Every woodcarver at one point or the other has thought about carving an animal out of wood. Whittling an animal out of wood is fun and challenging and serves as a great practice no matter if you are a beginner, intermediate or expert carver. It also requires patience, skill, and practice, we can guarantee that you will enjoy the entire process and most especially love the final result.
In this article you will learn the basic theory behind carving any animal you want, and we will provide you with 9 of our favorite animal carving projects and give you everything you need to know on each one of them. Without further ado, let’s get into everything you need to know about carving wooden animals.
How To Carve Any Animal Out Of Wood, Step-By-Step
- Print out the picture of the animal you wish to carve out and attach it to a block of wood
- Using graphite, trace out all the necessary parts of the animal and transfer it to the wood. Ensure you print out as many views of the animal.
- Remove excess wood and shape the animal to form a blank.
- Use carving knives, U and V gouge to bring the animal to look natural.
- With the help of a detailing knife, add finishing touches and round the body. Include hairs, eyes, tail, whiskers, if possible, to make the animal look very real.
Essential Requirements For Carving An Animal Out Of Wood
Once you know what is required before you begin your carving, your carving will be easy. You wouldn’t need to worry about making terrible mistakes that can lead to wasting the log of wood.
Requirement One – Establish the level of Difficulty, size of the animal, and the cost
Determine the level of difficulty of the animal you are about to carve. As we stated earlier, some animals are relatively easy to cut out of wood, while others may prove to be more difficult.
After determining the difficulty level, the size of the carving, and the final product’s size, determine some of the tools you will require to get the job completed. The final product size will also play a vital role in the size of wood you will need.
Also, size and difficulty will most likely affect the cost of the materials you will purchase. It is generally said that the larger the carving, the more expensive it will be, and the difficulty will also play a part in the price.
Requirement Two – Find out the appropriate type of wood for your carving
This is one big question that you will face when trying to carve animals out of wood. Beginners are advised to pick wood that is soft and easy to whittle. Some of the woods we would recommend include Butternut, Basswood, and Black walnut. We have a Complete list of softest wood that any beginner should try for their animal carving project.
With the exception of Black walnut, beginner carvers will love how easy it is to use the other two.
Black walnut is recommended for professionals only since it is a hardwood that is actually quite hard (many hardwoods are rather soft). It does have its advantages, some of which include the fact that it requires minimal finishing. With the right tools, the results are magnificent.
Requirement Three – Required Tools
The Carving knife is an essential tool for whittling and carving animals in the round. Some of the two tools you will require are
- A band saw
- Chip knife
- A carving gouge
- A workbench
- A mallet
If you are planning on buying any tools, you can support us by buying them on Amazon with our associate’s link. It will not cost you anything extra, but significantly help the wood carving source grow.
The tools you would be using are not limited to the ones listed above, and you can also choose to use power tools. However, we will not be focusing on power carving animals with power tools.
Once the necessary tools have been selected, decide on the size of the carving. The carved animal’s size will determine the size of the carving blocks you will be getting from Amazon. If you are more of an outdoors person, you can cut the raw log yourself to your desired size.
Do not forget that you will need to account for an extra 20% carved from the wood to estimate the size of your carving more accuretly.
Requirement Four- Brush up on your wood carving skills
Brushing up on your wood carving skills is essential, especially if you don’t use a whittling knife to carve regularly. Carving animals are great for all the 7 cuts present in wood carving, as they are very realistic and can require a lot of detail to perfection.
Another critical step before you begin to carve animals out of wood is constant practice. Practice using the correct tools and the specific wood you will be using for this project. By doing this, you will become more efficient with handling these tools. You will also be able to get a good grasp on the nature of the wood.
Requirement Five- Decide on the best finish and the desired durability
The last and most important requirement you will need to consider, is deciding whether to apply finishing to your carving. There are several methods of applying finishing to wood to achieve durability and improve aesthetics. Some popular finishing methods include;
- sing Sandpaper to obtain a shiny finish
- Wax finish
- Deft spray finish
- Using Polyurethane
- Using oil as a finish.
