How to carve faces?

How to carve faces?
Wood carving is an amazing art. Using a part of nature as a material you can create different things. Carvings of sculptures can be very realistic. And in this blog we want to answer the question: how to carve faces?

How to carve faces?

Carving a wooden face is often daunting to a new wood carver, but by learning the correct technique and skills you can quickly become skilled at it. There are many styles and methods available depending on the result you expect, and level of realism you expect from your finished piece.

A face says so much; that it is important we learn to carve them. Probably there is no carver that didn't want to carve faces well. Reading this blog probably wont make you a great face carver; but you may learn a thing or two about carving better faces.

The first thing to realize is that faces may be carved in many different levels of reality.

It is mainly used the “Rule of Thirds” when someone set out to lay out a face. This rules states that the face can be broken up into three areas and that they are all equal. I use dividers to get my measurements, you could use a ruler but dividers are easier to use. Start by deciding the length of the nose, from the bottom of the nose to the start of the brow. Then you can use that measurement to determine the other two dimensions, the bottom of the chin and the point of the hair line. (Note that the top of the head is a little higher; this top line is where the hairline is located.) The location of the mouth is half way between the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin, and the width of the nose is the same as the width of the eyes.

There are some "rules" for carving faces. These "rules" explain the placement of features on the face or how to carve these features to make them look realistic.

You have certainly all seen caricature drawings as political cartoons in newspapers and magazines. Making a caricature of a real person entails identifying features of the person one can exaggerate. No public figure, and especially politicians are exempt from being “caricatured” by artists. The art of caricatures is flourishing in the world of wood carving today but it rarely entails carving caricatures of real people. More often, a caricature wood carving is simply an exaggerated type of person such as cowboy, etc. Maybe all carvers would agree that carving caricatures of real people is difficult. Caricature carving is probably the most popular form of carving today. It is more akin to whittling than wood sculpture and one typically uses knives and palm sized gouges with caricatures. And, it is a lot of fun. With caricatures, one does not need to worry about perfect anatomy or facial features. It seems the funnier, the better.

Carving faces from wood is an enjoyable pastime for carvers of all experience and skill levels. Beginners can acquire the necessary skills required to fashion a face from a block of wood with a little patience and a lot of practice. The art and craft of carving masks and three-dimensional faces out of wood is a time-honored tradition in the United States and around the world.

Step 1

Draw your face design with pencil and paper before you start to carve. Choose a wood blank of butternut, basswood or other type of soft wood. Draw the face onto the flat plane of the wood block. Use a v-gouge carving tool for your initial wedge-shaped cuts to establish the planes of the face. Cut a wedge at the half-way point of the blank for the bridge of the nose. Carve another wedge three-quarters of the way down for the bottom of the nose. Just below it, carve a wedge for the mouth and chin.

Step 2

Face wood carving

Use a large u-gouge to cut away excess areas of wood around the nose. Carve the flat forehead plane so it slopes back into the wood. Taper the cheek areas back into the plane of the eyes. Carve parallel to the wood grain to avoid chipping the wood. Make two cuts from opposite directions to smooth any jagged edges when carving across or against the wood grain. Keep carving with your larger tools until you define the basic planes of the face.

Step 3

How to carve faces? 

Begin to carve the finer details of the facial features with a bench knife, also called a detail knife or straight knife. Pen knives also work well. Draw in the face's details with a pencil as you work to guide your carving. Carve the brow lines and cheek lines so they curve inward. Sculpt ball shapes for the eyes, then cut the eyelids. Cut gentle curves for the upper eye lids. Form the bridge of the nose so it tapers at the top.

Step 4

Wood carving chip technique

Use a small u-gouge to cut the eye's pupils. Add details such as skin wrinkles, eyebrow and facial hair using your bench knife or a small v-gouge. As you carve, remember the eyes are the most deeply recessed points and the tip of the nose is the highest point. Work on the nostril and mouth details until they're well defined. Carve the indention below the lips and the cheek dimples.

Step 5

Step by step how to carve faces from wood

Use your smallest gouges and the bench knife to carve the finest details and accents of the face. Create furrows on the forehead and add crows feet around the corners of the eyes. Carefully v-gouge the hair details until they appear to flow naturally. View the face from all angles to make sure the chin, cheekbones and nose taper correctly. Stop carving when the face has a character and personality of its own. Finish the face with wood stain or lacquer, or leave it natural if you prefer.