How to Carve a Spirit Face

By Jonah Morrissey

Wood spirits are an ideal introductory wood carving project because they will allow you to practice basic skills while producing a not-too-complex project. Folklore stories tell of a wood spirit that dwells in each tree. They are said to be protectors of the trees and overall forest. It is said to be good luck to find a wood spirit, so you may be bringing good luck to yourself as you free the spirit's face from the wood. Select a basswood block for your first spirit face carving. It is straight grained and easy to carve.

List of Items Needed

  • 3-by-3-inch basswood block, 8 inches long
  • Carving knife or rotary tool with carving accessory
  • V-gouge
  • Wood finish
  • Cloth rag
  1. Stand the block upright on a work surface with one 3-by-3-inch end flat. Orient the block so that one corner edge is facing you.

  2. Draw a horizontal line one third of the way down from the top across the corner using a pencil. Make the line extend approximately 1 inch from the corner on each of the adjacent sides. This is the top of the nose/eyebrow line.

  3. Use a carving knife or rotary tool fitted with a carving accessory to cut a diamond-shaped notch starting at the line and extending approximately 1/2 inch down from the line to create the brow line and start of the nose.

  4. Make an inverted triangular-shaped cut below the diamond-shaped cut. Start the top side of the triangle down as far as you would like the nose to extend. Cut the triangular notch as deep as you would like the nose to protrude from the wood.

  5. Cut a vertical line along either side of the block between the two nose notches using a carving knife to score the wood. Carve at an inward 45-degree angle on the outside of the cut to define the face and cheeks of the spirit's face. Carve a deep notch below the brow line on either side of the nose for the eyes.

  6. Refine the shape of the nose, brow line and cheeks by taking small shavings away from the sharp edges of the wood with a carving knife. Define the forehead area above the brow by carving a shallow flattened area as far up as you would like the forehead to extend.

  7. Carve wrinkle lines horizontally across the forehead using a v-gouge. Vary the depth of the v-shaped cuts to represent larger and smaller wrinkles. Use the v-gouge to define the rounded sides of the face in a graceful curving motion downward along the block. Define the mouth and mustache area using the v-gouge. Use your creativity to define the shape of the mouth and mustache into a trailing wispy beard. Take small shavings at a time until you are satisfied with the level of detail in the carving.

  8. Rub a wood finish into the wood using a cloth rag. Allow the finish to dry at least four hours before handling.

Tips and Warnings

  • After you have mastered the basic techniques on a basswood block, carve natural sections of branches or logs . The natural appearance of the branch or log section will enhance the carving.
  • Keep your fingers out of the path of the carving blades to avoid cutting yourself.

© Demand Media 2011