How to Carve People Out of Wood

By Jonah Morrissey

Carving people out of wood is a traditional form of woodcarving. Folk characters have been carved out of wood through the generations. You can carve your own figures out of wood with just a few tools and a basic understanding of the process. Your first few carvings might not be very detailed, but over time your skills will improve to the point of adding more and more details with confidence. Select a classic folk carving for your first project, such as a mountain man.

List of Items Needed

  • 2-by-2-inch basswood block, 6 inches long
  • Band saw
  • Carving knife
  • Rotary tool equipped with an engraving cutter accessory
  • Oscillating tool with hook and loop pad accessory
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Craft paints
  • Small craft paintbrush
  1. Place the 2-by-2-by-6-inch basswood block flat on a work surface. Draw the front profile of the person on the top face of the block, using a pencil. Draw just a rough figure of the person, including the head, neck, torso, arms, hands, legs and feet.

  2. Draw the side profile onto the two adjacent sides of the basswood block in the same manner as you drew the front profile in Step 1.

  3. Lay the basswood block flat with the front profile facing up. Guide the block through the band saw along the pencil lines to cut out the front profile. Lay the block on its side with one side profile drawing facing up. Cut out the side profile on the band saw.

  4. Carve the basic rough outline of the person using a carving knife or a rotary tool equpped with an engraving cutter accessory. Blend the front and side profiles together by taking small chips away from the corners to create the rounded features of the body.

  5. Draw more details onto the carving, including hair, facial features and fingers, as well as clothing details, such as buttons, pockets and shoes, using the pencil. Carve along the detail lines with the carving knife or the rotary tool. Cut out the details by holding the knife at an angle and cutting toward the scored lines. Continue cutting out the details until you are satisfied with the level of detail in the carving.

  6. Sand the carving lightly with an oscillating tool equipped with a hook and loop pad accessory fitted with fine-grit sandpaper. Clean off any dust from sanding with a tack cloth.

  7. Paint the carving with craft paints and a small craft paintbrush. Wait 4 hours for the paint to dry, then apply a second coat.

Tips and Warnings

  • Carve a series of characters that are related to each other, such as a mountain man and his dog or a farmer and a cow.
  • Wear eye protection when you are woodcarving to protect your eyes from dust and wood chips.

© Demand Media 2011