Four In One Cowboy

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Project by stefang posted 01-12-2015 04:21 PM 3826 views 4 times favorited 55 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Getting Started
This my first ever figure carving. My inspiration to try this out was from watching a tutorial video here by Gene Messer who gets beginners started. My prior attempts at carving have been relief carving and none of them have been any good, so I thought figure carving would be even more difficult, but Gene made it look doable and so I gave it a try. I realize this first one isn’t very good, but it is good enough to make me think that I can get a lot better. I never felt that way with relief carving. Gene teaches a technique called ‘flat plane carving’ which is mostly carving with a knife and getting a maximum character effect with minimal details. I put in more detail in my carving than is typical for flat plane carving just because I like the details.

I’m not planning to do much cowboy carving, but I did this one because I was able to take advantage of Gene’s profile drawing to make my blank to get a basic size and posture plus the hat outline. The carving itself is my own design, if you can call it that (shown below)

More Inspiration
After finishing this project I started searching the net for other figure carvers just to see what they were up to. I found a great website and videos from ‘Out West Woodcarving Videos here. These videos are made by a fantastic woodcarver Lynn O. Doughty. You’ve most likely heard of him if you are already a carver. His videos are very well done. I feel that I have learned a lot from watching them and I hope to apply some of that new found knowledge to my next carving project.

What’s with the ‘Four In One’ title?
I’m not sure, but I may have set a record with this project. It has actually been completed four times! Each time I finished it I was unhappy with the result and so made changes, some big and some small. Here are photos of the same carving upon completion all four times and in order.

So go ahead and laugh, it’s kind of like one of those films where they make more than one ending so they can change it to suit the audience, except I did it to suit myself in this case. You don’t have to say it’s good, but I’ll appreciate it if you let me know which one you think is best.

My own take on this project
I sure had a lot of fun with this, creating my own little person. Of course its obvious that ‘Red’ has a few shortcomings. That is, too short arms, a missing left ear, no eyebrows, funny hands and he is standing with his toes pointed straight forward. We can only blame his creator for these defects, and yes, he looks a little angry about it. I do hope the next one will be happier so I can feel the love, but if you are thinking about carving a figure like this, all you need is what I used, a chip carving knife for everything except that I finished the inside hat brim with a gouge, but I could have finished even that with the knife, but it would have taken a little longer. There are better knife shapes to do this with, but I just used what I had.

Future Carving Plans I’m definitely planning to give figure carving a permanent place in my woodworking repertoire. It was really fun. I hope you will give it try too. Thanks for looking in.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

55 comments so far

View mpounders's profile


1008 posts in 4135 days

#1 posted 01-12-2015 04:44 PM

Bravo! That is not bad at all! The important thing is to have fun with the process, no matter how it turns out. Carving can be very relaxing and Gene and Lynn both have some great instructions and videos. What is your next project?

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View Woodbridge's profile


3751 posts in 3658 days

#2 posted 01-12-2015 04:48 PM

Mike, from where I sit that looks like a pretty good carving! He’s a cowboy with lots of character.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

8277 posts in 4593 days

#3 posted 01-12-2015 04:53 PM

Nice work Mike! I would never laugh at your work or anyone’s work for that matter. The only thing I ever carved is a turkey and it wasn’t pretty! LOL! Good job on this carving he looks like his horse just ran away! Just kidding! Your cowboy looks great!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View Ivan's profile


17004 posts in 4107 days

#4 posted 01-12-2015 05:03 PM

I’m amaized with realistic presentation of clothing foldings and facial expression.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View johnhutchinson's profile


1243 posts in 2869 days

#5 posted 01-12-2015 05:27 PM

Outstanding, Mike !!!

It’s something I could never do because I’m too hung up with precise lines. CAD does that to a guy. :)

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3532 days

#6 posted 01-12-2015 05:35 PM

Looks great! Hope to get around to carving sometime—it’s on my “Bucket List.” Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View PaulDoug's profile


2623 posts in 2943 days

#7 posted 01-12-2015 05:43 PM

If I could carve that good, I’d be totally satisfied with myself!

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5219 days

#8 posted 01-12-2015 05:53 PM

Really GREAT JOB!!


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Druid's profile


2205 posts in 4035 days

#9 posted 01-12-2015 06:44 PM

They’re all great Mike, particularly considering the limited access to carving tools that you mentioned. Since you asked for feedback, even though I can’t see all sides, I’ll say that I prefer #3.
Looking forward to your next project.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5122 days

#10 posted 01-12-2015 06:47 PM

Well done Mike.
I could never do that. My Dad could carve and paint pictures. I have tried with really bad results.
Kudos to you.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View MShort's profile


1798 posts in 4658 days

#11 posted 01-12-2015 06:47 PM

Great Job Mike !!!

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4581 days

#12 posted 01-12-2015 07:11 PM

pretty slick there dude

always wondered
what a norwegian cowboy looked like

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4574 days

#13 posted 01-12-2015 07:16 PM

Thanks everyone! There is nothing better than having a good time with a little wood. I like that this is also an inexpensive hobby. I can’t get too heavy into this though because I have a lot of expensive machinery in my shop and I’m afraid if I don’t use it often enough my wife will kill me!

Mike I’m not sure what the next one will be, but I would like to do something humorous and which tells a story rather than just a static figure. That will be a big challenge for me as my drawing skills are somewhere below zero and I know even less about anatomy, except for what I learned from Lynn Doughty’s videos. Besides that, every time I try to be humorous I get frowns instead of laughs. Is it me or the Norwegians?

David He’s a direct descendant of Erik the red. I know, Eric lived in Iceland, but he was still born in Norway.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4581 days

#14 posted 01-12-2015 07:26 PM

when it’s roundup time

does he ride a reindeer
or just drive a volvo pickup truck

course with a background from iceland
maybe he just lumbers along along on a seal

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4574 days

#15 posted 01-12-2015 08:17 PM

I think he uses a snowmobile these days just like the Samis north in Norway.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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