Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tutorials


“Wood carving is the journey more than the destination,” is an observation made during the process of carving through the years.  The “destination” represents the finished carving and the “journey” represents the process of the carving activity.  It is this “journey” that brings the most joy of creating to the carver because once the project is completed the carver is anxious to begin another carving project to experience the journey.

The photographic gallery will begin with the finished carving which is an interpretation of John Wayne in an iconic pose. The photos will give a panoramic view from all angles to present a good visual depiction of the “destination” image.







The next photographic gallery will show stages of the “Process Journey” of carving John Wayne beginning with a block of basswood nine inches tall, three inches wide and two inches deep. An inch by three-inch-wide strip of basswood was added to the back of the base to make the base three inches square.  This addiction was to allow space to add a steer skull to the scene.  Both the base strip and the steer skull came from the same block of basswood for consistency.

The “Process Journey” begins within the imagination of the carver who envisions the basic form and preliminary detail of the carving.  Imagination is refined by studying photos of the subject to help guide in the process.  With a mental image in the imagination the carver tries to see that image in the block of wood as wood is being removed in the initial shaping the basic form.

Imagination may not have a completed image in mind but has enough to begin to shape the wood towards that fuzzy image.  As the carving process continues to refine the form during the “design by carving” phase of the process, a sharper image comes into the carver’s imagination.

The speed in this process is “slow and easy” to allow the tranquil pace of slicing away wood to see the transformation of refinement of form to appear before the eyes.  “Slow and easy” process of “design by carving” partners with “creative imagination” to see forms take place to create a good foundation for the details to be added at the appropriate time.  “Haste makes waste,” is an old saw that implies that the process cannot be rushed. The “process journey” allows for the overall design to develop as the carving process in proceeding.

The process builds upon past carving experiences (journeys) of what has been learned in the past and is open to learning in each new journey.  “The more you carve the better you carve,” is a truism that all carvers experience.  The more one carves the more observant one becomes or to say it another way, the carver’s imagination expands to experience “if it can be imagined, it can be.”  What has been learned coupled with imagination guides the dexterity of the hand guiding the cutting tool to shape the unknown into a newly discovered shape, texture and flow of movement to enhance the overall appearance of the project.  It is these serendipity discoveries that encourages the carver to do one’s best at this stage of the journey.  Trust the process and the process will lead to a satisfying destination.

The two photos below begin with a block of basswood 9” x 3” x 2” standing in front of a study photo.  The second photo is a finished carving to represent the “imagination image,” that will guide the shaping of the non-descript block.


The first stage of the process is to notch the corners and sides of the base and then shape the area that will be the hat and head of the figure into a dowel shape with the approximate circumference of the brim of the hat.  Once the head dowel is shaped in rough form, divide the body portion into the Rule of Three for Body Proportions with a line at the shoulders, line drawn around the block at the waist and a line drawn at the mid-knees (as indicated by the red lines in the four photos below). Within these red lines draw in a rough sketch of the body parts, clothing and hand-held objects.  These drawing will guide in the shaping to basic form of what wood needs to be removed from the various areas.



The next six photos show the progress of carving to basic form.




The next three photos show the hat and the head being carved to basic form.  The first photos depict that the top of the brim is shaped along with the crown of the hat. The second and third photo show the bottom of the hat brim has been carved and the head has been carved as going up into the hat.  Notice there is an imaginary line that runs down the side of the crown of the hat, through the brim and down the sides of the head to indicated the appropriate alignment of the head fitting up into the hat.

The next three photos show a serpentine scimitar bladed with its curved cutting edge making a stop cut under the gun belt in first photo. Second photo shows the angled cut up to the stop cut and the third photo shows the upside-down blade smoothing the surface of the first two cuts.

The “Progress Journey” for this carving has ended. Let the next Progress Journey of a new subject carving begin.


This entry was posted on Friday, March 11th, 2022 at 2:38 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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