Sunday, June 7, 2009

Another Face -- Elves on the Loose!

Sean wanted to see more step-by-step photos of the way I do a face, so, since I am trying to build up inventory at the store that sells my ornaments, I decided to do my second elf ever. I gotta tell ya, taking all these photos was tough! Just as I'd get started good and get into the groove, crap! Gotta stop and take a photo. Very disruptive! But, anything for my peeps!

The first thing I do is sketch out the face on a block of wood. This began as a 1.5"x1.5"x6" piece of basswood. As you can tell more clearly from the second photo I ripped the block down a diagonal to come out with two triangular pieces of wood. I do this on anything over 1" that will be hanging on a tree to save weight. You don't want the ornament to tip the tree over! You can click on the photos to get a full-sized view. I've labeled the brow, the cheek and the bottom of the nose.

Here I've trimmed down the the main outline with my knife and started establishing the depth of the main features of the face. I left all that wood below the chin for the beard. At this point I haven't decided what it will look like.

Here's the profile view.

Here I've established the position of the eyes by plunging my knife down alongside the nose and cut up. Where the nose changes into the brow I moved the handle of my knife down to fix the slope from the brow down to the eye. I next cut up along the cheek line to meet the bottom of the nose/brow cut. You'll notice that there really isn't enough room between the cheek cut and the brow cut to place the eyes. The reason for that is that the top of the cheek cut will form the top of the eye mound. I've also made a small v-cut along the jaw line with my knife. I don't make this too deep because I may want to change it later as the rest of the face develops.

I've also started working on the ears. I try to move around on the face and not work too long on any one feature. I find that if I stop working on one feature to work on another, when I go back to the first feature my perspective is refreshed, and I can see things I might not have seen otherwise. As you can see, the ears are pretty simple. They are just one letter "C" after another.

Here you can see I've started defining the nostrils and the smile line. The smile line is important, because if it's not deep enough, the lower face will be flat. I've also started rounding the upper part of the face by carving wood away in front of the ear.

Here I've defined both nose wings and both smile lines. I've also defined the left eye mound. You can see by looking at the right side of the face that the top of the eye mound is the top of the cheek cut. I come down about half the distance I want to be the height of the eye mound, then cut down toward the cheek and up from the cheek toward the bottom of the eye. I've also started hollowing out below the cheek bone, and, if you'll compare the left side of the chin to the right side, you'll see that I've been refining the jaw line from where I originally drew it. That's why I didn't cut that line too deeply to begin with.

I have done all this carving with just my Harley knife, the knife pictured alongside the other elf in the previous post. Of course you could do this just as well, or maybe better, with a handful of chisels and gouges, but the knife is my preferred tool. Call it a quirk.

Well, this post has gotten awfully photo-heavy, so in the interest of keeping load times down, I'm going to break off here and continue in the next post, which, with any luck, will be within the next couple of days.

So, until then, let the chips fly!


  1. Can't wait to see how you do the ears.

  2. Great stuff Bob, you make it all very simple, when working without taking photos how long does something like this make?

  3. Bob, 3 tries to post a comment!

    No need for ears if Santa needs a haircut.

    Well done Bob!

  4. Ethan, the ears are really simple; an advantage of doing caricatures!

    Sean, it takes me about two hours if I'm not taking pictures then about another hour of painting counting drying time. I am getting faster the more practice I get.

    Tom, that's why I do more Santas than elves! And I have no idea why the comment engine doesn't like you. Do you curse Blogger too much? ;)

  5. Nice tutorial! It really helps to see the progress shots. Your peeps thank you!