SLOW and EASY ~ Carving a Pirate

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, General, Tutorials


The Red Beard Pirate has been an often repeated carving subject and on this version this pirate will be the subject of a tutorial on the SLOW and EASY method of carving.  The first photo gallery will be of the finished and painted rendition of the Red Beard Pirate.  Which will be followed by a verbal descriptive tutorial with additional photos of the Slow and Easy carving process.






The Wood Bee Carver has been carving seriously for over forty seven years primarily as a hobby that also included instruction through carving seminars and the publishing of a carving blog and participating in woodcarving shows.  At the end of 2019 this carver retired from teaching and doing carving shows due to advancing age and the slowing down of energy to do what once was second nature.

This old carver still carves but on a less intent schedule that once invested up to six hours a day of doing carving activities.  Until this age related “slow down” carving production was consumed with carving for class projects and woodcarving show inventory.  Now however, carving is done for commissions and personal carving with less intensity and time sensitive quotas.

Thus, another pattern for carving has developed that is called “Slow and Easy” of relaxed creativity and continued learning while carving.  Instead of carving six hours a day the “Slow and Easy” time frame is in shorter periods of time that is more like an hour or two at a time with breaks in-between until the next carving session that might be the next day.  It is in these in-between times that the creative subconscious/imagination is working behind to scene to refresh the creative energy for the next session. Imagination also suggests an innovation of the design or guidance for the hand guiding the cutting edge in the carving process with fresh eyes to see the path to travel.  “Slow and Easy” follows the wisdom of the mantra that says “haste makes waste,” by allowing the contemplative action of carving to appreciate the slow development of the creative process to blossom.  Slow and Easy is not procrastination but is the steady progress of following the path through the various steps of progression while observing the development while it is being done.  Slow and Easy is to trust the process in that ninety percent of any project is carving the basic form of the subject and then ten percent of the detail carving finishes the project. Carving the detail before that basic form is established in “haste makes waste” is like putting icing on a half-baked cake spoils the dessert.

The Wood Bee Carver has almost always followed the “Slow and Easy” method by carving from a block of wood and using the knife as the primary tool to open up the wood, carve the basic form and then finish carving the details which puts the icing on the cake.  This “Slow and Easy” approach it to allow “design by carving” to develop while shaping the basic form.  As the cutting edge of the knife removes chips of wood in the shaping process the texture of the shaped wood will often suggest an outline of the design before the carver’s eyes and as more wood is removed the design comes into sharper focus. Carving “fast and furious” will not see the design developing due to the speed of removing wood faster than the eye can see a design coming into view.

The simplest definition for carving is to remove and shape wood using a slicing action of the cutting edge to round square corners and flatten round surfaces.  The Slow and Easy method is to allow the form to take shape as the wood is being carved. The first step in carving a pirate is to make a notch cut (two angled slicing cuts to form a ditch) at the bottom of the two inch square block of basswood on all four sides about a quarter of inch up from bottom to establish the beginning of the base.  Second step is to slice off the side corners of the six-inch-tall block about an inch and half down from the top of block to form a dowel shape.  In this dowel shape the basic form of the hat and head of the pirate are carved. The top of the hat is carved first to the approximate shape and size.  Next the head is carved under the brim of the hat in such a way that the head is going up into the hat. Notice the four photos below beginning with the six inch tall basswood block. The next three photos show the basic form of hat and head have been carved with the head turned slightly to its left.



The next step is to determine the top of shoulders and draw a red line across the side of shoulder.  Divide the space between the shoulder line and the notch for the base into thirds (indicated by red line on all four sides) to define the Rule of Three for Body Proportions: Shoulder to Waist; Waist to Top of Knees; Top of Knees to Bottom of Feet.  Within these three divisions draw in guidelines for body parts that will guide in the removing of wood during the carving to basic form stage.  Notice the four photos below that show this step.



The cartoon guidelines indicate what parts are to remain and what parts are to be removed.  The first opening cuts are notch cuts (two angled cuts that meet to form a ditch).  Angle the first cut away from the drawn line which will become the stop cut for the slicing cuts up to the stop cut.  The next six photos will show the progress of the carving to basic form over the entire body.  Notice that these basic forms will need to be refined as they are shaped towards the detailing stage.




Once the basic form has been carved refine individual parts like the shoe, the peg leg, the shirt ruffles and vest, the hook, facial features, and all the other individual areas that need to be refined. Notice the four photos below that show the various individual parts that have been refined.


The next twelve photos show the finished/detailed carving ready to be painted.  Seeing the carving in its natural naked wood without color is to amplify the texture of the carving  to see an overall view.



The last two photos are of the knives that were used to carve the pirate.  The blade shape is a serpentine/scimitar that allows for reaching into tight areas as well as being a slicing blade to create a slice and roll scooping cut.  The tip end of the middle two knives have what is called a “RoundAbouT” tip that cuts on the rounded tip.end.  All blades were reshaped by the Wood Bee Carver for his personal use.


“Slow and Easy” is a contemplative relaxation of a carving process that allows for creative imagination to learn again that “would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood.”





This entry was posted on Saturday, June 4th, 2022 at 4:48 pm and is filed under Carving Projects, General, 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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