Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects

The Civil War Soldier and the Cowpoke are two recent commissioned carving projects that offer an opportunity for a photographic visual tutorial on carving these classic subjects.  The Wood Bee Carver is primarily a knife carver who uses this means of showing the process of Whittle-Carving a six-inch-tall figure.

The process begins with a basswood block six inches tall by an inch and half square.  A quarter of an inch up from the bottom a notch cut is made on all four sides the indicated the base for the carving.  Carving a figure this size on the base is done because without a base the feet of the carving would tend to break because of the thin cross grain of the protruding feet. Feet only would make for an unsteady standing for the figure.  Also, to try to secure the finished carving onto a separate base requires carefully drilling pilot holes up through the bottom of the feet to insert a pin or screw to attach to base. It is easier to simply carve the figure onto a base that is part of the block of wood from the very beginning of the process.

The second stage is to draw a center line across the top of the block of to indicate the direction the head is facing.  This is followed by slicing off the four corners to beginning rounding for the shape of the head covering.  The simplest definition for carving is, “round square corners and flatten round surfaces,” which is the beginning to prepare for additional cuts to be made.  The two photos below show top views of two blocks of wood which in one the left top is carved into a round dowel beside the other top that is still square.  The second photo shows the rounded top view and the other one has the corners removed with additional removing of reformed corners until all corners have been rounded.



While this rounding is being done, the creative imagination is seeing a mental image of the kind of hat that will be carved.  A western hat requires the brim to be the larger rounded part of the hat with the crown of the hat being a smaller rounded part of the hat.  A pencil line is drawn around the large rounded dowel that represents the top of the brim of the hat.  On the pencil line the cutting edge of the knife is laid to begin a slicing action along the line and at the same slicing action the hand guiding the slice rolls the slicing action upward in a “slice and roll” action all away around to top of the brim.  This action around the top of the brim of “slice and roll” is done over and over in order to shape the crown of the hat.  The carver keeps an eye on the center line drawn earlier to keep the crown symmetrical to a hat shape. As the “slice and roll” process forms the basic shape and size of the crown, then slicing cuts across the top of the brim cleans up the rough edges.  Next, the bottom of the brim is formed by making a series of short slicing cuts under the brim to become a stop cut for the making of slow and gentle second slicing cut up to the first slicing cut to form a notch around the bottom of the brim.  This is done slowly and gently so as not to slice off the thin brim being formed.  The process will continue until the area under the brim seems to be the same size as the crown above the brim. The two photos below show the western hat carved to its basic form.


In the two photos above the second illustration is of the Kepi Cap of the soldier that has a cap bill rather than a hat brim.  So, the process is basically shaping the crown of the cap as an oval and the front end will be carved into a bill with the slant of the crown of the cap sliced at an angle up from the bill to the top of the cap at mid-point of the crown.

The Whittle-Carving style of carving begins with carving the head covering first to basic form so that the head can be carved as going up into the head covering.  The concept of “proportions” becomes the mental form of measurement.  Using the Rule of Three for facial proportions, the head is divided length wise into three equal proportions: Hair Line to Eyebrow; Eyebrow to Tip of Nose, Tip of Nose to Bottom of Chin. This means that if the figure is wearing a hat then the area between the Hairline and Eyebrow will have half of it up into the hat.  Knowing this allows for just enough room to carve the eyebrows under the brim or bill as well as the ears carved in line with the eyebrows.  Mentally seeing these proportions guide the carving in being able to locate the top of shoulders and the bottom of for Body Proportions ~ Shoulder to Waist; Waist to Mid Knees; Mid Knees to Bottom of Feet.

It is within these three proportions that one draws guidelines for the position of arms/hands; waist, legs, knees and shoes as well as other aspects of the figure’s outfit, clothing, objects in hands and other distinguishing items of interest. Guidelines do not have to be elaborate, just enough to guide in the shaping of the various areas of the figure.  The next series of photo will be a visual tour of first the soldier of the various areas being formed but not the details of the face.  The cowpoke will follow showing the carving in process of the various areas with the face still blank.






Finally comes the gallery of the completed carvings all decked out in their colors and ready to be whatever imagination can determine.










This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 19th, 2021 at 3:45 pm and is filed under Carving Projects. 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.

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