Wood Spirit Carving, 4 Planes of the Human Face

Wood spirit carving becomes an easy to carve project when you understand the planes of the human face.  As I, Lora Irish, work through these steps you will learn how each area of the face sets, as shown in Wood Spirit Carving – Exploring the Human Face,  at a particular depth and angle to the rest of the face.  By cutting those areas as flat planes before you begin your shaping and detailing, you can insecure that each area – eyes, nose, chin – are properly positioned in your Wood Spirit carving.

The fourth  chapter in Lora Irish’s Great Book of Free Carving Projects and Patterns –
“Wood Spirit Carving”- Steps 1 through 5.

In this lesson we will be cutting the wedges and angles of the nose, working from the corner of a basswood carving block.


 Finding the planes in your face

Open 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. free wood spirit carving project by Lora Irish
That angle will vary some, depending on your age and weight. Very young children, and elders 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.

Step 1
Pencil the guidelines onto the block.

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. Wood Carving the Wood Spirit Free Project by Lora Irish
The line below the nose marks where either the top edge of the top lip will lie or where your mustache will begin to flair 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 eye lid.

Step 2
Establishing the nose bridge

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. Take 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.

free wood carving projects and patterns  by Lora Irish







Step 3
Cutting the nose bridge

Begin 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.

free carving and pyrgraphy patterns by Lora Irish









Turn 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.  free carving and pyrography projects by Lora Irish





Repeat these two steps several times until that wedge deepens into the corner.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. free wood spirit carving porject by Lora Irish




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.In this photo the nose bridge is still very shallow.  As I continue to carve the wood spirit face I will drop this wedge deeper into the basswood block.  free wood spirit carving porject by Lora Irish






Next, let’s free the nose from the face and establish the slope of the nose ridge by making a push cut from the center point of the nose towards the nose bridge.Work this slope until it meets the deepest point in the nose bridge wedge. how to carve the wood spirit


















It will take several thin cuts to begin deepening the top 2/3 of the nose ridge to the depth of the nose bridge.The uncut, lower 1/2 to 2/3’s of the nose ridge will become the tip of the nose later in the carving. how to carve the wood spirit






Flip the block over and cut the slope or bottom nose chip free.  Your wood spirit now has an established nose angle that runs through the center of the corner edge.Note that as you create the nose slope you are also deepening the lower wedge area of the nose bridge cut.Work a small two-sided wedge at the bottom of the nose to free this area from the mouth and mustache area.  how to carve the wood spirit









Step 4
Cutting the bottom nose wedge

Cut a slight angle to the bottom of the nose ball, cutting towards the mouth wedge. This area will have two angles – one for the bottom of the nose, and one steeper angle for the top of the mouth.

wood carving the wood spirit cane face







Use the two-step bench knife cut for the bottom nose wedge as you used to cut the nose bridge. The nose bridge wedge is about twice as deep into the corner of the block as the bottom nose wedge. how to carve the nose of a wood spirit


















Step 5
Cutting the block corner for the mustache and beard

This is just my opinion – but one of the greatest assets of a wood spirit is his wild, uncontrolled beard and mustache. So I am going to set my mustache just below the bottom of the nose. This is done be slicing from below the mouth wedge in a long, sloped cut into that wedge.

free Lora Irish carving book







Since a mustache flairs out and away from the face, the farther it grows from the nose the steeper the angle below the mouth wedge will be. free Lora Irish carving book
Once the slope is made I can remove the extra wood along the corner edge below the mustache flair. We now have a very, early rough idea of where the nose will be and how the nose will angle down the face.   In the next steps of this free, step by step wood carving project by Lora Irish, we will be separate the sides of the nose from the cheek areas.  free Lora Irish carving book

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Wood Spirit Carving,
Free Project by Lora Irish
1 Introduction and Supply List
2 Walking Stick Preparation
3 Exploring the Human Face
4 Planes of the Human Face
5 Carve The Human Face
6 Shaping the Facial Features
7 Sloping the Sides of the Face
8 Rough Cutting the Features
9 Carving the Eyes
10 Detailing the Eyes
11 Shaping the Features
12 Defining the Cheek and Nose
13 Working the Facial Hair
14 Refining the Face Shape
15 Carving the Wrinkles
16 Trimming the Beard
17 Review of the Techniques





































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