Power carving for everyone #3: Things that may help you along as you go

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Blog entry by Jordan posted 03-17-2011 11:45 PM 1971 reads 2 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Bits and Burs Part 3 of Power carving for everyone series Part 4: Evolution of perception »

I have been putting these on Facebook but a lot of carvers there aren’t here YET! Please note that I only intend to assist those who are in need. I am not above any carver or ability but I love to network and share with those who desire. I will jot these down as I think of them.

Never ever make an undercut or hole until your background is exactly the desired level!

When you do a face, it is best to make sure that the nostrils are completed only after the height of the top lip is finalized. If you look at yourself in the mirror, you’ll see that the back edge of the nostril hole is most often parallel with the lip. Many times, while carving a nose, I see that the carver drills the nostrils and carves the nose around them, then realizes that the lip is too far back.

Similarly when undercutting the back of the ears or plotting the ears themselves, the hole adjoins itself to the side of the face with a tiny V type flap over it and the back of the ears should not be undercut until the height of the head or hair is finalized.

If you are plotting laces on shoes, the hole is not a hole in itself but a hole around the entering lace. The actual hole looks more like a D, not an O.

Anatomy of wrinkle

Have you ever made a face and had one eye correct but were too afraid to make the other one, so you thought it would be easier to burn in a closed eye? Maybe you’ve never made any eyes and just scored in some squint lines. Same with the mouth, it’s easy to score a smile. And it’s really okay to do so. But if you’d like to take those score lines further, think of it this way – behind every anatomically correct eye is an eyeball, even the squinting ones. And beside, above or below every expressional score line (especially at the corners of the mouth) are the ripple effects from tightening that part of your skin.

So before I do anything with my eyes at all, I always carve the shape of two rough balls, leaving what I call boo-boo wood, which will end up as the lids etc. or the wrinkles at the sides of the eyes which show that the eye is in motion. The squinting eye should not be flat against the face if the other eye has a full ball. Neither do the balls take up the entire width of the face – there is a skull inside there, prominently the bones around the eyes. Sometimes when I start a face, I draw the bone of the eyebrow and socket bones first. This is because I used to always be afraid of making the heads directly on the body in case I screwed it up then would have to cut it off. Yes, I had to start somewhere too and the more I realized what was under my vision, the easier it was to pretend I was covering the skull with wooden skin rather than just taking stabs in the dark and hoping it was correct.

I realize as well that the corners of my smile are lower than the skin of my cheeks around them. It’s amazing what a more relaxed result you get when you add a ripple of skin around a score line of a smile or a squint line of an eye.

Perfection is IMperfection

This was my first attempt at imperfection and from there I went to leather and suede items. I became obsessed with making things look real. It’s one of my favorite pieces although I think the jeans could’ve used a bit more width and folds.

Of course at the first carving club I attended I was given some boot blanks and along with everyone else, I carved these stiff looking little boots with holes drilled for real laces. And we all entered them in a show where only one guy got a ribbon(not me) – how could they have possibly been judged, they were all the same and not a one had a ripple or crease to be seen. That was the last of my stiff looking little boots forever more.

Dennis Z’ carvings are perfect imperfection in my eyes, however, his leaves still flow, the carvings take your eyes around the entire piece rather than just stopping at something flat. So I don’t mean you have to make things misshapen, just more relaxed looking.

Whether you carve faces, flowers, animals, leaves or anything, challenge yourself to make one thing look supple, flowing, creased, rippled, anything but stiff. Caricatures are a good way to start because they allow you to accentuate things like droopy drawers or big stomachs.

You wouldn’t go that far with a leaf but they are more than just veins down the center of a flat blank. Each vein changes the shape of the surrounding leaf. You can shape a flat leaf and dip the wood in just before the tip. Then drop each end slightly so the heart of the leaf is higher. That way your profile would look more like an S than an I.


11 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4127 days

#1 posted 03-17-2011 11:53 PM

I wondered why we weren’t seeing this here at LumberJocks.
Thanks for all you do in sharing your talent/wisdom with others.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Jordan's profile


1400 posts in 3091 days

#2 posted 03-17-2011 11:57 PM

Thanks Deb, I just thought of it today and had trouble transferring between two sites. I wouldn’t forget my LJ friends!


View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3544 days

#3 posted 03-17-2011 11:58 PM

Hey Jordon
Always great to see your fantastic work and get you advice .Thanks so much

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jordan's profile


1400 posts in 3091 days

#4 posted 03-17-2011 11:59 PM

Hi Jim, missed ya!


View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3544 days

#5 posted 03-18-2011 12:03 AM

I’m always around(very round):) but just have to comment when you post. Do you have a book in the works ? If not you should.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jordan's profile


1400 posts in 3091 days

#6 posted 03-18-2011 12:07 AM

I was just thinking about a book or a DVD but I just can’t feel that it would be of interest to too many people. I am thinking about it though Jim.


View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3544 days

#7 posted 03-18-2011 12:14 AM

How about a tour you can start in my place :) I would that one of them come about , your not only a fantastc carver but a great teacher too. I didn’t mean to take over your post . thanks again for sharing.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BertFlores58's profile


1694 posts in 2889 days

#8 posted 03-18-2011 12:29 AM

Hi Jordan,
I never realized your outreach or network program is the one that keeps you busy. You have the passion of teaching and let everyone get the right method. I agree with Jim to put in a book or DVD. I had printed your complete blog on the shoe carving so it is very handy to look into it from time to time. Your tips as we say it trade secrets are really worth applying in developing my skills and technique.

Just from this blog… I learned a lot about referencing… one should have a reference point and adjust from that reference to be able to come into a proportioned object .. perfect imperfection. I applied this today and it works. I have a parquetry that I have to adjust a bit on the allignment from the one already glued up, so I cut file a bit on the next row and works. Jordan THANKS FOR THE HELP. keep it going.

-- Bert

View donjoe's profile


1360 posts in 2997 days

#9 posted 03-18-2011 01:59 AM

Great stuff Jordan. You are truly a teacher to us all.

-- Donnie-- listen to the wood.

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4044 days

#10 posted 03-18-2011 05:06 AM

As always, much appreciated pointers!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View lumberdustjohn's profile


1263 posts in 3133 days

#11 posted 03-18-2011 02:08 PM

Haven’t tried carving, but your articles always are interesting.
Thanks for sharing

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

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