Wednesday, February 13, 2013





I have been asked by several how I come up with my characters. I buy my wood from Heinecke Woods http://www.heineckewood.com/ornamentwood1.htm

The character you see here is loosely based on Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

I cut head shots out of magazines, take photos of interesting people and draw them. I start with my block of wood and find the center so I can make the head and body even. Once I find the center and mark it, I draw the outline and draw in features. I take it to the bandsaw and cut off the excess wood.

I make my first cuts called stop cuts under the nose and at its sides.  When I furst began carving, I lost many noses.  My problem was that I was trying to carve out the nose instead of taking away the excess wood around it.   

I carve a small upside down triangle just below the bottom of the nose with the tip of my knife.   As you can see from the photo, I still wear a carving glove and thumb protector.  You can also see that I occasionally miss by the holes in the glove.  The carving glove also seems to help me hold onto the wood.

Using a U shaped thumbnail gouge, I cut towards the stop cut on the side of the nose. When using gouges, ALWAYS point away from yourself!!!   I aim the gouge deeper towards the nose and the side of the face.   I take the knife and cut from the side of the face almost mid center of the eye socket.

I cut from that center point of the eye to the side of the nose.  I do this on both sides of the face.  
Even at this point, it is beginning to look like a face.
I begin to smooth down the sharp edges on the cheeks.   I cut down the nose to the chin to form the deep furrows to the sides of the mouth.

I carve the area from the center of the mouth area back to the smile lines.  This gives you the beginnings of the curvature of the mouth.   I also  carve the hollows on the side of the cheek too.

In a profile look, you can see his character shaping up.

I use the tip of the knife to cut a small V for the mouthline. 
I use the knife to shape the lips.  I leave the very center of the lips until last.  Cut on the other side also.

This photo was hard to make and still show me using the U thumbnail gouge up the nose at an angle to carve down the sides of the nose.

At this point, I don't worry as must about the "fuzzies" because I will use the Abranet sanding product from The Woodcraft Shop in Iowa http://www.thewoodcraftshop.com/
These are the U shaped thumbnail gouges from Flexcut that I use. There are lots of brands out there. I bought Flexcut because they were sharp right out of the box and they were the less expensive and fit my hands. 

After sanding with the Abranet and tiny hobby files, you can see the face.  I added some paperclay hair and pointy ears to this head.


The Mad Hatter must have a rabbit with bad timing.  And here it is before paint.  I tried a different idea for ball jointing the rabbit and it seems to have worked. 

I hope this photo blog helps you create your own characters in wood.