Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Tutorials

BRAID ON A PIRATEBRAID ON A PIRATEBRAIDS ON AN INDIANBraided hair adds a lot of interest to any carving where braids seem appropriate.  The three photographs above show examples of the use of carved braids.  While braids looks nice on a carving they also need to be carved as accurately as possible.  Braids are thicker and wider where the braid begins with three bunches of hair braided together.  The braids narrow as they come to the end of hair and the twist of hair needs to be tight.

BRAIDS ON A WIZARDBRAIDS ON AN INDIANCarving braids took me a long time to learn the layout and get braids pictured in my mind.  I am indebted to Rex Branson who first showed me his design layout.  Stu Martin, Harold Enlow, Vic Hood  and Jeff Phares also contributed to my understanding on the art of carving braids.  Combining all these lessons along with my best friends “practice, practice, practice,” I have found a comfortable way to lay out and carve braids.

Carving is basically the art of shaping a piece of wood using a sharp cutting instrument to round square corners and flatten round surfaces.  The lay out is using straight lines that will eventually be rounded in the carving process.  The instructional photographs that follow will follow a step by step procedure.


Each photo represents the steps in laying out a braid.  In the first step in the first photo, draw a zig-zag line down the center of the area where the braid will be located.  It helps if the design has a slight curve or lazy “S” shape  and the zig-zag lines become shorter going down the braid.

Step two is visually described in the second photo.  Straight lines are drawn at an upward angle from each “zig” to form an open ended rectangle box of both sides as indicted in the upper portion of the photograph.  The lower portion of the photograph shows the rectangle boxes completed.

Step three is depicted in the third photograph that shows the blue zig-zag line down the center of the braid.  One half of braid is indicated by the red rectangle boxes while the other half is indicated by the green rectangle boxes.  It looks like a very boxy braid with a bow at the end and a tail of hair under the bow.  Study the outside line of each rectangle box to notice how it disappears under the box above it and then that line becomes a blue zig line and then the line of the opposite color.

The last photograph shows the braid carved to its basic boxy form awaiting the rounding of the corners and shaping of each braid intertwining with the other two.


The first photograph shows the three drawing steps and the final step is carving a triangle chip at each corner of the zig-zag.  The second photograph is another view of carving these triangle chips at each corner of the zig-zag.  What these triangle openings do is begin to give depth and definition to the junction of the intertwining of the strands of the braid.

The third photograph is the next defining carving process by separating the sides of each strand of the braid with narrow vee notch cuts.  These narrow vee notch cuts are made by making two angled slicing cuts using the length of the cutting edge for a smooth cut.  This kind of notch cut is better than trying to use the tip of the blade which results is a chewed up cut when the second angled cuts meets the first cut.

The next step is to carve the outside edge of each rectangle section of the braid by carving away a triangled section of wood.  This will create a zig-zag effect of either side of the braid.  As the carving continues all square corners will be rounded, thus softening the zig-zag effect.


The first photograph shows the braid carved to its boxy form and each strand of the braid color codes.  Three strands of hair bunches make up a braid.  Each strand has a colored pencil line that shows the trail intertwining with the other two.  Follow the red line, follow the blue line and then follow the green line to see how the braid is constructed.

The second photographs shows the braids carved to a rounded shape and the intertwined braiding of each strand.  One strand has been detail carved to give the individual hair effect.  The end of the braid has a tie wrap and a tail of hair below the wrap.

The third photo is the completed braid, carved to completion and having received an application of raw sienna artist oil paint thinned with boiled linseed oil to enhance its appearance.

The fourth photograph is an additional study piece.  Starting at the bottom right above the wrap there are red lines to indicate where the outside of the strand of hair will be.  Above that section is the boxy form of the braids.  The upper section shows the strands of the braid rounded and intertwined and the individual hair detailed.

All of these photographs require spending some time studying the various steps in order to become comfortable with the procedure.  The next step is to get a piece of wood, follow the procedure and invite my three friends, “practice, practice and practice” to join you in the carving process.  Carving is the journey so enjoy the journey while experiencing the time of your life.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 at 2:21 pm and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment


Great tutorial, Don! I’m gonna have to try this. I think Santa ought to have a braid in his beard, don’t you?


June 16th, 2009 at 10:42 pm

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