The ABC Beginner Guide: How to make Ostrich Fans – Part 2

Welcome back to our DIY guide to making your own set of feather fans. If you missed Part 1, you’ll need to start there, so check out our last blog here.
Next, we are moving on to preparing your feathers and beginning to assemble your fans.

STEP 2: Preparing Your Feathers
Before you start gluing all willy-nilly, you want to take time to prepare your feathers. Sort through them and pick out your required number, preferably all of a similar length and fluffiness. Arrange them in a fan shape and make sure they create a smooth curve when laid out, with no obvious gaps. You’ll notice that the feathers will either be straight, or curve to the right or left. Use the straight ones in the middle section of your fan, and use the curved ones on either side to create a smooth curved edge along the top of the fan. For example, feathers that curve to the right, should be placed on the left side of the fan so that they curve into the fan, as opposed to sticking out.

Feathers 1 edit

Trim your feathers so they are a similar length (you can get away with slightly shorter ones on the edge) and check that they still sit in a smooth curve. Next, you need to smooth out the spine of the feathers, on the side which will be glued to the staves. Some are more rounded than others, which can make them trickier to stick on, as they roll around. Use an opened-out pair of scissors or a penknife and (carefully!) strip the spine down (just the length that will be glued down) so that it’s flat-ish.  Okay: you are ready to begin assembly.

Feathers 2 edit 1

Feathers 3 edit 2

Top tip: if you’ve ordered feathers online and they arrive a little squashed or misshapen, lie them flat under a heavy-ish stack of books for a few days (do be careful though and don’t snap the spine of the feather). This will flatten them out and make them sit more nicely when you assemble your fan.

Step 3: Assembling Your Fans
Begin by opening out your staves. Working on one fan at a time and one feather at a time, firstly lay the feather on the stave and judge how high up you are going to place it. Apply glue to the stave (only as far down as the feather will go, there’s nothing more unsightly on lush fans than a big, clumsy glue-blob!) and also apply a fine layer of glue down the spine of the feather. Gently press the feather onto the stave and use hair clips to hold it in place, while the glue dries.

Top tip: if you want to make your feathers extra-secure, use fishing or beading wire to bind the feathers to the staves in one or two places. This plus glue makes for a stronger, more durable fan and is virtually invisible unless you look closely.

Continue gluing each feather as described above. Once you get onto your second fan, be sure to keep measuring it against the first one, to make sure they turn out as alike as possible. If you accidentally mount the feathers at a different height on one set of staves, you could end up with one fan several inches bigger or smaller than the other.

Top tip: it can be tricky working with feathers and glue – the two do not mix well! An accidental drip of glue can ruin a feather so be careful when attaching your feathers. Try inserting a piece of paper between your staves, so that the stave you are working on sits on top of the paper and the rest of the staves (and any already-attached feathers) are underneath. This way, the paper catches any glue drips and stops them tangling and spoiling your feathers.

Once you’ve attached all of your feathers, leave overnight to dry.

Do join us again for our next blog, which will be the final one in this series. We’ll talk you through finishing off your fans, as well as additional embellishment ideas and some other top tips.