Tutorials on How To Carve Animals Out Of Wood
In this article, we will be focus on nine easy animals to carve out of wood; the animals include
- An owl A mouse
- A bird
- A fish
- A bear
- An elephant
- An eagle head
- A lion
- A moose
As you can see, these nine animals are easy. However, some may prove to be more challenging than others. Our personal favorite aminal to carve is the owl, so if you don’t know where to start, start from the owl tutorial, keep in mind that an owl is one of the more advanced projects.
Also, it is worth mentioning that primarily we would be focusing on the carving animals in the round (a combination of relief carving and whittling) method in this article.
How To Carve An Owl Out Of Wood
Dimensions: 1inch by 1inch by 23/4-inch-tall basswood.
Tools: V-tool, Knife,
Carving owls is incredibly fun, it can be done with both whittling tools and pwoer carving tools, but as we mentioned earlier in this article we will primarily focus on whittling tutorials.
Step 1: Define the Beak, Head, and Body area
First mark 7/8 and 13/8 inches from the top of the wood. This will be the beak. Move to the other side and mark 3/8 and 1¾ inches at the other side. The 1¾ inch marking represents the separation between the head and the body of the owl. You can extend the markings around the wood.
Step 2: Start to cut away pieces of wood
At the 3/8-inch marking, use your knife to carve out the wood, take wood away from both the top and bottom of the line. Do this for the two 3/8-inch markings. Move to the top of the wood and connect both the two 3/8-inch carvings with a line.
Step 3: Continue carving all the marked lines
Move to the back of where the beak would be, away from the 1 3/4inch mark carve upwards towards the line connecting the 3/8inch mark.
Carve from the 1¾ inch line to the bottom also but it doesn’t have to get to the center at the bottom
Step 4: Establish the Beak
At the front the line one-eighth of an inch below the side lines from the bottom carve up. Moving to the line above, do the same, only this time carve down. Next draw a line slightly angled down and cut above the line to define the beak a little more. Make a v-cut just below the point where the beak will be to make a rough beak.
Remember the lines 1¾ line we talked about in step 3, now connect that cut all the way to the beak. This is why we didn’t cut all the way through earlier.
Step 5: Define the eyes
At the top, extend the line all the way to the center, this will be the top of the eyes. Draw the top of the eyes and cut inside them with your knife. Remember to clean up the pencil lines. Draw the eyelids and cut them in. Remember to separate the eyes, make a 45-degree cut on each side.
Step 6: The Head
Connect the top of the eyes to the head using the line connected at the top in step 2. Carve from the point at the top of the eyes to that line. This will give the head that owlish look. Round the head starting from the points connecting the face and body.
Step 7: The wings
Taking the lines from the side of both eyes down, bring them all the way down to the bottom. This will form the wings. Using your knife, stick it into the wings and make a cut; do this for both the front and back of the owl.
Step 8: Create more owly features
Draw a line in between the wings at the bottom. Also, draw a semi-circle just below the neck. Use your knife to cut into the circle below the neck. This will create a feathered nape for the owl. Try to put a little triangle within the semi-circle. You can use a v-tool. Remember the line you drew at the bottom, carve into it, and split it into half. This will form the claws.
Step 9: Feathers
Make several 45-degree cuts across the belly of the owl. Do it in both directions, from left to right and right to left. Next, cut off all the upper points to create nice belly feathers.
Step 10: Define back wings
Repeat everything done in step 6 to define the back of the wings of the owl. Round out the fat bottom on the wing and color the eyeballs
Step 11: Final touches
Use a v-tool to add some texture to the feathers and paint your owl in colors you like.
Carving an owl is one of our personal favorite projects! Be sure to watch the video below for an even more instructive and very illustrative guide on carving an owl:
Best carving hacks mentioned in the video:
- When cutting the eyes, you don’t have to go round in one cut; you can do it in a couple of cuts.
- While connecting the top of the eyes to the line from step 2, cut from both sides towards the line.
- To define the claws, put 2 little v-cuts.
