Step 1: Choose Your Design
The way that you process your initial design is optional and can vary. You can use existing images on the web for inspiration or you can eyeball the design/shape manually from scratch.
A quick Google search for “driftwood horse sculpture” will yield all kinds of designs and animal figures that you can use for reference.
In this case, I decided that I liked the rearing horse stance the best. For a simplified silhouette of the desired stance, I did a Google image search for “rearing horse coloring”. This search yielded image results that were black and white and meant for coloring in.
When I found an image with proportions that I liked, I converted the image to a vector and modified it for cutting out on the CNC machine.
You can download these above vectors in the links below. There is both an Adobe PDF version and an Illustrator version depending on what programs you use:
The next step will detail assembling all of these wood cut outs into a “skeleton” frame of the horse.
Step 2: Build Your Frame
Keep in a mind that a CNC machine is not required to build your frame or “skeleton”. You can manually build a rough frame out of scrap wood, branches, coat hangers, twine, and wires. The appearance of the frame isn’t really important as it will either be covered up or disposed of as you add your pieces of reclaimed wood.
Once I had all of my skeleton/frame pieces cut out, I started assembling the frame with the help of some scrap wood lying around.
I printed out an “assembly guide” to help visualize the positioning of the limbs as they relate to the torso in the drawing that I chose earlier.
If this is an outdoor sculpture, it’s recommended to not use cheaper ‘indoor’ screws like drywall screws or floor screws because they will rust over time and lose their integrity.
Once you have your approximate shape of the frame, it’s time to start adding your reclaimed wood!
Step 3: Building Your Core
For a stronger and longer-lasting sculpture, it is important that the core (foundation) of your sculpture is well established and can stand on its own. In this case I used the thickest stumps first as structural elements.
It may help to hang your frame/skeleton/spine from the ceiling if your frame cannot initially support itself to stand up.
Following from the center of gravity of the sculpture, I kept adding pieces that followed into the legs/feet of the horse to eventually complete a solid free-standing base.
Once the base is well enough established, the next step is is to decide which pieces of wood to use for the main appendages (limbs, head, tail).
Step 4: Picking and Placing Wood
This step is the more artistic/creative part of the process. There are no clear rules as far as which pieces of wood go where – but there are some general guidelines you can follow so the process of adding wood evolves more gracefully.
I started by adding the pieces of wood that anatomically resembled a horse. For example, a long curved piece was added as the horse’s belly.
Pieces that resembled posed arms were placed as the horse’s arms and shoulders.
As pieces of wood are added and the structure is reinforced, I removed parts of the skeleton that were no longer needed.
To get specific shapes to fit, I sometimes split pieces to get the desired proportions.
When the best pieces of wood were used up, I used the remaining bits to “fill in” the gaps of the body.
I did my best to the orient the remaining wood in positions that resembled the direction of the animal’s muscle fibers.
Now the all of the main body pieces are added, the next step is to hide and cover up any imperfections left by splintered wood or screw holes.