected]) or post a comment at the end of this article on our website.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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