How To Carve a Mouse Out Of Wood
Tools and Materials: Thumb guard, detailing knife, Gouge, white bristles from a bristle brush (to form the whiskers), 2 round black quilting pins (for the eyes), band saw.
Everyone imagine carving a mouse different, some carve it as a small round ball with a tails, others take a very realistic approach, while some see it as mickey mouse-like figure such as in the featured picture above. Either way, you will still need more or less the same basic ideas to carivng a mouse. In this tutorial we will be focusing on a more real-life aproach to carving a mouse.
Step 1: Carving out
Using a band saw, carve out the mouse pattern that you must have drawn on the block of wood.
Step 2: Define the Ears
Use your knife to remove the excess wood until you get to the mark where you placed stop cuts behind the ears. Draw a centerline from the front of the head to the base of the tail, then draw a line from the upper ear to the centerline drawn before.
Step 3: Round the Body
Using the stop cuts behind the ears as reference points, round the mouse’s body and head. Also, carve towards the back of the ears.
Step 4: Shape the Ears
Using a gouge carve the insides of the ears. But make sure to remove the wood around the ears and shape the ears first.
Step 5: Defining Details
Define the Legs, using a veiner, draw the legs and shape the legs and the tail.
Step 6: Final Touches
Glue the eye where they should be and add three small holes to the sides of the face; this is where the whiskers will go. Finally, paint the mouse, this will most likely turn out to be the best finish.
For a more visual approach, scroll throught this 10 minute video:
Key takeaways from the video
- Make sure the blade guide for the band saw is a quarter of an inch above the block of wood.
- To avoid making the ears of the mouse any smaller, put a small cut behind the ears and make sure all your carvings are behind the ears.
- Be very careful when working with the mouse tail so that you don’t break it off, and make sure to note the direction of the grain.
How To Carve a Bird Out Of Wood
Tools: 1.5-inch carving knife, v-tool, guard tape, file, pencil
Birds too are very different and explaining them in a step by step manner will not make too much sense. Instead we found a very helpful video that you should watch if you ever feel like carving a bird.
With that said there are still a few tips we can give you that apply to any kind of bird that you will be carving. To carve a bird out of wood, you need to draw out three bird patterns, the top view, and both of the bird’s side views. Paste these patterns on wood.
Next, using your knife, cut along the lines on the bird pattern glued to your wood. The shape of the bird should begin to be visible. Using your v-tool, cut a notch at the sides of the bird.
Our favorite finish for birds is to apply no finish at, or coat it with beeswax after sanding it. To sand the wooden bird first use the 150 grit sandpaper, followed by 220 and 320 grit sandpaper.
Important takeaways from the video
- Mark the widest side of the blank bird
- Draw the shape of the bird at the bottom. This will guide you to how the base should look.
- To get into tighter spaces, use a narrow knife. This is good for defining the beak.
How To Carve a Fish Out Of Wood
Tools: Band saw, chisel
Step 1: Transfer your pattern to the block of wood
Make sure to transfer key details from the pattern to the block of wood, the side and top view of the fish are essential to the success of this project.
Step 2: Cut the pattern out
Use a band saw to cut out the pattern; do this for both the side view first and the top view second. This will make things easy and fast. Use a chisel to remove the excess pieces of wood
Step 3: Draw essential features
Drawing the features will guide you as you carve. Draw a midline on the four faces of the blank.
Step 4: Round the corners
using a u gouge and a carving knife, continue to take off pieces of wood. Try to makes the fins as thin as you can
Step 5: Sand the fish
Using a 60-grit sandpaper sand the sides of the fish. You should have a flat surfaced fish carving
Step 6: Draw the other necessary details and carve
Starting with the fins use a tiny gouge to put key details to the fins of the fish. Make the first detailing in one direction and go in the other direction to create a v-groove. Move on to the face and cut out all the lines you previously drew
Step 7: Finishing
You can decide to use an additional 100, 150, 20 and 220 grit to sand the finished fish and color the fish.
Key takeaways from the video
- Establish places where you shouldn’t cut by making a stop cut.
