How to Carve Wooden Bear Claws

By Mark Morris

Bear claws are considered by some cultures to be extremely powerful talismans of good luck. Many Native American Indian tribes used bear claws in their jewelry and ornaments. When carving any natural form, an easy way to get started is to find an example, or image of the item you want to carve. Work from this to create the basic form for your carving.


Bear claw pictures can be found in many books, as well as Internet encyclopedia and image sites, as well as other sites about carving and jewelry making. Select a few images that give you a clear, sharp view of the claw. Print a copy of a clear image at actual size, typically 2 to 4 inches in length. Trace the outline of the claw with a fine tip marker on a plain white sheet of paper. Include details, such as the line at the root of the claw. If possible, find a side view of the claw and print and trace it as well. Craft stores often sell plastic, or resin cast bear claws that work well as models. They are typically sold with beading or jewelry supplies.


Wood for carving is best if the grain is straight and even and the density is consistent throughout. Two clear signs of good carving wood are consistent coloring with subtle, rather than bold grain, and straight grain lines. Areas of the wood that have bold grain, or strong contrast in color are typically inconsistent, with darker wood being typically more dense and harder. Two woods that are commonly used for carving, especially by beginners, are basswood and balsa.


Use a sheet of carbon paper to transfer your traced bear claw design onto the wood. Transfer the side and front views to give you a clear carving pattern. Cut out the wood along the lines to create the basic outline of the bear claw using a band or scroll saw, a strong carving knife or a rotary tool with a cutting bit. Carve the wood in all three dimensions to create the shape of the claw on all sides. Make the claw shape just a little larger than the actual claw.


Round off the edges of the claw and cut the inside curve to create the rounded blade of the claw, which is similar to a long fingernail, but several times thicker. The claw should get thicker as it tapers away from the end toward the root. Use a fine carving blade to create the details of the root, similar to a burl in wood, with a rough texture. A rotary tool with a fine bit can also be used. If you intend to thread the claw onto a lanyard or pendant, drill a hole through the root end, far enough in from the end to be secure.

© Demand Media 2011