carving "Thunderbolt" #5: saddle completed and starting to get a head

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Blog entry by mpounders posted 01-26-2011 05:25 PM 1227 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: finishing muscle groups and starting the saddle Part 5 of carving "Thunderbolt" series Part 6: Shrinking Heads? »

Finished the simple details on the saddle and have the horn stuck in place temporarily. It may need to be cut down a bit more. I would normally do the stirrups, but you can’t see many saddle details when the rider is mounted.

I used a stoning technique on the cowboy’s chaps to try and give the effect of angora or goat-skin chaps….may need to do it a bit heavier. “Stoning” is a process of using a dremel or other rotary tool with an abrasive wheel or cylinder and using just the edge to create a more realistic fur or hair look by making little squiggles and overlapping groups of hair. I use a process that I was shown, where you deliberately bend the shaft of the burr, so that it wobbles randomly at a slow speed, and creates more randomness in the hair. Takes a little practice, but looks good.

I have cut out my blank for the head a little over-sized and with the neck a little long, so they can be adjusted as necessary. I think I will do more of a flowing mane. You can see some of the starting cuts used to rough out the basic planes and shapes. I use a utility knife for a lot of this.

I like the sharp and slightly flexible blades of this knife and it is really surprising what you can do with it, after a little practice. You have some advantages when using multiple pieces of wood for a carving, in addition to strength. It makes it very easy to modify your design for the best look. I can leave the head straight as shown above, or I can turn it slightly to make the carving more interesting. With the head turned it looks like the rider may be trying to turn him, or the horse is trying to reach back and bite the little fellow! You might give me more points for technical difficulty, if I carved it from a single block of wood, but I feel that you actually have more creative freedom when you are not limited by the physical constraints of the grain and sometimes even the size of the wood. I am more concerned about the appearance and the strength and longevity of the piece, than the methods.

Thanks for looking!

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

10 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3302 days

#1 posted 01-26-2011 05:46 PM

its looking really good mike..when i see the large block of wood your working with…it just kinda intimidates me and then to see what you did with it and turned it into a beautiful carving…its really quite cool to me…its having that eye i guess to be able to see what it will be …from what it is…all part of being a true carving artist…thanks for sharing this process …i might learn something yet…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3595 days

#2 posted 01-26-2011 06:06 PM

Lookin good Mike can’t wait to see the completed carving

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View mpounders's profile


875 posts in 2894 days

#3 posted 01-26-2011 06:18 PM

Nah man, you just need to give it a shot! I started two years ago with a piece of firewood and some dull tools and a connection to the Internet. You can make it as simple as stick and a pocket knife. Google “three minute wizard” or “santa ornaments” and you can find videos and instructions that are free! Basswood is my favorite but a piece of poplar from HD is not to bad to carve on (don’t start on pine or cedar or others, you might get discouraged) and you can use a utility knife (fixed blade only, not the retractible kind) or make your own . The only major purchase would be $20 for a carving glove (sharp knives cut deep) to get started. You can get your feet wet before deciding which type you prefer. Some things require different tools or gouges, but some are as simple as a couple of knives!

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 3784 days

#4 posted 01-26-2011 07:29 PM

This process has been fun to watch Mike. Thanks for taking the time to show how its done.
Walmart has kevlar gloves for fish cleaning and you get two of them for around 10 bucks. Many people in our carving group use them and say they love them. I will try them after my glove wears out.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View mpounders's profile


875 posts in 2894 days

#5 posted 01-26-2011 08:41 PM

I use leather gloves for power carving with big bits and the kevlar for everything else. Accidents happen, but I have never cut myself with the glove on! (and I use a thumbguard also on the other hand). I don’t think this is as much a tutorial as it is just a work in progress kind of thing. If you want a tutorial, here is a link to one of my favorite carvers, Lynn Doughty! I don’t want to copy his carvings, but I try to copy his methods a lot! He does free video tutorials on his site and has free videos on vimeo also that can be very helpful in learning to do caricatures, especially anything Western related. I made a trip last year to Oklahoma specifically to meet and talk with him. I have my own style, I hope, but he has had an influence on some of the methods I use and the things I carve. Grizzman, be sure and watch some of his videos! I can even watch them on my IPhone out in the garage, which is really handy!

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4076 days

#6 posted 01-26-2011 09:39 PM

It may not be called a tutorial – but I am learning!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3526 days

#7 posted 01-27-2011 01:28 AM

This is going to be so great.
You started with a good idea and are making it special, as only you could. The proportions are excellent and the cowboys face really makes it a character. I’m sure the horse face will pull it all together. Looking good. great shape. Also can’t wait to see the hat.

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View TJ65's profile


1378 posts in 3049 days

#8 posted 01-27-2011 09:31 AM

I agree, he is really starting to take shape but I still love those legs!!

-- Theresa,

View helluvawreck's profile


31088 posts in 2866 days

#9 posted 01-27-2011 03:18 PM

Mike, this project is very interesting. Your carving is very crisp and clean looking.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View ~Julie~'s profile


607 posts in 3033 days

#10 posted 01-27-2011 04:49 PM

It’s just great, Mike, and your encouraging words to others are very inspiring.
Keep posting ALL your carvings, please!

-- ~Julie~

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