- Be careful when cutting close to the fins as the fins get thinner so that it doesn’t break off
How To Carve a Bear Out Of Wood
Required Wood: Basswood
Tools: Carving knife, V-tool
Wood dimensions: 1¼ inch thick and 4½ inches long
This is another one of our personal favorite projects you can make. Carving a bear is very common with a chainsaw, but if you are whittling a bear with a knife the principal stays the same, try to add as many details as possible and make it realistic from the facial expression to the bear’s fur.
Step 1: Draw and mark the Ears
Mark an inch across the top of the block of wood. Then, use your carving knife to take some wood off the point you marked; no need to rush. Cut or take small chunks of wood off towards the front where the face of the bear will be. This is done to make the ears of the bear stand out.
Step 2: Mark where the face and feet of the bear will be
Measure 13/16inches across the front of the wood, and mark it. This Is where the bear’s face will be. Move to the bottom of the wood, measure 3/8inches from the bottom of the wood; this is where the bear’s feet will be.
Step 3: Carve out the face and the feet
Begin to take small chunks of wood off where the bear’s face will be. The position you marked will be your start point. Do the same for the bottom where the bear’s feet should be and begin to cut from the point you marked previously.
You should have the overall shape of the bear now.
Step 4: Separate the Ears
Locate the center of the ears and try to separate them by cutting in between them.
Step 5: Define the Eyes of the Bear
Measure ¼inches from the ears and draw a straight line. This is where the eyes will go. Slice into the sides of the line you marked and cut down small chunks off the point you sliced.
Do not cut all the way into that point. It would be best if you were forming a V-shape. Do the same for the other side of where the eye would be.
Step 6: Work out the nose
Using a pencil, draw a V-line just below the eyes. Next, dig into the lines you just drew and carve the nose.
Step 7: Round those square Ears
Go to the back of the ears and begin to round them. Ensure the ears are separate from the body. Use a carving knife. This will push the ears forward a little.
Step 8: Create arms for your Bear
Using your pencil, mark the point where the head meets the body on the side of the blank and draw arms that extend to the bear’s stomach. Then begin carving out the wood from the arms. Carve forward. Also, separate the head from the arms.
Step 9: Carve out the Feet
Move to the middle of the feet, draw a line, and cut into the middle of the feet to separate the bear’s feet. Carve the bear’s feet angled down and draw a line from the center of the legs to the center and carve into the line. Go to the back of the legs and do the same.
Step 10: Finishing
All that is left to do now is establish the bear looking features and a paint your bear.
Important takeaways from the video
- While separating the ears, cut from an angle. This makes the ears stand out. Also, cut in from the front.
- While carving the nose, from the center of the nose, draw a loop and cut away the area of the wood where the loop does not cover. Do this for both sides of the loop. Shape the nose to get important bear features.
- When carving the bear’s ears, please move to the front of the ears and cut them back to separate them from the body.
How To Carve An Elephant Out Of Wood
Required Materials and Tools
Wood: Butternut, basswood, or white pine
Tools: 3.5-4cm (1.5 inches) carving knife, chisels, U and V-shaped gouge.
Elephants are not easy to carve, this is a project for when you have already developed a good amount of 3d-vision and have had a fair bit of experience with carving in the round projects.
Step 1: Paste your Pattern on the Wood
Obtain a pattern from the internet, or draw an elephant if you are confident in your artistic skills. Paste this elephant pattern on the wood block you will be working on and transfer the elephant pattern to the wood using graphite.
Step 2: Remove excess wood
In this step, the pattern you choose should be slightly smaller than the block of wood you will be using. Cut off the excess wood.
Step 3: Carve out the Head
The head is the first part to start working on. Use a chipping knife to make stop cuts where the head and the trunk joins the body. The knife should be used to carve round the head and thin the trunk of the blank.
Step 4: Define the Ears
Begin the stop cut at the top of the head and stop midway close to the bottom of the ear. Then reverse the blank and do the same from the bottom of the ear to the center.
Step 5: The Back
Round the back of the elephant next. At the stop cut that define the ears, carve downwards. This way, the ear will be defined and separate from the body.
