Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Carving Projects, Tu Tor Plus, Tutorials

The Wood Bee Carver has practiced his motto “Would be carvers would be carvers if they would carve wood,” as a way of living out the journey of woodcarving both as a personal pursuit and as an encouragement to others.  The basic meaning of this motto is “we learn by doing and the more we carve the better we carve and there is always more to learn on the journey.”

A carver can read woodcarving magazines and books, participate in carving classes, watch carving videos and watch another carver in the act of carving but real learning takes place as a carver puts the carving knife to the wood to experiment with the various ways of shaping the wood into a carved project.  There is no substitute for the trial and error method of learning by carving.  In that process of becoming very familiar with the various slicing cuts the carver also develops an eye for seeing in one’s imagination the subject being carved with the kind of cuts necessary to shape the carved subject.  “If it can be imagined it can be,” is a guide for partnering with one’s imagination.  As this partnership grows through exercise there will be an avalanche of creative ideas and learning observations to push the carver further into the journey and adventure of carving.

The basic tutorial philosophy is to learn one method and way of carving called Whittle-Carving, that is carving using only knives.  The Wood Bee Carver uses and recommends using a curved cutting-edge carving knife because it utilizes a slicing action on the curvature of the cutting edge as well as being able to reach into areas where a straight cutting-edge blade is not able to reach as easily.  The cutting edge of any knife blade is made up of microscopic teeth similar to the teeth on a hand saw.  It is the teeth of the cutting edge that when used in a slicing action separates the wood fibers. The slicing action is best illustrated by slicing a tomato, slicing bread or slicing baloney.  A straight cutting edged blade cuts in a straight line while slicing best when the blade is skewed at an angle.  A curved cutting edged blade automatically places the cutting teeth in a skewed angle utilizing more of the teeth in a slicing action.  A curved cutting-edge can reach around corners and into areas where a straight cutting edge will not reach. Making a stop cut with the tip of a curved blade has more cutting teeth slicing than a straight cutting edge used at a skewed angle.

Whatever knife is used, be it a curved cutting edge or a straight cutting edge, a carver should become very familiar with how that knife can make a variety of slicing cuts. The more a carver uses that knife the more the slicing cuts become second nature by allowing the creative imagination guide the carving process. In other words, the words of the old saw apply, “Practice, practice, practice,” as familiarity breeds success.


A second characteristic of this basic philosophy is to learn to carve from a block of wood rather than a rough out or a sawed out blank.  Carving from a block of wood is learning how to open up the block with introductory cuts and to utilize the partnership of one’s creative imagination to see the subject begin to take shape while slicing of wood in the process called “Design by Carving.”  This process is one that is developed in the realization of “the more one carves the better one carves,” because the partnership with imagination and skill are working and growing together. On the other hand, carving only using roughouts or sawed out blanks is to miss that creative spark that gets the fire started.  Carving from the block becomes the carver’s creation as it develops.  Often as slices of wood are being removed, a design will dictate itself in the surface of the chipped facets that remain on the newly shaped block.


“One cut is not a cut to end all cuts ~ more cuts are to follow to complete the design,” is the observation that Whittle-Carving is a series of repeated cuts working towards the imagined image in the mind as it is being duplicated in the shaping of the block being carved.

The photo on the left above is an illustration of the various cuts use for opening up a block of wood in order to continue shaping towards the basic form of the carved subject.  The right-hand bottom corner of the Cutting Board illustrates “Notch Cuts” that are used to create a ditch opening in order to continue to make additional cuts. Moving up the Cutting Board are two triangle chip illustration for the “3 Cut Triangle Cuts” that are used to create an opening or hole to be followed by continued cuts in the shaping process. Such cuts are used for opening up the inside corner of the eye mound and the junction of the nose nostril, smile line and upper dental curve as illustrated at the middle left side of Cutting Board.  At the top of the Cutting Board illustration the “Oblique Slice and Roll Cuts” are illustrated.  Oblique cuts are used for creating wave texture in hair, beard and mustache as well as folds and wrinkles in clothing. On the right side below the Oblique illustration there are “Hair Stop and Angle Cuts” to illustrate another was to texture hair.

