Wood Spirit Carving

Wood Spirit General Instructions Part Three

By L.S. Irish

For the introduction to Wood Spirit carving, please see Carving the Wood Spirit Face.

For basic instruction of creating the planes in the face of Wood Spirit, please see Wood Spirit General Instructions, Part One.

For basic instruction for creating the eye details to the Wood Spirit, please see Wood Spirit General Instructions, Part Two.

Once the eyes have been carved into your Wood Spirit you are ready to complete the remaining facial features. The eyes create the deepest point within the face and the tip of the nose creates the highest.

At this stage in the project all of the carving will be worked from the nose tip out toward the sides of the face.

With a pencil draw in the lines for the hair, beard, and any other accents work that lies along the facial features. Use the Stop Cut to separate these areas for the surface of the face. This allows you to curve the sides, chin, and forehead areas away from the nose plane without losing the hair line.

The nose increases in size as it reaches from the nose bridge to the nostrils, creating a triangular shape. The nostril area takes up about one third of the length of the nose and slopes away from the tip area. The upper level of the nostrils are equal in depth to the level of the eye brow ridge.

The underside of the nose tapers back to the mouth area. Note the v-shape to the profile line of the bottom of the nose as shown on the first image.

The opening of the nostrils are carved deeply up into the nose area. This creates a shadow in the work that makes the nostril appear black.

The mouth area comes next. Again, as with the nostril opening, carve the opening of the mouth deeply into the wood. The upper lip extends farther out onto the face than does the lower lip. The lower lip is usually fuller in size than the upper lip and can be slightly distorted. Many of the original Wood Spirit carvings were used as drainage water spouts. The excess water from the church roofs came through a series of pipes to an opening in the mouth of the Wood Spirit. The distorted lower lip held the end of this drainage pipe.

Below the lower lip is a deep indent before the beard area begins. This will an excellent area to create interest and depth in the carving. Here the lip extends outward, the beard area flows from below this point, and the Wood Spirit’s mustache encircle both details.

Just as you did before beginning work on the eyes, reshape the cheek area and forehead area of your carving. The highest point of the cheek plane is directly under the pupil of the eye. The chin tapers both toward the nose and toward the hair line. Tuck the hair line area underneath any accent work as leaves, head bands, or scroll ornaments. Use the Undercut Stroke to create depth at this point. At this stage also begin shaping the hair and accent areas. Carve these areas into smooth flowing forms and shave to smooth out the cut work.

Gently shave the face of your Wood Spirit to smooth out and bend the entire face. Use small shallow cuts. Once the bending work has been done begin to add the fine details to the project. Create furrows in the brow of the forehead, crows feet around the outer corner of the eyes, and wrinkles and ridges down the sides of the face. You may either use the bench knife to cut in these fine lines or a v-gouge or veining gouge.

The final step in creating your Wood Spirit is to work the hair areas and accent work. With a v-gouge crave in the hair to the eye brows. At the center of the face the hair reaches up toward the forehead. As the brow reaches out toward the side of the face the hair direct changes to also reach to the sides.

V-gouge in the details to the mustache, beard, and head hair. Follow the direct on the forms that you created when smoothing the accent areas. When working on the hair where it touches the face allow some fine hairs to reach into the face area. This will blend the two separate features together. Wood Spirits are notorious for having lots of fine free flowing hairs, be bold at this stage.

Unlike many carving projects that you will create only once in your life, Wood Spirits seem to be a woodcraft image that we carvers create many times during our wood hobby. As your skill in cutting the human face increase through practice you will that each little spirit will have their own personality and emotions, almost as if the spirit has been waiting in the wood blank for you to release him.


Carving the Wood Spirit Face

Wood Spirit General Instructions, Part One

Wood Spirit General Instructions, Part Two

Wood Spirit General Instructions, Part Three

Wood Spirit General Instructions, Part Four

Wood Spirit patterns by Lora S IrishWood Spirits Pattern package at Art Designs Studio contains 17 original Lora S. Irish digital designs, new Patterns, new edition! A great pattern package for relief wood carving.

2 thoughts on “Wood Spirit Carving”

  1. I’m starting out carving I use carving knives as I can’t get used to chisels can you give me some advice on which wood is best to start I’ve tried plywood but soon worked out that the layers are hard to judge depth I got oak for my pyrography but that’s hard balsa just to thin, so any advice would be greatly appreciated

  2. Hi Richard, You should start with basswood which is classified as a hardwood species but is soft and easy to cut. Go to Ebay.com and put in the search string ‘carving wood’ or ‘carving blocks’. As you skills grow you can move onto other carving woods as mahogany, maple, and cedar.

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