Step 6: The Legs
Separate the upper legs from the belly by making stop cuts that are angled upwards close to the rear legs. Also, round the front legs. Remember to chip out a piece of the Elephants front legs and round the belly area covering the front legs and back.
Step 7: Ears
Separate the elephant ears from the top of the ears using a knife to form a v- shape in this area. First, create a stop cut at the center of the head. This stop cut should be located at the center of the head. It should run from the front to the back of the head.
Step 8: Final touches
Using a vice or wooden clamp, add the finishing touches
As always, a visual approach will definitely help you along with the written instructions. Take a look at the video below to familiarize yourself with the process of carving a wooden elephant.
Important takeaways from the video
- Always use a pencil to draw key details, except you are an expert and have no need for that.
- When making cuts, always alternate between both sides of the animal. After cutting one side, go to the next side and make the same cut. This will ensure that the two sides are appropriately aligned.
- Determine the direction of the grain with a first thin cut; if it seems like the wood will split, then you are cutting against the grain.
- When making a stop cut at the rear legs to separate it from the belly, perform a rocking motion with your knife.
How To Carve An Eagle Head Out Of Wood
Tools: Hand drill, carpenters square, band saw, V-tool, carving knife, file, V-shaped gouge, veiners, and a detailing knife.
Step 1: Create and Attach the Eagle pattern to be used
Ensure you have three detailed templates of the eagle. One copy of the template is to be attached to the wood. The second will serve as a working paper template; it will be cut off and used to transfer patterns when needed. The last copy will serve as a reference template.
Step 2: Mark out important Lines
Using the tools available, mark out the main lines from the template. Ensure that these cuts are as close to the pattern line as you can get. Do these for all possible views; side views, top, and bottom.
Step 3: Draw the Centerlines
Using a pencil, mark out the centerlines for the top and side views. Use a carpenter’s square to draw the center lines to the bottom. You should then align the side view pattern to the marks using a spray adhesive to secure it. You can decide to drill the point where the eagle’s eyes will go with a hand drill.
Step 4: The Head
Use a gouge to roughen out the back of the head of the eagle. Ensure that you start from the lines that extend from the top. Carve downwards and perpendicular and follow all the markings.
Step 5: The Chin line
Use a v-gouge to define the chin line. The centerline located at the side view will be your start point. Carve from here to the centerline located at the front view. Once this is completed, redraw the centerline and every other important line that might have being carve away.
Step 6: The Eagles Beak
The beak is the next point of call. Carve out the shape of the beak using a gouge. The top view pattern lines should guide your carving of the beak. The pattern paper should be almost carved off by now. So, using a large v-gouge, you can move on to making sure the brow ridge area is well defined.
Step 7: Round the Eagle
Your eagle should be in the shape of a blank by now. So, begin to round out the eagle, a carving knife and gouge should be able to get the task done quite easily. The centerlines will serve as a guide for making sure both sides are equal and of the same thickness.
Step 8: Get a coarse grit metal or use a diamond file to smoothen the markings you created with your tools. Next, grab a medium grit file for a second smoothening, and lastly, use an extra-fine grit for the final smoothening.
Step 9: Drill the Eyes
Drill the eye sockets and ensure that they are correctly aligned by checking from the top view and the front view.
Step 10: Define the Beak
Get a 1/8 v-tool and use it to separate the beak area. Then use a 1/8 gouge also to define the nostril area to separate the beak.
Step 11: Create the Feathers
Draw all the different feathers on the eagle and use a v-gouge to carve the feathers. Also, draw smaller feathers within the large feathers you just carved and use a smaller v-tool to define those feathers.
Step 12: Use a diamond bit to soften the feather marking you just created, and use a veiner to add individual details to each feather
Step 13: Clean and Finish the Carving
Use a rotary tool that has abrasive pads mounted on a screw-headed mandrel to clean the carving. Make sure you do not clean against the direction the feathers go.
Step 14: Paint and finish
Paint the beak and the head of the beak to make the eagle come alive.
Key takeaways from the video
- When you carve out the paper pattern, any important lines carved out in the process should be redrawn.
