Balsa Wood Crow

Here is an exciting craft project for young and old alike. Follow the instructions carefully and you will be the proud and happy owner of a toy crow made out of balsa wood. Imagine the flabbergasted looks of family and friends as they admire your handiwork, and resolve to become better, more productive citizens by following your example. Imagine them gnashing their teeth in despair as it becomes apparent that they are cack-handed nincompoops whereas you are the very opposite of a butterfingers. Incidentally, if you are by chance a butterfingers, do not be deterred. All you need is self-belief, sometimes in the teeth of the evidence. Just go and read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and stop snivelling.

First of all, obviously, you will need some balsa wood. I’m afraid that you will probably have to pay for it. If you are a mendicant, and cannot countenance frittering your paltry beggings on something as inessential as balsa wood, you may have to resort to theft. I cannot condone even the most measly purloinment, of craft materials or indeed of anything else, so we would seem to have reached an impasse. Help may be at hand, however, from various charitable institutions or even from wealthy individuals who share a passion for balsa wood work. You could try writing letters to such as Yoko Ono, the Duke of Norfolk, or Lyn Cheney. The latter is the wife of the Vice President of the United States, not to be confused with Lon Chaney, the deceased film actor. Here is a model letter you can use to ask for assistance:

Dear [insert name here]. Like you, I am an enthusiastic balsa wood craftsperson. Unlike you, I am poverty-stricken. Please send me some of your spare balsa wood so I can make a toy crow. Yours sincerely [insert your name here].

That should do the trick, and keep you away from a life of crime, the consequences of which can be disastrous. Only last week, a ne’er-do-well was apprehended while trying to steal a tube of modelling paste from Hubermann’s, and he is due to be hanged imminently. He will certainly not be the envy of his friends and the possessor of a crow made out of balsa wood, so do not even think about emulating him.

So you now have your balsa wood. Next you will need adhesive. There is a range of glues and gums available, from Hubermann’s and elsewhere, and I think I can leave it to you to make the right choice. It really doesn’t matter whether the glue is clear or cloudy or white, whether the method of delivery is via a nozzle or a squeezy pad or a spatula, whether it comes in a tube or a tub or a jar. The only thing you need to keep an eye on is whether or not it is sticky enough to fuse two pieces of balsa wood so decisively that they cannot be prised apart even by wild beasts. You may want to test the adhesiveness of your chosen adhesive before cementing the purchase. If you are in Hubermann’s, you can go to the little cupboard near the fire escape to do so, and I am sure other retailers have similar facilities, although there may be a fee involved.

I will assume that you have returned home safely with a suitable adhesive and that your pile of bought or donated balsa wood awaits you on your kitchen table. If you do not have a kitchen table, for example if your kitchen is pokey and does not accommodate much more than a bread bin and a kettle, any old table will do. If you do not have a table of any sort, just use the floor, but sweep it clean of filth, please.

Now, the next step is to sort out your balsa wood. Working methodically, and with rigorous self-control, divvy the balsa wood into discreet piles, putting like with like. So, for example, place together pieces that might serve as beaks, those suitable for wings, or talons, and so forth. By the end of the exercise you should have separate piles of balsa wood for each part of a crow’s anatomy. If you lack ornithological confidence, and are not entirely sure what a crow looks like, don’t be afraid to consult a reference book, preferably one with lots of pictures. Just make sure that the book you choose has a section on birds. There are a few paperbacks in the basement of Hubermann’s, but for a broader selection you may want to look further afield.

Now is the time to make use of that adhesive. Remove the lid, or wrench off the cap, or pierce the seal of the tube or jar or tub. Sometimes this is easier said than done, and you may need to be violent. If you are a weakling, some preliminary strengthening exercises are recommended, or, as a short cut, you can try drinking various invigorating syrups. Those of you who choose the latter ought to seek advice from a qualified medical practicioner, and I stress the word qualified. Quacks, shamen, mountebanks and wizards cannot be trusted as far as you could throw them if you were not a weakling, no matter how exciting their various potions may seem. Be diligent in examining the certificates and diplomas of your chosen medico, and remember that things are not always as they seem, and there is a roaring trade in counterfeit documents. If you have even the tiniest suspicion that there is an attempt to hoodwink you with a forgery, call the police immediately.

Okay. You are ready to build that crow. Keeping an eye on a reference book picture, if necessary, assemble the crow by gumming together bits of balsa wood taken from the separate piles. I don’t need to go through this in inordinate detail, because you are not stupid, but to get you started, and to make sure you don’t make a ridiculous mess of the whole thing, just remember to stick together the bits of the crow that are contiguous. For example, the beak goes on the head, the talons are at the far ends of the legs from the body, and so on. You may find that there is an anatomical crow-part for which you do not have a corresponding pile of suitably shaped balsa wood pieces. If so, throw caution to the winds, and improvise! Strike an attitude of vivacity and daring, and all else will follow. Trust me.

When you are done, and you compare your balsa wood crow with the picture you have probably been working from, you will notice that something is not quite right. Do not be downcast! I am not yet done. At this point, you need to go back to Hubermann’s, find the paint department, and get some black paint and a paintbrush. Mendicants should have already fired off letters to paint-keen wealthy people, such as Arianna Huffington or Art Garfunkel. Now, before slapping the paint onto your crow, make sure that each piece of balsa wood is thoroughly stuck to the piece next to it. As you bash it and wrench it and throw it around the room, it is possible that a part may break off. If this happens, splurge more glue on and reattach whatever part it is, the beak or a feather, with a bit more vim. When you are sure that your crow will not fall apart, paint it black, all over, two or three times.

Replace the lid on your tin of paint and wash your paintbrush very thoroughly, under the hot water tap or with a slosh of turps, depending on the type of paint you used. And that’s it. When the paint is dry, you can pick up your balsa wood crow and take it round to show off to your family and friends, who will be flabbergasted, just as I promised.

Note for mendicants. If you made your crow using donated balsa wood and paint, it is good manners to write a letter to your benefactor, enclosing a snap of the wooden bird. I know I gave you a model letter to copy before, but this time I am going to leave you to your own devices, for by now you will, I hope, have the confidence to stand on your own two feet, and need no further mollycoddling.

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  1. Pingback: Home of the picnic for detectives at LifeParticles

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