No flight of fancy: Thomson spends hours carving birds


McCLURE – Steven Thomson’s carved birds are so life-like they look like they will fly off their perch.

Thomson started off carving fish but got into birds because people like birds more, he said.

He showed off a wood duck, a northern shoveler, hooded merganser and blue jay — as well as a rock bass, perch, largemouth bass and pike.

Thomson still has the 2-foot-long largemouth bass because he doesn’t think he can get what it’s worth if he tries to sell it. He said it was the first thing he did 30 years ago and has painted it three times before it got where he wanted it.

He uses a bandsaw then Dremel and chisels to carve the wood and an airbrush to paint. His shop is in the basement.

Thomson said he takes it as a compliment when people think it is taxidermy.

The birds have so much detail in the feathers; he wood burns each to make the barbs then uses an airbrush.

He starts with basswood, which is heavier than balsawood and lighter than pine.

“This is one piece of wood with just a little putty to set the eyes,” Thomson said about the birds and fish that perched on his dining room table.

He said he has used commercial patterns but if he can’t fine one, he makes his own.

“I’ve worked off of pictures I borrow off the internet, especially when I’m painting and doing details. … Some things you just can’t find a pattern for, you just go to make it yourself.”

He said he prefers carving fish, but people prefer the birds.

“Everything I’ve done so far is native to Ohio,” he said, then added he would like to do some saltwater fish.

It can take nearly as long to paint a piece as it does to carve it. He said he has never been good keeping track of how many hours he puts into each piece.

Thomson is a 1985 Bowling Green High School graduate, and later earned an associate degree in wildlife management from Hocking College.

He spent 26 years working as a game warden for the state Division of Wildlife. He left in 2018.

Thomson said he started carving before his job with the state.

His interest in wildlife began when he heard a game warden speak during sixth grade at Camp High Hope in Indiana. That presentation is why he became a game warden.

He just recently quit as a sheriff’s deputy and juvenile court constable to take a position with the Wood County Park District.

“It fit me so well. I wasn’t looking for a job, but someone mentioned they were hiring,” he said.

He holds a Realtor license and works with Howard Hannah Real Estate Services. He is not seeking new customers and works mostly with friends and family.

He attends trade shows to buy supplies but has never entered his pieces.

“I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t done it yet. … I just haven’t had the confidence to enter anything.”

Thomson hasn’t ruled it out, however, and pointed out most shows have novice categories.

“It’s not a moneymaker because of the hours.”

He usually doesn’t have a lot of inventory as most of his pieces are made by request.

Thomson has been commissioned to do an eagle’s head and a woodpecker.

He said his favorite pieces are whatever he is working on, which currently include a wood duck and a crappie, which is in the sunfish family.

The wood duck is for himself, the crappie is by request.

Thomson puts a lot of pictures of his projects on social media, but does no advertising.

“It’s something I enjoy,” he said. “It will never become my full-time job, but I think I will do more in the future.”

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