- Drill an eye hole at the beginning of your carving; this will serve as a reference.
How To Carve a Lion Out Of Wood
Tools: Carving knife
Get a pattern and carve out the pattern’s outer lines, draw a line joining the inner face of the lion.
Starting with the head of the lion, cut from the outside of the block. At the point where the head, body and the legs meet make an indent. This will separate the mane, the body, and the legs, next separate the mane of the lion from the face. Make tiny cuts at a time.
The tail is next. Make a little cut and separate the tail from the hind legs. Make sure the tail is facing down. At the same time, remove very little at a time. The tails should be well defined now and separated from the body and legs.
Cut in between the legs, make a v-cut to separate the hind legs from the front legs. Between the rear and front legs, shape beneath the stomach of the lion. Make v cuts to the back and front of the hind legs to make them more defined.
Put more details into the mane by making more deep cuts. Then try to round the edges of the lion. Use your knife to create two small holes on the face; this is where the eyes will go. Don’t forget to carve into the back and front of the front legs to make them more defined.
Be sure to watch this tutorial on how to carve a lion for yourself. If you want to lion to be larger, you can simply use a larger piece of wood, what is more important is to understand the techniques and carving ideas behind a lion figure.
Important takeaways from the video
- Whenever you have any carving with legs, the grain goes up the legs.
- When shaping the face of the lion, slowly drag your wood towards the knife.
How To Carve a Moose Out Of Wood
Tools: Chain saw, cut saw grinding wheel, die grinder, nylon rotary disc
Required Wood: white pine for the neck and body, Maple for the horns and antlers
We will take a different route to carve a moose out of wood, unlike the previous animals, hand-carved. For the moose, we will be power carving.
Let’s get right into it.
Step 1: Draw pattern lines with a chain-saw
Draw all the pattern lines with a chain saw; the chain saw line is definite and almost impossible to erase. You should also remove excess wood pieces. Also, use the chain saw to brush off and smooth the carved block of wood.
Step 2: Carve out the Antlers
Use the chain to round the wood and draw the position where the antlers, eyes, and facial features will be. Using the natural antler, carve out an antler out of wood. This way, you will be able to make sure the antler fits perfectly. You will need a cut saw grinding wheel and a die grinder to add fine details.
Step 3: The Ears
Carve out ears that are a little bigger than the ones described by the taxidermist. Use a carving bar to carve out the ears. Then use a disc grinder to shape the ears.
Step 4: Attach the hears, the horns, and the antlers
Make sure to use glue when attaching these features to the head and bolt them into the head.
Step 5: Add some more detailing
Using your brush and disc grinder, do more brushing and add all the fine details. Also, don’t forget to add the beards and glue them in about 1½inches.
Step 6: Even more details!
Using a cut saw flame bur or a typhoon bit on the end of the die grinder to put details into the eyes, mouth, nose, and face in general. Also, add some fur to the body of the moose.
Step 7: Finish the carving
Begin to stain the carving with a brush and ensure the paint doesn’t set in too fast. Lastly, use sandpaper to brush the whole body of the moose.
Take a look at a this increadible project of carving a moose out of white pine. It is very difficult to carve animals of such a large size, therefore, if you decide to scale it down a few times you very much should, but this video should still be very informative and interesting to you.
Key takeaways from the video
- There are different chains with different sizes and power for various purposes. Some are for brushing, taking off chunks of wood, and carving bars.
- Use the taxidermist form to work on the ears. Remember, bigger is always better because whenever the taxidermist takes this form there is always fur.
- Some tools can be adapted to fit a particular use. Only do this if you are experienced with mechanical and carving tools.
- To give the moose a color, wet it with paint and use a walnut gel stain.
As you can see carving animals out of wood is fun. Animals are not so easy to carve out of wood, but with enough detail and “life” that you put into them they can turn out great. Ensure you follow the steps outlined but still improvise a bit as all carvings are made differently.
Thank you for reading our article. We hope that you enjoyed and that your carvings turn out to be great! If you would like to learn some more today, be sure to surf the website, otherwise, we hope to see you back at woodiswood.