How to Carve a Woodspirit in a Hiking Stick

How to Carve a Woodspirit in a Hiking StickOriginally, a wood spirit carving---similar to a Green Man carving---was considered a religious symbol. Both are images of a man's face combined with images of nature, e.g. leaves or the bark of a tree. They are typically carved in wood, but examples of wood spirits and the Green Man are executed in stone and metal, as well. Wood spirits are traditionally carved in bas-relief.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Carving the wood spirit

Things You’ll Need:
  • Carving vise
  • Wood blank
  • Carving thumb protector or glove
  • Pencil
  • Large gouge
  • Palm gouges
  • Rifflers
  • Small detail carving knife
Step 1
Mount the wood blank on the carving vise. Remove the heaviest bark in the area where the wood spirit face will be located with a 5/20 gauge carving gouge. Cut the wood away to form a wide tent-like V shape that straddles the wood blank. The peak of the V will form the wood spirit's nose. The sharper and more pronounced the V shape, the more depth and definition the carving will have.
Step 2
Mark a diamond shape with the pencil so that the top and bottom points of the diamond will lay in line with the nose ridge. The truncated top of the diamond will indicate the upper part of the eyebrow ridge. The lower end of the diamond will indicate the spirit's chin (hidden by his beard).
At the midpoint of the diamond, draw a second V-shaped line that will indicate the upper edge of the spirit's mustache. Leave room between the top of the diamond shape and the mustache line for the spirit's cheeks and eye sockets.
Step 3
Stop cuts prevent desired wood from splitting out. They are made straight down into the wood with a straight chisel or curved gouge, or follow a shape outline with a V tool. Cuts are then made toward the stop cut with appropriate gouges.
Make a stop cut straight down into the wood with a gouge or chisel to indicate the bottom and top of the nose. Using a larger palm gouge, shape the nose first. With a V tool, make a stop cut following the eyebrow ridge to form the upper edge of the eye sockets. Above the eyebrow ridge, cut toward the top of the wood spirit's head with a shallow gouge to begin defining the forehead. Make a stop cut with a V tool to indicate where the forehead meets the "hair". Cut in the forehead so it slopes back toward the "hair" line.
Step 4
Using a V tool, outline the upper edge of the mustache. Draw in the lower edge of the mustache which also delineates the upper lip of the mouth. Cut down toward the stop cut made with the V tool to begin defining the cheeks, the sides of the nose and mustache, and the upper edge of the mouth. Decide whether to carve the mouth closed or open. Draw that position below the mustache. Begin outlining the mouth with a V tool and carving knife.
Step 5
Begin blending the "hair" into the bark of the wood blank and do the same with the mustache and beard below the mouth. Using the carving knife, carefully outline the eyes below the eyebrow ridge. With a small gouge, cut down toward the stop cuts outlining the eyes. Cut deeper toward the sides of the nose to give depth to the eyes. Use the rifflers (small files in different shapes) to clean up the carving in all the edges, and undercuts. Finish the carving with oil or varnish. Wood spirits are not usually stained because of the desirable effects of the natural rough wood.

Tips & Warnings

Work on all the different parts of the carving to promote balance and visual integrity instead of working on one part until it is finished and then moving to another, which may cause the carving to appear distorted.
Always make stop cuts and then carve toward them, taking grain direction into consideration. Cut with the grain whenever possible.
Do not sand the carving and then use the carving tools again. The sanding grit embedded in the wood will dull or even ruin the carving tools.
Use a carving glove or thumb protector to keep from injuring the hands.
Properly sharpened gouges will determine the quality of the carving.
Take the time to frequently strop the carving gouges to maintain a good edge.

Article Written By Jerry Watson

Jerry Watson began writing professionally in 2003 and currently writes for Technorati and various other websites. His work has appeared on The Building Network, eHealth Forum and other online sources. Watson's first novel, "The Antiquarian Chronicles," is available through bookstores online and nationwide. He graduated from the Long Ridge Writer's Breaking into Print course.

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