How to cut a figure out of wood with a knife

Breathe life into the wood: A realistic carved sculpture technique

Sculptural carving is rightly considered the pinnacle of carving art. It is most logical to proceed to the technique of creating three-dimensional figures after the confident mastering of relief carving, which can be regarded as a kind of intermediate step. In the presented material we are going to tell you about the basic principles of sculptural woodcarving, doing it on the example of the work of American artist Leah Wachter.

figure, wood, knife

How is this particular project convenient for a beginner?? First, it has a relatively simple algorithm for carving, while the work itself looks very effective. Secondly, it uses a basic set of tools, which every carver who decides to do sculpture will have to deal with in the future. And finally, this project gives you the opportunity to get acquainted with the technique of texturing wool. Master this technique. especially important for beginners, as you will have to constantly refer to it in the future, creating sculptures of animals in volumetric wood carving.

Begin by transferring the pattern onto the linden blank. On a band saw or jigsaw, cut the base along the outer contours of the side and top views. Draw an axial line that will help maintain symmetry as you cut.

Using the bogorod knife, round the body of the rabbit symmetrically: from the tail to the base of the ears. Then move on to working out the chin angle: separating the lower jaw from the body. With long, longitudinal strokes of the knife, give the face a tapered shape. Cut symmetrically, focusing on the center line.

Work out the tail: round it, partially separate it from the body and give it a pointed shape. Continue the symmetrical rounding of the body. Using a pencil, continually redraw the working scythe lines, which will help you stick to the correct proportions.

Proceed to rough out the hind legs. On both sides of the workpiece, draw schematic outlines; focus on the axial line to make sure they are equal in shape and size. Make deep notches along the lines with the knife. Using a narrow straight chisel on each side of the sculpture, remove the wood above the contour of the hind legs, creating a pronounced semi-volume.

Move on to roughing out the front paws. Draw a working contour and separate it from the main part of the body, making a rectangular ledge.

Using the same Bogorod knife, work out the creases on the back and front legs, making their contours more detailed.

Move on to working out the eye. Cut out the symmetrical hemispheres. These circles should be proportionally larger, because eyes and eyelids will be cut on them later. Draw the outline of the muzzle and the back of the cheek.

Detail the relief of the face by outlining the contours of the muzzle and cheeks. Change sides frequently to keep the thread symmetrical.

Having finished detailing the face, move on to rough carving the ears. Our sculpture has ears that are not on the same level, which gives it an even more realistic plasticity. To achieve this effect, use a straight chisel to cut the shaded part of the wood along the pre-drawn outline.

Separate the ears from each other by making a series of V-shaped notches. The division should be deep, but not wide.

Mister Splinters shows the four basic wood carving knife cuts in HD

Using the template, shape the back of the ears. Outline the contour of the bushy cavities and select them with a cerazik, a small semi-circular chisel. Work carefully and slowly. Do not forget to alternate sides, so that the woodcarving is symmetrical and the sculpture itself is balanced.

Move on to detailing the toes on the front and hind paws, using the main tool, the bogorod knife. Finish shaping the outline of the tail.

Detail the shape of the eye, forming a lower and upper eyelid. Follow the contours and finely contour the nose and mouth.

As in classical Bogorod wood carvings, the fur texture on this sculpture is created using a fine chisel. This process requires a certain amount of care, patience and diligence. It is desirable to create hollows, imitating the structure of wool, along the pre-drawn markings. The only non-textured areas left on the sculpture are the ears, muzzle, paw tips and eyelids.

After that stage, change the straight edge for a 6 mm blade width angled chisel and cut out the missing areas on the chest to create some sort of wool scraps on the chest.

Sand the back of the ears using rolled up pieces of fine sandpaper.

Prepare the sculpture for dyeing by brushing it thoroughly with a toothbrush. Acrylic or oil painting paints can be used for coloring.

The main part of the wool is held in a light brown tone. Muzzle, chest, ear cavity and eye area in dark grey. Paint the eye with black. Paint the tip of the nose as well as the back and inside of the ears with light pink.

