This my first ever figure carving. My inspiration to try this out was from watching a tutorial video here by Gene Messer who gets beginners started. My prior attempts at carving have been relief carving and none of them have been any good, so I thought figure carving would be even more difficult, but Gene made it look doable and so I gave it a try. I realize this first one isn’t very good, but it is good enough to make me think that I can get a lot better. I never felt that way with relief carving. Gene teaches a technique called ‘flat plane carving’ which is mostly carving with a knife and getting a maximum character effect with minimal details. I put in more detail in my carving than is typical for flat plane carving just because I like the details.
I’m not planning to do much cowboy carving, but I did this one because I was able to take advantage of Gene’s profile drawing to make my blank to get a basic size and posture plus the hat outline. The carving itself is my own design, if you can call it that (shown below)
After finishing this project I started searching the net for other figure carvers just to see what they were up to. I found a great website and videos from ‘Out West Woodcarving Videos here. These videos are made by a fantastic woodcarver Lynn O. Doughty. You’ve most likely heard of him if you are already a carver. His videos are very well done. I feel that I have learned a lot from watching them and I hope to apply some of that new found knowledge to my next carving project.
*What’s with the ‘Four In One’ title?
I’m not sure, but I may have set a record with this project. It has actually been completed four times! Each time I finished it I was unhappy with the result and so made changes, some big and some small. Here are photos of the same carving upon completion all four times and in order.
So go ahead and laugh, it’s kind of like one of those films where they make more than one ending so they can change it to suit the audience, except I did it to suit myself in this case. You don’t have to say it’s good, but I’ll appreciate it if you let me know which one you think is best.
My own take on this project
I sure had a lot of fun with this, creating my own little person. Of course its obvious that ‘Red’ has a few shortcomings. That is, too short arms, a missing left ear, no eyebrows, funny hands and he is standing with his toes pointed straight forward. We can only blame his creator for these defects, and yes, he looks a little angry about it. I do hope the next one will be happier so I can feel the love, but if you are thinking about carving figure like this, all you need is what I used, a chip carving knife for everything except that I finished the inside hat brim with a gouge, but I could have finished even that with the knife, but it would have taken a little longer. There are better knife shapes to do this with, but I just used what I had.
Future Carving Plans
I’m definitely planning to give figure carving a permanent place in my woodworking repertoire. It was really fun. I hope you will give it try too. Thanks for looking in.
-- Mike, an American living in Norway