Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tutorials

Red Beard Pirate is the latest version of a carving project that I have carved several times. A pirate is a carver’s dream of a carving project because of the variety of anomalies of design compared with a regular figure.

The gallery below will aptly display the design anomalies.





Besides the clothing designs that includes ruffles on front of shirt, there are the one eye open and an eye patch over the other eye ~ there is an hand on the handle of a sword while that other hand is represented by a hook ~ there is a normal looking leg compared with a peg leg ~ there is a scar under the eye patch and ear rings in the ears ~ there is a skull and cross bones on the hat and a braided pig tail draped on the back of the pirate. Many, years ago at our small and local carving group I was telling a story about the process of carving a pirate who had lost a leg, a hand and an eye and upon referring to the missing leg as the pirate’s wooden leg one of the carvers said, “Don, both legs are wooden if the pirate is carved out of wood.”  So ever since I have referred to the artificial leg as a “peg leg.”

The next series of photographs will be of visual instructional value of the pirate in progressive stages of development. The first photos will concentrate on the beginning stage of carving the six-inch-tall by inch and half square block of basswood with the top of block carved into a dowel shape to prepare for carving the hat first and then the head as going up into the hat. (some photos will have a almost completed pirate beside one in beginning stage for comparison.)

The first two photos below are of the corners removed to begin shaping the roundness shape of hat with the second photo showing the center line giving the direction the hat and head will be turned slightly to the pirates right.  The two horizontal lined intersecting the center line indicated that the front and back of the hat brims will be turned up.  The remaining photos show the further development of the top of hat and then the head going up into the hat.





After the hat is carved to basic form and the head is carved to basic form then the rest of the block below the shoulder line is divided with horizontal lines to divide the body proportionally into thirds to indicate the top of shoulders, the waist and the mid knees. Using these proportional guidelines, the body parts can be drawn on the four sides of the block.

The illustration below was used in a 2014 posting (click on RED BEARD PIRATE to review that posting)

This photograph illustrates the Rule of Three for Body Proportions that guide the drawing of the major landmarks of the pirate.  Once the head and hat are carved to basic form, then the remaining wood is divided into three equal divisions between shoulder and bottom of feet.  Those divisions are: Shoulder to Waist; Waist to Mid Knees; Mid Knees to Bottom of Feet. Those divisions are indicated by the three red horizontal lines.  Within these lines are drawn the landmark lines to guide the shaping process.  Guidelines are just that, guidelines to begin the opening of the wood at the landmark areas. Once opened with notch cuts to begin the stair step shaping of various levels of the figure, the act of shaping the wood mixed with the mental image guiding the shaping will design the individual parts of the overall figure. Visually study the three illustrations.

The next four photos are another visual study of completed pirate besides the guideline drawings of each side of the block.




The purpose of the guidelines are to indicate the various landmarks to be opened up by removing wood chips with a combination of notch slicing cuts, shaping slicing cuts and sometimes triangular chip cuts. These opening and shaping cuts are to carve the basic form in every area of the figure.  Once the basic forms are established to present a good foundation then detail carving can refine the forms to their final presentation.

The next series of photos will show the progressive shaping to basic form progressing towards the eventual details.  Follow the visual trail of photos for these developments.




To complete the final detailing of the pirate, return to the gallery of the finished/painted pirate to tie it all together.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2023 at 10:47 am 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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