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The principle of creating highlights and shadows when coloring figures is standard. It’s especially important for beginners who are mastering wood carving to practice this technique. It can be advantageously used to create any work in volumetric wood carving: animals, people, garden sculptures, etc. The interplay of light and shadow can make figures look more realistic and effective.

Using a light black color, use a thin brush to draw strokes in all the recesses of the animal: in the folds of the neck, front and back paws, ears, tail, etc.д., It can be used advantageously in all woodcarvings: animals, people, garden sculptures, etc. In order to create a realistic shadow on the sculpture. Blot away excess paint with a paper towel.

Mix the white and brown to achieve a light brown color (one order of magnitude lighter than the base color of the wool). Glaze the sculpture’s most exposed areas: the cheeks, hind and front paws, and the back of the animal. For extra sparkle, paint the rabbit’s eyes with clear acrylic.

Making figures from wood with their own hands

Hardly anyone can say with any certainty how long ago wood products were. It is known that originally masters created idols, depicting animals or celestial luminaries. Wood figures mainly served as talismans. And today, craftsmen continue the craft. woodcarving.

Creating animal figures in wood takes little theory and work requires experience. Masters recommend starting with simple samples. Familiarize yourself with materials and tools, make a blank of plasticine or clay. After mastering the basic techniques of carving, proceed to making figures out of wood. Create comfortable conditions for work. The table should be comfortable, the lighting should be sufficient. For safety, the workpiece is fixed with a workbench.

Tools for fine sculpture. Wood carving for beginners.

We will talk about small sculpture like different figures with a height of centimeters 10. It is important for beginners in woodcarving to choose a good tool and wood, because a bad choice can turn out to be an unpleasant first impression of carving in general, especially for a child, if you suddenly decide to awaken in him an interest in handicraft, creativity, wood and craft. Well, or if it, a child, this interest has awakened by itself without your direct involvement.

In principle it is possible to cut on wood practically with any knife. Someone can carve something with a kitchen knife, someone with a scalpel, and someone, look, is ready to use a screwdriver, but all this, in my opinion, from the category of sadomasochism. It is much better, easier, comfortable, simpler and more pleasant to work with special knives.

If you want to carve a small figure on your leisure time you can do with penknife at all. There are even several foreign publications, telling about the peculiarities of woodcarving with such a tool, as well as describing the performance of several figures. For example: There are many advantages: such a knife can always be carried with you, it is quite versatile (suitable for both hiking use and for carving), often has several blades of different shapes (although not all of them are useful in carving), functionally sometimes no worse than specialized knives for wood carving, often stronger than them, but thicker (the blade itself), not so sharp, because of frequent use for working on such materials as stone, earth, etc.д., Can be damaged and unsuitable for carving. Therefore, if you decide to use penknife, make sure it is of good quality, without jagged edges, chipped tip, lies comfortably in your hand, and most importantly. the steel must be of good quality, hold well sharpened and sharpenable. It is important that the knife blade locks well in the handle in the open position. Another solution is to buy specialized wood carving knives. A jamb knife, for example, will not be suitable for this purpose. Something else is needed here. For example, the Bogorodsky knife. Why is it called that?? It’s not hard to guess. It was named after the village of Bogorodskoye in the vicinity of Moscow. It was in this village carvers were making Bogorod toys, traditionally using special knives. Therefore, there is no doubt in the expediency of buying such a knife. it is convenient to use and with the proper skill allows you to do both coarse carving (creating a general “angular” shape of the figure) and fine details (that’s where the skill is needed). To cut such figures, for example, one such knife will be enough (this figure is the work of an American craftsman). The Swiss company Pfeil has something like an analogue of the Bogorodsky knife. a g-shaped knife, called Pfeil Junior. The handle is thicker, the cavity is differently shaped. It is intended for children, but can also be used by beginners. Its secret is the special shape of the blade, curved in a letter g (you can see the shape better in the photo below). This ledge on the side makes it easier to hold the knife in your hand, it is easier to move it with your fingers and at the same time it increases the level of safety. But in general it is not very convenient to work with such a knife. Blade length with Bogorodsky knife. 50 mm, with Pfeil Junior. 55 mm.

