Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tutorials


The WOOD BEE CARVER is primarily a knife carver who practices a method for opening up a block of wood using only knives to shape and detail a subject to its completion.  The most efficient use of a knife is to do slicing cuts either in the push or pull stroke.  A slicing cut is what is used to slice a tomato, loaf of bread and baloney which is the same action for carving wood with a knife.  Often the action is a “slice and roll” movement of the cutting edge of the knife through the wood using as much of the blade as possible for most cuts. Sometimes the front end of the blade is used more than the entire length but in all cases the slicing action is preferred for efficiency and clean cuts.

The photos below illustrate the before and after effects of how the notch cut and the three cut triangular cuts open up areas of the block of wood.  The areas outlined in red illustrate the notch cut at the juncture of the coat tail and trouser leg and the outside of the arm.  The Triangular three cuts outlined in red at the bend of the inside of the elbow opens up the area for the continued shaping of the arms and chest.  Compare the “before” to the “after” photos to mentally visualize other areas where the notch cut and the triangular cut were used to open up the block of wood for the continuation of the carving process.

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The second major slicing cut is opening up the surface of the block of wood by making two angled slicing cuts that meet at the bottom of the first cut to form a “notch” or trough or ditch. The third basic cut for opening up the surface of the block of wood is to make a three-cut triangular cut to create a triangular hole.  The notch cuts and the triangular cuts produce an opening in which to continue to shape the surface towards it various stair step levels of the roughing out or shaping phase of the process. This process follows the rule “one cut is not a cut to end all cuts, it is only the beginning for additional cuts to continue the shaping process.”



The two photos above show the progressive steps for opening up and shaping a six-inch-tall by an inch and half square basswood block in order to carve a cowboy. [One is a frontal view and the second is a view of the top.] While a cowboy is the subject in this illustration, yet the same process is used for carving any figure be it a pirate, wizard, civil war soldier, fisherman or any other subject. [See photos at end of this post.]

Beginning with the block on the left in both photos of all the illustrations, the first step is to remove the corners to form a dowel shape as in the second block.  This dowel shaped area represents where the head covering and head will be carved.  The third block shows a curving line around the circumference of the dowel to represent the brim line of the hat as well as a center line across the top of the dowel to illustrate the direction in which the head will be facing. The fourth block shows how the top of the brim and the crown of the hat has been shaped using a slice and roll cut above the line previously drawn as well as the center line drawn down the front of the block. The fifth block shows one half of the area under the hat brim being shaped to remove wood underneath the brim in order to shape the head to fit into the hat as it is beginning to appear in the sixth block.  Underneath the brim slicing cuts begin with a stop cut underneath the hat brim followed by a slow and cautious slicing cut along the side of the head up to the stop cut.  The stop cut is to help prevent slicing off the entire brim.

Notice on block six the head has been shaped so that it appears to be inside the crown of the hat or fitting into the hat rather than the hat sitting on top of the head. The red horizontal lines drawn on the fifth and sixth blocks are guidelines for the Rule of Three for Body Proportions.  Once the hat and head have been shaped to their approximate shape and size, then the block is divided into three proportions: Shoulder to Waist; Waist to Mid Knees; Mid Knees to Bottom of Feet.  [Note: the blue tape at the bottom of blocks represents the base that has been outlined with a notch around the block.]

Using the horizontal red lines of the three proportions, guidelines can be drawn on the front, sides and back of the block to lay out the approximate location of the major landmarks for the arms, hands, hand held objects, legs, feet and clothing landmarks. These guidelines will guide where the opening notch cuts and triangular cuts will be made for the continued shaping of the entire figure. Comparing the sixth block with the completely carved cowboy in the seventh block one can imagine what cuts were necessary between the drawing and the completed carving. [Note: the cowboy drawing in the sixth block shows the left hand on top of a rifle while the carved cowboy is holding a saddle bag over his left arm and his head is turned a different direction than the sixth block illustration to indicate how a design can be varied.]

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The two photos above show the profiles of the last two blocks in the previous illustrations.  The left drawing shows the three red lines for the Rule of Three of Body Proportions as well as the guidelines of the major landmarks of the figure. The completed carving of the cowboy on the right is for comparison purposes. [Note: the difference between the drawing with hand on the rifle and the cowboy holding a saddle bag on the completed carving illustrates the variety of designs that can be applied to similar subjects.]  The green hash marks on the back of arm and shoulder of the left illustration indicates that the back corners of the block are sliced off to create the appropriate angle for the back of arms. [Note: on the second photo below the green hash marks of the sliced off corners and the area between the green hash marks leaves wood for the ties of the bandana.]

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These two photos are a good study for how the head is carved to fit into the hat by following the imaginary line down the side of the crown of hat, through the brim to continue along the side of the head.

The next series of carvings are further illustrations of the use of the WHITTLE-CARVING Method that is applied to a variety of subjects with the same result as described in the cowboy tutorial.


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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 11th, 2017 at 2:35 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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