animals,  Jig Saw,  Yard Art

Designing a New Mexico Grizzly Bear 3D Yard Art Project

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Inspiration for the Grizzly Bear project

A very nice lady by the  name of Rhonda N. contacted me a few days ago. Her community in New Mexico is fund raising for local activities. They recently build a large yard art project of a 3-D sleigh and because of the local football team is – The Bears –  they had this great idea of having the sled being pulled by a massive bear… 4 ft tall when standing on all fours. She seen some of the projects we sell and asked if we had such a woodworking plan.  Well, I didn’t… but that’s not to say  I couldn’t make one.

 

(This plan is NOW AVAILABLE  to purchase in our online store, click here.)

First off I have to say that I’ve never taken on a project like this all by myself. Usually when I have an idea for a yard art project I typically involve someone who is handy with cad software to help draw and design. But that can take weeks and even months depending on who I hire and what their schedule is like. Knowing that Rhonda was on a bit of a time crunch I took it upon myself to come up with something. It was a great idea and I felt inspired… so let the brainstorming, drawing and cutting begin.

The first thing I did was use my limited skills on computerized drawing and came up with an approximate 4ft tall bear. Making the bear in a static position would of been easy to do so I thought of adding the motion of it walking while pulling the sled would add to the presentation.

Next was to dig out some large sheets of cardboard that have been in the workshop for a couple years. I have a habit of not throwing out something I think will be useful at some point in the future. 🙂 Templates are useful. And that’s what I did today, I made up cardboard templates for the legs. Making the two left legs was fairly easy and because the cardboard was 4 layers thick I used the jig saw to cut them out.

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Cardboard templates for the Grizzly Bear project

While I had the idea in place for the legs on the right side, I knew that I would have to use the left leg as part of the design. I mean, they had to at least look a little bit similar. It took about 30 minutes of looking, sketching, looking and re-sketching a few lines to get it how I wanted it to look.

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Recycling cardboard to make templates for the Grizzly Bear legs, all four in place

Next was to layout the parts on plywood, trying to make the most of the plywood material.

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Laying out the Grizzly Bear parts to make best use of plywood.
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Laying out the Grizzly Bear parts to make best use of plywood.

A little while back while working on some door panel screens I discovered how easy it was to cut plywood with a router and spiral bit. Its now my go to tool for cutting this material.

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Cutting out the Grizzly Bear parts.

The  body and legs are now cut. Next I make a few prop blocks to allow me to view and assemble the project while the body is vertical.

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Grizzly Bear body propped in place.

Next I put the cardboard leg templates in place to get a real view of the project.

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Grizzly Bear body and legs propped in place.

Next was the task of aligning the legs, one side to the other. I put the bear back down on the table and put the plywood legs in place. I knew the design required two tab-slot panels for the front legs and two table slot panels for the back legs. No complicated math here, I simply looked at the legs and drew lines top to bottom at slight angles. Then I drill two small holes on each line. This would be the reference point from here on in. 

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Aligning the Grizzly Bear legs with drilled holes.
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Connecting the dots on the Grizzly Bear legs.

With the cardboard leg templates, I could easily move them to get the best angle. I didn’t want the legs to go up and down… that would be too easy. So I took a guess and what I thought looked about right and made that the angle necessary to make the tab-slot panels that would attach the legs to the body. Nothing fancy here, I took my measuring tape and held the top of the leg 6 inches out from the shoulder area of the body. Then I splayed the leg out to what I thought looks right, and it came to be more or less 12 inches.

Now the thing to remember is that each leg is a different shape so right away I knew each tab-slot panel was going to have to be a different size. The only continuity between the four panels was the angle and the width at the top. I had the angle in mind to use, and I had the width I wanted them to be at the top of the bear’s back. With the front one made, it was a matter of working each one after that, one at a time. And I made them oversized in length because its easier to cut away a little later on.

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Designing the gate of the Grizzly Bear.

With all four tab-slot panels cut, time to put them in place.

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Installing the gate panels for the Grizzly Bear.

And now it the moment of truth, attaching the legs and seeing if all the guesswork in measuring was on track.

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First placement of the Grizzly Bear parts.

Looking good so far! Now you see in the photos that those tab-slot panels are longer than they need to be.

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Reviewing the design of the Grizzly Bear.

Back to the guesswork again, taking the pencil and sketching some lines for the curves on its back and belly. It requires disassembly again, but that’s all part of the process.

All done! Well …almost. I did use some small blocks to secure the tab-slot panels to the body and I think a few more will be needed to beef up the attachment of the legs to the tab-slot panels. Otherwise its done and I’m happy with it.

This plan is NOW AVAILABLE  to purchase in our online store, click here.

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Reassembled Grizzly Bear with curves parts.
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Rear view of the 3D Grizzly Bear.
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Side view of the 3D Grizzly Bear.
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Side view of the 3D Grizzly Bear.
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Completed Grizzly Bear

A Newfoundland born Canadian with a life long interest in woodworking, baking and anything else that peaks my curiosity.

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