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Another option is to use another specialized, kind of “European” knife. It is smaller than the Bogorodsky, more maneuverable, while not inferior in functionality and practicality, rather the opposite. the blade blade is thinner, well suited for delicate woodworking. Knives come in different lengths. for several different purposes, but there is a universal size. In general all above mentioned tools are universal enough in use and can be used for creation and execution of various forms and drawings, the only limitation will be skills of the master himself. What tool to choose? You decide for yourself. You might be tempted by the shape of the handle, by the way it feels good in your hand, or by the color, etc.д everyone’s criteria may be different. But an advice can be given all the same. buy tools from trusted producers, which can be returned or at least changed, if necessary (buying somewhere at the market from someone unclear, you risk to buy a low-quality knife, which may discourage carving as from you so from a child). And, if you have the opportunity, do not buy an instrument in absentia, but in person in a store where the instrument is presented live. then you will understand exactly which instrument is “your” one. By the way, all of the above knives are available for sale in the online store “ All for woodcarving and creativity”. We also have a specialised store where you can see these tools in person.


Purpose This subspecies of traditional chisels is usually used for geometric carving as an alternative to jamb knives for some operations. They are also used in flat-relief and sculptural carving. here the beveled edges provide convenient trimming of the material in hard-to-reach places. As a rule, joints are not designed for an auxiliary tool in the form of a beater.

The working body of the chisel has a flat back (no side chamfers) and a beveled cutting edge. The angle of the bevel of the blade varies from 45 to 70 °. The most popular models are chisels 10 to 30 mm wide.

Carved wood bear

Volumetric sculpture is considered the most difficult type of woodcarving art. Proceed to the manufacture of three-dimensional figures with their own hands should only be after familiarization with the other methods and techniques of carving. A particularly popular subject for sculptures in wood is the image of a bear.

This mighty master of the forest has been inspiring artists for creative work since ancient times. It can be said that no animal so often appears in carved art as the bear.

Decorative animalistics

Very often carvers choose images of animals to create sculptures. Creating animal figures out of wood is a fascinating and rewarding activity. How beautiful they are in their diversity. graceful, powerful, calm or impetuous. Masters look for inspiration for their work both in various photos and drawings depicting animals, and by observing specimens of interest in zoos or zoological museums.

Observing the behavior of cats, dogs or other animals will allow a better understanding of their structure and plasticity. They will serve as a nature for creating a sketch for carving or a series of photographs. Images of birds are no less attractive for carving. Owls, partridges, wood grouse, and even domestic chickens look great in handmade figurines, thanks to the opportunity to effectively depict the beauty of the plumage.

The images of elephants are also worth looking at. The massive appearance of this noble animal can be embodied in exotic wood species. Of course, at the beginning you need to choose the right object, so as not to be disappointed in the result of the work.

It is not necessary at once to undertake difficult carved figures, focusing on beautiful photos of a flying owl, wild cats or fine elephants carved from mahogany.

Practicality and correct calculation of their forces. these are the important criteria for selecting a sketch to create a carved figure with their own hands. The drawing for carving must be clear, with clearly visible details and preferably in profile. Photographs, sketches, and observations are also important. they provide additional information about the structure of animals.

About woodcarving for beginners

To decorate the interior and exterior space can be used different types of carving and techniques of embodiment of the conceived. If you are interested in this type of needlework, you should understand that you need to master the methods and techniques of woodworking, acquire the necessary tools and improve your carving skills.

In today’s world of smartphones and tablets, a wooden stand decorated with carved wood looks very original.

Exquisitely made carving in the form of simple and ornate patterns and ornaments as if revives the world and gives it a refinement, charm, emphasizes the taste of the owner of luxury things and talent of the master.

The works of the best master carvers decorate temples. Note the photo of the iconostasis of the upper Church of the Savior of the Non-Manufactured Image, which is located, in the Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fili.

Modern masters with great taste create the real masterpieces.

