Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tutorials


The Farmer was carved using a six inch tall by an inch and half square block of basswood in the Whittle-Carving Style of carving only with a knife.  Carving from a block of wood is much different than carving from a rough out or a sawed out blank.  The biggest difference is that it sets free the creative spirit to develop the overall design while shaping the block of wood into the basic form of the subject being carved.

Face of Farmer          Face of Farmer          Face of Farmer


A rough out or sawed out blank by-passes some of that creative experience. It is like drawing a picture is more creative than coloring in a coloring book with its lines already drawn.  Every carver should try to carve from a block of wood to experience the joy of creativity while shaping the wood first to basic form and then carving the finishing details of the subject.  Carving from a rough out is to carve someone else’s creativity or a sawed out blank is caving a predetermined coloring book design.  Set creativity free by carving from the block which may take a little extra time but then it is time well spent in a creative safari into the unknown of one’s creative potential.

The first thing a carver does in carving a new subject like a farmer, is to imagine in one’s creative mind what a farmer looks like in terms of clothing and an object being held that would suggest a farmer.  Holding a pitch fork as in the Grant Wood’s famous painting “American Gothic” would say farmer, but carving the tangs of a pitch fork would create areas of weakness prone to breakage.  A farmer holding an ear of corn seems to be a good alternative to be added to the bib overalls with red handkerchief flowing out a back pocket.  The ear of corn is held at an angle with one hand wrapped around the husk and the other hand holding the ear of corn with the thumb and two fingers.


Farmer ProgressS RuleFarmer ProgressFarmer Progress

The S Rule  was applied with the farmer’s head turned lightly to his right and the ear of corn held in two hands and corn husk held at such an angle that an imaginary S Line runs down the face, down the front of ear of corn and out the end of the corn husk.  The floppy hat brim also follows an S Line as does the outline of a line of the under arm on the right side of farmer that follows the curve of the red handkerchief and ends as the line passes under the knee cap fold in the right pants leg.  Such S Lines create a sense of movement in a carving and is always more interesting to the eye than a straight line that goes nowhere.  Such design features are worked out during the carving to basic form where by the carving process partners with creativity to create a pleasing design.

Progressive StepsProgressive Steps

Progressive StepsProgressive Steps

Carving from a block of wood is to utilize the Rule of Three of Facial Proportions and Rule of Three of Body Proportions  and by drawing very simple guidelines.  For example, the hat and head area of the square block of wood begins by rounding the four corners at the top of the wood into a dowel shape.  Then a center line is drawn across the top to indicate the direction that the face will be looking.  A hat brim line is drawn around the dowel shape as a guideline for the knife blade to make slice and roll cuts to form the top of the hat brim and shape the crown of the hat in the same process. Keep in mind that the size of the crown of the hat will determine the size of the head that is carved under the hat brim to fit into the crown.  The size is worked out during this carving to basic form phase of shaping the top of the hat (instead of drawing the top of crown as a circle and carving to that circle which may be off center).  The instructional photographs above show the progressive stages in this process.  Let your eyes do the talking as each photo is studied.

Once the hat and head are carved to basic form, then the remaining length of the block of wood is divided proportionately with horizontal lines to indicate the Shoulder Line, the Waist Line, the Mid Knee Line and the Bottom of the Feet Line (Rule of Three – Body Proportions).  Simple guidelines are drawn for the position of the arms, hands, ear of corn, legs and shoes.   These guidelines are used only to guide the opening cuts of the knife to shape there various parts while carving to basic form. It is the actual carving process that establishes the size and shape of the various parts of the carving.   Once the basic form is completed, then each part can be carved and shaped with detail features.

Ninety five percent of any carving is the carving to basic form.  The basic form is the proper foundation that is ready to receive the detail carving.  Five percent of any carving is the final details that are like putting the icing on a cake.  To try to put icing on a half-baked cake is the same as trying to carve the details before there is a proper foundation of basic form ready to receive the detail carving.

“Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood,” has long been the motto of the WOOD BEE CARVER.  This means that the only way anyone learns to carve is to carve and the more one carves the better one carves.  Carvers should always be growing and learning by always being “would be carvers” who are challenged by new and complicated carving projects.  In other words, it is “carving inside the block while carving outside the block.”  BLOCK is a euphemism for the Head as in BLOCK HEAD. Imagination is in the head (mind – creative center) and comes out by exercising that creativity in the carving process.  This only happens during the carving process be it the imagination carving and the actually carving process of shaping a block of wood with a cutting tool.  We learn by doing, often in trial and error fashion, and the more we do the more we learn.  Doing nothing results in nothing doing.  For the farmer, “turning the soil over in his mind does not plow the field,” is the same as for the carver who intends to carve ends up never carving.  Go ahead, get a piece of wood and a carving knife and start carving and whittle by whittle a creative carving will emerge. “The more one carves the better one carves,” so “better one’s carvings by carving more.”



This entry was posted on Friday, June 28th, 2013 at 2:29 pm and is filed under Carving Projects, 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.

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