Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tutorials


Cowboys have always been heroes in the romantic nostalgia of Western lore. In the classic ballad, “The Streets of Laredo,” is the line that says, “I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy.”   It is the outfit that a cowboy wore that made him a “dude” or a “gun fighter” or a “saddle tramp” or a “buckaroo” or a “cowpoke” or quite simply a “cowboy.

Carving cowboys is a fun exercise in varying the “outfit of a cowboy” to spark interest in the story the carving is telling by the way it was carved.  Presented here are six examples of cowboys depicted as Saddle Tramps and Buckaroos.  Four cowboys are six inches tall while one is five inches tall and a miniature is one and three quarters of inch tall.  The photographic journey of these six cowboys offers a visual tutorial of letting the eyes of observation do the talking.


Woodcarving any subject is always the interpretation of the artist as well as the personality of the style of the carver. Sometimes the “outfit” is representative of the cowboy’s accessories and other times the outfit is depicted as an authentic duplication of the real item.  It is in the ebb and flow of interpretation that gives a challenge to the carver to create of good story through the appearance that says, “I can see by your outfit that you are a cowboy.”  Accessories can be carved to offer the suggestion as to what the object is rather than being an accurate duplication as a mirror image of the real thing.

BuckarooBuckarooBuckarooBuckarooBuckaroo          Buckaroo          Buckaroo

Doing internet search on Google Images or Bing Images for cowboy outfit accessories is a way to bolster one’s mental image file of what kind of outfit various cowboys would wear.  One can search for images of Hats, Boots, Lever Action Rifles, Chaps, Bandanas, Vests, Pistols and Leather Holsters to sharpen the details to be carved into the cowboy figure.  The key is to make it one’s own interpretation of design without being hand cuffed with trying to duplicate for accuracy.  One simply wants to make an accurate suggestion of any item on a cowboy outfit.

Saddle TrampSaddle TrampSaddle TrampSaddle TrampSaddle TrampSaddle TrampSaddle TrampSaddle TrampSaddle Tramp          Saddle Tramp          Saddle Tramp

The “S Rule”  is applied with the posture and position of the arms in relationship to the stance of the pose.  Part of clothing like the vest, bandana and chaps often will have an exaggeration in the way each may flare as it blowing in the wind.  The head is always turned a little to the left or to the right rather that straight ahead look.  Curving lines are more interesting than straight lines and if there are straight lines they are carved at an angle.  Wrinkles are soft scooped out slicing cuts with a knife with a few being better than a lot since “less is more”.

One cowboy is smoking a pipe that is being held in one hand while four have a cigarette sticking out the corner of the mouth and the cigarette is carved attached to the mustache for strength purposes.  Cigarettes, cigars and pipes are carved as coming out of the corner of the mouth with lips surrounding the object so that it looks more natural than inserting a pipe, cigar or cigarette into a hole in the mouth area.  Super glue is applied to cigars and cigarettes to strengthen the thin cross grained protrusions.  Pipes are either held in a hand for support or attached to a beard or part of clothing for support.

BeansBeansBeansBeansBeansBeansBeansBeansBeans          Beans          Beans

Thin and fragile areas like the hat brim, edge of vest, coat tails, edge of chaps, saddle bag and bandana are tapered in the carving process so that the edge has a “knife’s edge” that the eye sees as being thin while the wood tapers back from the edge by getting thicker for strength.  The gun belt sits on top of the trousers below the waist but the belt of the trousers is recessed behind the belt loops and appears to press into the trousers in the belt line.  The rifle is carved as part of the carving for a more natural look and is never carve separately and inserted into a hole in the hand.  Hand held objects are also carved as if the hand is holding that object. The coil of rope is carved first as one ring of wood and then the ring is divided with rounds of single strands of rope.  Angled notches thinly sliced in each rope strand give the suggestion of the twists in rope.  It is the suggestion that gives it authenticity.

BuckBuckBuckBuckBuck          Buck          Buck

The little extras in carving realism add to the challenge of a carving project but are well worth it in the end result.  It says that the carver cared enough to make the carving authentic in its artistic presentation so that it represents the carver’s best at this juncture of the carving journey.  “To thine own self be true,” is the artist code and if true to self then the art will be true on its own.



This entry was posted on Monday, July 1st, 2013 at 7:52 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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