Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tutorials

Red BeardRed BeardRed BeardRed BeardRed BeardRed BeardRed BeardRed Beard

Red Beard the Pirate is a carving project that serves as a model for another instructional journey in carving a six inch tall figure out of an inch and half square block of wood. A pirate subject provides several carving adventures in carving the various individual parts of the overall design.  The finished carving of Red Beard in the opening photographs above serve as a visual tutorial of the various design features that are part of the overall plan while carving the individual parts.  (click on photos to enlarge)

Visually study the hat with its skull and cross bones insignia. Next study the facial features which include an eye patch, scar under the eye patch, ear rings and of course the red beard.  On the back view study the braided pig tail of the red hair as being another of those individual carving applications.  The ruffled bib of the shirt compliments the red vest and captain’s uniform coat with gold trimmed cuffs.  The right hand is leaning on top of the sword handle in front of the peg leg that is strapped to the leg stump with a leather belted harness.  The left arm sports a hook to replace the severed hand while the left leg is sporting knickers and leg wrap from the shoe to the knee.

Visually studying all these individual features will file away in the creative sub conscious these features that will become an inner guide for the carving process. This means that as one is carving the hat, the style of the hat will dictate the carving to the form of that design.  Picturing the skull and cross bones insignia in this mental image will guide in leaving enough wood on the front of the hat to carve the insignia during the detail carving process.  The same is repeated for all those mentioned individual parts of the overall design.

Visual study as well as imagining how one could recreate the mental image is a very important part of the carving process.  This approach is a “reading between the lines” approach that allows the carver to allow the design to evolve during the shaping phase of the carving project.  This approach sets the carver free from “copying” a design to “creating” a design during the carving journey. It sets free one’s creative imagination to explore on its own the way to transfer the mental image into the shape being formed while carving the shape to fit the mental image. This visual study of reading between the lines of imagination filling in the blank spaces will lead the carver to carve one’s own style rather than being a copier of another’s style which can seldom be duplicated.

This Red Beard Pirate project will offer guidelines for the method and the how-to while each carver will apply the guidelines to carve in a style unique to each carver.  Do not have a style yet, means that one has not practiced enough nor carved often enough to allow the carving and imagination to work in creative partnership.  “The more one carves the better one carves,” leads to a confidence that each carving as a learning project will be a good teacher opening the door of opportunity to more challenging carving projects.

Step StudyStep StudyStep StudyStep Study

The four photographs above offer the guideline for opening up the beginning cuts for the Whittle-Carving process of carving only with a knife. The knife pictured is a Bumble BEE # 13 Signature Series by Helvie Knives.  The simplest definition for carving is, “Woodcarving is shaping a piece of wood using a sharp cutting tool in a slicing action to round square corners and flatten round surfaces.” 

Using an inch and half square by six inch tall block of basswood the first step is to establish the base of the project by carving a notch about a quarter of inch from the bottom of block.  Begin by slicing a notch in each corner and then connecting the corner notches with slicing notch cuts.  Next, round the corners at the top into a dowel shape about an inch and half length.  In this dowel shape the hat will be carved and then the head going up into the hat.  The left illustration in each photo above is the beginning step of shaping the dowel. A center line is drawn to indicate the direction the head will be facing as well as a cross center line towards the side of the head. The second illustration in each photo indicated the next stage with the sides of the hat opened and bottom of hat indicated with a notch cut all the way around.  Note also the back vertical corners are sliced off in the area marked in red to indicate the shoulder slope.  The third illustration in each photo is the finished carving of the pirate to be used as the guide to imagine the carving from its beginning steps through to its finish.

Proportion StudyProportion StudyProportion StudyProportion Study

Following these opening cuts, the hat is carved to its basic form leaving enough wood for any finishing touches that will be made later. The head is next to be carved to its basic form as fitting into the hat while leaving enough wood for the eye patch, ear rings, mustache and beard. The four photographs above contain three illustrations with the left illustration being a completely carved pirate, the middle illustration is a partially carved pirate and the third illustration on the right is a pirate with hat and head carved to basic form and the rest of the block shows the drawn guidelines.  These photographs are to be visually studied using imagination to read between the lines as to what is happening between these stages.

Rule of ThreeRule of ThreeRule of ThreeRule of Three

These four photographs contain three illustrations again with the one of the left being the one with the drawn guidelines, middle illustration is the partially carved pirate and the right illustration is the completed pirate carved and colored.  The first 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 in each photograph going left to right to imagine what is needed to shape the carving into its final appearance.

The drawings of the braided pig tail show how to lay out guidelines for a braid. Begin with a zigzag line down the middle of the braid indicated by the black zigzag line.   The twist of the braid is drawn as indicated by the red lines.  To carve the braid, turn the figure upside down so that the braid is headed towards the head.  In each of the inverted V junctions where the black zigzag line and the red line meet to form an inverted V, carve a very small and delicate three cut triangular chip.  Next slice a delicate notch along each red line working out from the zigzag to the outer edge of the braid mass. Finally round each braid as it intertwines with the braid next to it.  For a more detailed how-to description visit the tutorial posting entitled BRAIDY BUNCH. (click on highlighted link)

Two Knivestwo knives

These final two photographs show the Bumble BEE # 13 Signature Series knife used for most of the shaping of the pirate along with the Mini Mertz II # 6-2 BH knife used for detail carving. A full description of all the Wood Bee Carver Signature Series knives may be viewed by clicking on Helvie Knife Guide listed under Cool Links in the right column box of the Home Page.

The final instructional tip for carving only with a knife in the Whittle-Carving style is to always remember to “Slice with the cutting edge,” as the most efficient way to carve with a knife.  Slicing with the push and pull stroke of the knife will provide getting the most out of the cutting edge of the knife blade. Developing a knack for slicing cuts as well as learning all a knife can do takes practice.  Practice will allow the carver and knife to become one making the carving action an automatic process.  “Keep carving and carving will keep you carving.”

In order to finish the process of the visual study for carving a pirate one needs to carve a pirate in one’s own style while applying as much as one chooses that was learned  by doing a visual study and imaginative mental carving. “Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood.”


This entry was posted on Friday, March 14th, 2014 at 10:05 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.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.