wood spirit carving with Lora Irish

Wood Spirit Carving, Establishing the Slope of the Nose

beginner's wood spirit carvingToday we will work through establishing the depth of the nose bridge, the slope of the nose, the division between the nose and the mustache, and freeing the nose from the cheeks.

The photo, right, shows two of my very first carvings and date to approximately 1995.

Carving the Wood Spirit Face, Supply List

Wood Spirit Carving, Planes of the Human Face

Wood Spirit Carving, Establishing the Slope of the Nose

Step 1 Check your tools and knives for sharpness.

carving tools used to wood carve the wood spirit faceI have checked my tool edges for sharpness, and run them over my leather strop and honing compound a few times to brighten the edge. So, I am ready to carve.



Step 2 Drill the attaching hole for your cane topper.

drill the hole for a cane topper wood carvingSince my wood spirit is destined to become a walking stick topper, the first thing I want to do is drill a 1/4″ or 3/8″ x 2″ hole in the center bottom of the practice block. You can use a dowel jig for this step to ensure that the drill goes squarely into the wood.

After the carving is complete I can use a dowel pin to center the wood spirit to my walking stick staff, and drill the receiving hole.


Step 3 Pencil the guidelines onto the block.

marking the guidelines for a wood spirit carvingOpen your hands and place them against the sides of your face in the classic ‘peak-a-boo’, child’s game position. Let the outer sides of your small fingers touch where they meet along the ridge of the nose.

Now, without moving your hands, pull your face away. Look at the angle that is created between your hands. The sides of the face come together at the nose ridge near a right, 90 degree, angle.

That angle will vary some, depending on your age and weight. Very young children, and elders (us senior citizens) have a slightly wider angle than 90 degrees. Teens and 20-somethings will have a slightly tighter angle. But everyone’s face comes to a crisp angle at the nose ridge.

During this project I will be working the wood spirit face along one 90 degree edge of the block. By working off the edge I automatically begin my carving with the correct angle between the nose ridge and the sides of the face.

The top line for my pattern is where the bottom of my wood spirit’s hat or hair will lie. Be sure to allow lots of space above the face of your wood spirit. In the earlier post I noted that the facial features fall in the bottom one-half of the skull, so my wood spirit face needs its highest feature – the brow ridge line – at or below the center point of this block.

The nose is a large triangle shape with a small triangle beneath it for the roll-over of the bottom of the nose.

The line below the nose marks where either the top edge of the top lip will lie or where your mustache will begin to flare away from the bottom of the nose.

At the top of the nose triangle are two lines. The top line is the bottom edge of the brow ridge and angles up as it moves away from the bridge of the nose. The straight line shows the bottom edge of the upper eyelid.

Step 4 Make a mark to note which edge of the block is the top.

marking the guidelines for a wood spirit carvingI am re-marking my guidelines with marking pen, just to make them clearer during photography.

I have also marked a T on the top edge and a B on the bottom edge to help you follow the photographs as I flip and turn the block during the carving steps.

The first cuts establish the nose bridge and the angles that run through the center line of the face. We are working the purple profile line in the woman’s face.


cutting the nose bridge of a wood spirit wood carvingTake a moment and pinch your nose bridge as you would if you had an ‘ice cream’ headache. Let the tips of your fingers touch the corner of your eye, with the fingers against the nose bridge. Note how deeply the eyes are set below the nose bridge. The bridge is the second deepest point in the face – the eyes are the deepest.



Step 5 Begin cutting the nose bridge.

cutting the nose bridge of a wood spirit wood carvingBegin by cutting a small, shallow wedge into the corner of the block, about 1/4″ from the guideline. This is a push stroke, working the edge of the knife blade away from you.





cutting the nose bridge of a wood spirit wood carvingTurn the block, cut a small, shallow wedge from the top line of the nose bridge into the previous cut. You now have a shallow, two-sided wedge released from the wood.



…….    ………..

Step 6 Deepen the nose bridge wedge.

cutting the nose bridge of a wood spirit wood carvingRepeat these two steps several times until that wedge deepens into the corner.

Note – I prefer to ‘walk’ my cuts to their final depths. I know that some carvers prefer to take deeper, heavier cuts early in the work. For me, I think I get more control over the final depth, shape, and dimension of the strokes by working away a little at a time.



cutting the nose bridge of a wood spirit wood carvingNote – As we work this wood spirit face you will see me return to previous cuts to re-shape or deepen them. Each new cut that you make changes the face, so I simply will go back and adjust the surrounding areas as needed.





cutting the nose bridge of a wood spirit wood carvingThe photo, shown right, gives you an idea of how deep the nose bridge is at this point.  As we continue working the face I will be deepening this area several times in relationship to the other features as they are cut.





cutting the nose bridge of a wood spirit wood carvingA front view shows the two-sided wedge that these steps creates.






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