Carving the Whittle Pup

Blocking out the ears

Whittle Pups have very little in the way of detail. Most of what catches a person's eyes with these carvings is the head, and the ears make up a pretty big part of those features. An experienced carver can do wonders with the ears. I just try to make them reasonably symmetrical.

In this carving, the front of the ears lies along the left/right center line on the top of the wood. The ears are about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) tall. To block them out, I start by drawing a line around the entire block, 1-3/4 inches (4.5 cm) from the bottom. If you started with a piece of wood 2 inches tall, that should make your ears 1/4 inch tall. We'll call this the ear line, since only ears appear above it. Then, extend the right/left center line down to that line on both sides and draw another left/right line about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) behind that. You should now have a block across the top that shows where the ears will go.

Now, start carving away everything above the ear line except that block where the ears will be. Take your time with this. Take small bites and try not to let the knife "chatter" over the wood. When you're done, your carving should have a flat head with a 1/4 inch block across the middle, like this.

The last step in blocking out the ears is to separate them. We're not going to give them their final shape, but we want to separate them so that we can shape the head.

On the front of the carving, extend your center line (it's probably still there on the nose) to the ears. Now, measure 1/4 inch (one pencil width or 0.6 cm) on each side of the center line and make a mark. We're going to remove the wood between the ears.

I've found the best way to remove the wood between the ears is to start by making deep cut along the center line at the top. Don't try to force the edge of your knife down there, as you might split the wood. Just make a nice deep cut with the edge. Then, make angled cuts from the top to the middle from each side of the center line.

Granted, that's not the cleanest cut I ever made. You'll probably be cutting through the pith (center of the branch) here, and that can get kind of fuzzy. Continue making those angled cuts, making thin slicing cuts and deepening the center cut as you go. Once you've reached the top of the head, begin carving away each side from the middle. I suggest that you not go all the way to the 1/4 lines that we drew, since you'll probably want to leave a little room for shaping the ears. Your figure should look like this when you're done blocking out the ears.

I probably left a little too much for the ears there, but you get the idea. Don't go all the way to the mark, but leave some. Strop your blade before going on to the next section.