Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tutorials

This series of photographs presents a brief visual tutorial on the opening phase of carving a Cowpoke which can be applied to any Cowpoke.

The first step is to carve a notch around a quarter of an inch up from the bottom of an inch and half square by six-inch-tall block of basswood for the base. The base creates a sturdy and level surface for the carving to stand rather than having only the carved feet since the toes could break because of the weak cross grain structure of the toes.

The next phase is the shaping of the top of the hat first.  Begin by slicing off the four corners of the top of the block to form an octagon shape.  Continue to slice off the corners of the octagon until there is a dowel shape.  Draw a center line across the top of dowel to indicated the direction the head will be facing and draw a line around the dowel to indicate the brim of the hat.  Make a horizontal stop cut on the top of the brim line all the way around the dowel and make an angled cut down to the stop cut to outline the edge of the brim.  Continue to shape top of the brim with the sequence of horizontal stop cut and angled cut down to stop cut to remove wood for the shaping of the crown of the hat. Or, another technique is to begin a horizontal slicing cut slicing forward along the top of the brim and with a twist up of the wrist guide the cutting edge of the knife blade to make a slice and roll cut which removes and shapes the wood a little easier.

The purpose of doing the top of the brim first rather than doing the bottom of the brim first is because shaping the brim is creating a crossed grain brim that is very fragile. Doing the top first is a safer method to eliminate brim breakage.

Once the top of the hat brim and crown are of an approximate size, the next step is to begin shaping the head to fit up into the hat.  Once again, a horizontal stop cut is sliced around the bottom of the brim line followed by an angled slicing cut up to the stop cut all the way around.  Always do the stop  cut first otherwise an angled slicing cut may slice off the brim, so be slow and careful. The photo below is of the progressive steps to illustrate this process.

A hat with the front of brim turned up in front of the crown like the iconic Gabby Hayes hat is illustrated in the next series of photos.  It begins with removing the four corners of the block and drawing a center line across the top indicating the direction the hat and head will face. This is followed with another line to indicate the up turned brim as depicted in the first photo below.  The second photo shows the front of brim shaped as well as the rounding of the rest of the brim from a top view as compared with a carved shape of the hat on the left.


The left photo below shows the top of brim and crown of the hat during the shaping process with a knife that used the “slice and roll” shaping process.  The right photo shows the process of shaping the head to fit up into the hat using the slice horizontal stop cut followed with the sliced up angled cut.  Note also that the back corners under the head area out lined in blue have been slice off it indicate the forward slope of the back of the arms and shoulders.


After the basic shape of the head is carved as fitting up into the hat, guidelines are drawn following the Rule of Three horizontal lines to aid in laying out the landmarks of the figure. The left photo below shows the inside of the legs being opened up with a slicing stop cut down between the legs. This is followed by repeated slicing angled cuts on either side of the initial stop cut to widen the opening between the leg. The stop cut and angled cuts are continuously repeated both in the front and back until there is an opening between the legs.  A slow process that is useful to get the feel of how slicing cuts can bring about the desired shape envisioned in the inner eye of the design.

The photo on the right shows the progress in carving the figure to its basic form with series of opening notch cuts followed by shaping slicing cuts to bring the figure to life.


The next two photos are of other sides of the figure showing the progress of whittling to the desired shape.  Note that the shaping process is to carve to basic form the whole figure which makes up 90% of the carving process.  The final detail carving process (10%) follows the basic form stage. Note also how the head is fitting up into the hat, especially in the right photo.


The left photo below shows the back view of  cowpoke carved to basic form followed by front view of cowpoke carved to basic form.


The photos below shows four views of the detailed carved Cowpoke and a close up of the facial features of the cowpoke.



The photo tutorial for this cowpoke can be applied in carving any other cowpoke simply with minor adaptions of the pose and outfit motifs that would fit the imagined design. Remember, “If it can be imagined, it can be.”


This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 16th, 2021 at 2:50 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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