Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Noggins, Tu Tor Plus


Basswood hen eggs provide a challenging medium for carving imaginative projects.  The challenge is to carve a variety of subjects out of the unique shape of a hen egg.  The egg shape lends itself to carving faces since the human face fits well within the oval egg shape.  The shape also allows for the carving of the upper torso and head of a figure without legs as an elongated bust.

Recent hatchings of egg noggins have produced a variety of faces along with a clown half figure and a repeat of an earlier Santa design with a long stemmed pipe and a list he is checking.  Each provides a challenge in executing a design within the limitations of the egg shape. Pictured next are photos of  a sea captain in various stages of the carving process. (Click on photos to enlarge) (NOTE: the unpainted egg carvings have small square bases attached to indicate that they are the instructor’s class project go-bys  and  are used for when the finished carving is painted and then removed.)


The first two photographs above are of the beginning of carving a sea captain out of an egg.  The top shape of  captain’s hat is carved first followed by carving the head going up into the hat.  Notch cuts are used to outline or establish the major landmarks as in the third  photo outlining the pipe and the fourth photo outlining the back of ear.


The four photos above study the progressive development of carving a sea captain. Visually study these along with the previous photos to get a sense of how the finished sea captain was carved.

Within the photographic journey are competed carvings supplemented with egg noggins in various stages of being carved.  This pictorial tutorial invites the viewer to imagine how to carve between the steps in a mental connecting of the dots of carving with one’s imagination.


Crucial to this approach of carving a basswood egg is to draw center lines from front to back as well as side to side.  Center lines help to lay out the basic landmarks of the face as well as keeping everything in proper proportions.  A horizontal line intersects the front center line where the eye brows will be located and a “V” is drawn proportionately to the eyebrows to indicate the wings of the nose nostrils.  The eyebrow and nose lines indicate where notch cuts are used to create a trough or ditch for carving definitions of depth for the high points and low points of the facial structure.  A notch cut simply allows for the knife to be able to lower and shape the wood in its various stair stepped contours of the face and body structures.

A notch cut is made with two slicing cuts angling towards the bottom of the first cut to create a trough or ditch. Notch cuts utilize as much of the cutting edge of the blade as possible to take advantage of the slicing action of the microscopic teeth separating the wood fibers. Notch cuts are useful for outlining the major areas where there is a stair stepped definition of the shape.  For example, a notch cut on the back edge of the ear allows for the ear to stand out from the back of the head.  Or notch cuts are used to outline the top and bottom or the front and back of the arms depending on how they are positioned.

The side center lines help when carving a head and face in the entire egg to indicate where the ear is located which is on the back half of the head.  When doing an elongated bust the side center lines helps when laying out the arms.  With an elongated bust, the egg is divided into thirds with two horizontal lines going around the egg.  The top third is where the head will be located with the first horizontal line from the top of egg indicating the top of the shoulders. Between the two lines the chest area of the elongated bust is located which includes the arms and hands.  Below the second line is the location for the belt line or coat tail line. The bottom of the egg or its base represents the hip area of the elongated bust.

The goal is not to keep the egg shape but to carve within the egg shape by removing enough wood in the sculpting process to achieve a recognizable face or bust like figure that tells a story.  The finished carving can remain a stand alone carving sitting on its own base or it could be used as a bottle stopper by adding an appropriate cork to the bottom of the carving.

Once center lines and other guidelines are drawn on the egg, the first carving activity is to shape the head covering.  If it is a hat, the top of the hat is shaped first using slicing and rolling cuts starting at the top of the brim or bill and slicing up and around the crown.  Once the top of the hat is shaped close to size, then a slicing stop cut slices around under the bottom of the hat. This is followed with slicing peeling cut around and under the hat to cautiously end at the stop cut.  Always do the slicing stop cut first followed with the second slicing cut up to the stop cut.


The Face Plane Study above shows how the face is carved to the basic form of a face to lay a good foundation to receive the detail carving of the facial features.   Notice how the face has been narrowed on the sides of the face and nose while the ears flare outward.  Notice also how the head has been carved to fit into the hat rather than the hat sitting on the head.  Carving the basic form of the face makes for ninety five percent of the carving process while carving in the details is the final five percent.  The photographic journey that follows is of finished faces carved from a basswood hen sized egg.


A notch is made with two slicing cuts that meet at the bottom of the first cut utilizing as much of the cutting edge as possible. Such a cut creates a better finished surface than using the point of the knife like a pencil to make the first stop cut which is then followed with an angled cut towards the first stop cut using the point of the knife once again.  The comparison is seen in the first two photographs below for separating the back of the ear from the head.  The last two photographs show a rolling slicing cut to shape the area of the top of the hat which is more efficient that making a stop cut followed by a cut toward the stop cut.


The key in all the cuts in Whittle-Carving is to always make slicing cuts by letting the cutting edge do the work rather than forcing a wedge cut.  Two cuts that make a notch and a three cut triangular chip cut are two important procedures for lowering the surface of the wood to another level to shape the carving project in its stair stepped levels and contours.  All of these cuts and procedures are learned by carving as often as possible to experience the “more you carve the better you carve.”





This entry was posted on Sunday, July 29th, 2012 at 8:32 pm and is filed under Carving Projects, Noggins, Tu Tor Plus. 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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