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And thanks to the technologies of finishing and protection of the finished product from the destructive action of mold and insects, these carved wood handicrafts serve people for hundreds of years.

Note the magnificent carved pieces of furniture:

Delightful handmade statuettes:

Very often connoisseurs collect handmade carvings. Wonderful chess sets, which are worthy of any collection.

Perhaps over time, and your masterpieces of woodcarving will be carefully kept by collectors or decorate temples.

Types of wood carvings

Of all the types of wood carving, openwork or through wood carving is very interesting, which is characterized by a certain transparency in which only the image remains, without a background. An example of this is an applied carving, which is an ornament that is attached to the finished background after it has been made by the craftsman.

Geometric woodcarving is a type of carving, in which a pattern is formed with a set of simple geometric shapes (the rhombus is often used).

Oriental wood-carving is marked by the whimsical nature of forms. Egypt is the cradle of oriental woodcarving.

Relief carving on wood. In this technique, the image is located above the background or at the same level with it. These are carved panels of various forms with a three-dimensional image.

Carving in the Barroque style is a flat-relief carving, but it is distinguished by the abundance of carved and molded ornaments, various flowers, curls, leaves, figures of people in unnatural poses, fantastic fantastic animals.

Kudrino carving appeared in the village of Kudrino. Famous products in this type of carving are considered caskets, vases, dishes, ladles, home decor items. The main element is a plant ornament: rosettes, scrolls and twigs.

Volumetric (sculptural) carving is excellent for making sculptures, figures of animals and people, toys. Bogorod carving is a subspecies of volumetric carving. This is the main craft of the village of Bogorodskoye in the Moscow region. Bogorod’s famous toys are figures of animals and people made of linden and alder.

Scandinavian carving was most often used to decorate wooden Scandinavian churches. Woodcarvers used to decorate the inside and outside of church buildings with images of Gods and various animals.

A contour carving is the simplest and most peculiar kind of carving. On a flat background, the master carves grooves. grooves, forming a pattern. Carved landscapes images of landscapes on wood.

All these kinds of carving are quite conventional. Each craftsman chooses the most appropriate one, taking into account experience, wood quality and creative inspiration.

What can be decorated with carvings?

The simplest staircase is transformed, decorated with carved balusters. Balusters are figured columns in the form of columns, a stylish and noble decoration of stairs. Wooden balusters look harmoniously with the spiral wooden staircase.

Bas-relief. Another name for “low relief.”. This is a sculptural image on the plane. Most often they are figures of people and animals.

Start with small crafts

The full list of essentials is mildly dumbfounding. But it always makes sense to try the job first to assess the level of enthusiasm and understand the true meaning of buying expensive and quality tools in the future.

Make small crafts can be, even if there are only two or three basic cutters, a table and a set of sandpaper of different grit. As the first works it is recommended to choose cutting kitchen boards or decorative figures in the size up to 200×200 mm: animals, plants, miniature houses and similar trifles.

Such items contain all the basic elements of wood carving: framing relief edge, internal through-carving and relief carving on the plane. The point is that adhering to strict dimensions and tolerances in the handicrafts is not necessary, it is much more important to feel the reaction of wood to the cutting tool, its plasticity, the difference in density in the neighboring fibers and other characteristics.

When you have developed muscle memory for certain techniques, move on to more complex products. At this stage, you should take on the task of making frames for photos, chests, caskets. The next level of complexity is compound products and wooden mechanics. Starting from the familiar to many of the composition of a man and a bear and ending with wooden three-dimensional puzzles or mechanisms with lots of gears.

By doing this kind of work, you will develop and maintain the skill of precise woodcarving, and it is not neglected even by hardened professionals.

Artistic wood carving for beginners

Interested in woodcarving for beginners, as a rule, people who do not have art education. For them, this art is a hobby. Due to the fact that the knowledge of most of these carvers is scattered, we will try to order them. In woodcarving itself there is nothing complicated. In Russia, this type of craft has always been a major. Even in stone processing, they first used techniques they had long been accustomed to.

Today there is a genuine interest in this art form, even though many of the skills are already being lost.