The photo on the right above illustrates the four steps in carving an eye utilizing a combination of Notch Cuts and Triangular Cuts.

Step 1 illustrates a Notch Cut to form the area under the eyebrow and a Triangular cut to open up the inside corner of the eye mound. Step 2 illustrates making a Notch cut under the eye mound and the flat plane of the front of the eye [notice the top ridge that is forming the upper eye lid ridge] Step 3 illustrates a Triangular cut for the tear duct area and a stop cut and angled cut under the upper eye lid ridge to begin forming the eye ball and upper eye lid. Step 4 illustrates the refining of the eye ball by making a small Triangular cut at the outside corner of eye between the upper and lower eye lid. The area under the eye blends the upper cheek and eye area to soften the appearance and adds small notch cuts or Oblique slice and roll cuts to put wrinkles under the eyes.  These four steps for the eyes illustrated the saying, “One cut is not a cut to end all cuts, but is only the beginning for continued cuts to refine and detail the area.”  These four steps are designed to teach the method for making this style of eye and with practice these steps become easier and are refined with experience.  Additional explanation of making a variety of slicing cuts, refer to this previous posting “Carving On The Edge”

The left photo above shows three Santa ornament is progressive stages of being carved. The left Santa has the hat carved to basic form where the top ball and the hat fringe opened up with notch cuts.  The holly leaves and berries are drawn with guidelines as well as the eyebrows, nose nostrils and hair line alongside of face. The center Santa shows the area of the hat where the holly leaves will be located is scooped out with a slice and roll cut. The same slice and roll cuts are made to scoop out the eye socket area. The Santa on the right is detailed carved to its finished stage.

The center photo above shows the progress made with the center Santa with the holly berries opened up with Triangular cuts around the outside edges of each berry and one holly leaf carved.  Also, the eye brow lines have received a notch cut to create a ditch and the left eye area from the side of the nose to the outside of face has received a slice and roll cut to lower the cheek under the eye area.

The right photo above is a close up showing those cuts a little clearer.

The left photo above shows the progress made with the center Santa with the holly berries and leaves carved, the area on each side of the nose and under the eye brow has been scooped out and the nose nostrils have been indicated with two notch cuts to form the angles of the bottom of the nostrils. The photo on the right is a close up showing those cuts a little clearer.



The first photo on the left shows the beginning cuts for opening up of the left eye with a deepening of the eye brow notch and the triangular cut on the inside corner of the eye mound.  Also, the left side of the nostril and the beginning of the smile line have been opened up with a triangular cut. Notice that a few oblique slice and roll cuts have been made to begin shaping the beard.

The second photo above shows the same cuts made on the other eye and nostril-smile line area. The third photo shows the right eye receiving Step 2 of the Eye Study and the left eye has been carved through Step 4 of the Eye Study.  The left half of the mustache has been carved which established the cheek bone and one haft of the bottom lip. The left side of the nose nostril has received a slice and roll cut to refine its shape. The bone structure between the eyebrows has been dished out with an oblique slide and roll cut and the top of the eye brow bone structure has been shaped. The fourth photo shows the right side of the face shaped like the left side and more of the beard has received oblique slice and roll cuts to create waves in the beard.  The mustache and hair still are to receive the wave texturing


The two photos above illustrate the texturing of the beard with the left photo showing the position of the knife blade as it is used to make an oblique slice and roll cuts to create waves in the beard.  The right photo shows two finished beard with the Santa on the right shows a beard textured with waves created by the Oblique slice and roll cuts.  The Santa on the left shows a beard that is textured with the addition of stop and angled cuts texturing the waves that were carved into the beard.

Carving the basic form is ninety percent of the process and detail is the remaining ten percent of the process.  A good foundation is necessary in order to receive the details.  Learning to carve the basic form and then the details is an ongoing process which means that every carving project is a learning project and a practice piece.  The more one carves the better one carves, so “keep carving and carving will keep you carving.” As the Old Carver once said, “If you take bath every day and carve every day you will never stink.”


This entry was posted on Saturday, June 8th, 2019 at 12:12 pm and is filed under Carving Projects, Tu Tor Plus, 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.