Free cardinal wood carving pattern and tutorial

You can carve this beautiful bird in no time. 


Our cardinal wood carving pattern is super easy to use and can be carved very quickly, too.  If you glue your bird to a stick (like we did) it makes a beautiful piece that can be displayed anywhere.

The Northern cardinal is one of our favorite birds.  We have a male and female that visit our bird feeders every day.  They are quite territorial, and once they ”claim” a home, they tend to stay there.  The males are bright red, while the females are more muted. 

Cardinal wood carving

What you need for this cardinal wood carving pattern and tutorial

  • Our template at the end of this page to trace the pattern.
  • Basswood block (ours is 1 x 1 x 3 inches (2.54 x 2.54 x 7.62 cm).  For a bigger bird, just double or triple the size of your wood.
  • Knife of choice (we use a Helvie Boxcutter that is great for both roughing out and detail work).
  • Pencil or pen.
  • Wood burning pen (optional).
  • Acrylic paints and brushes of choice.
  • Good carving gloves for safe carving.

Cardinal wood carving tutorial at a glance 

Cardinal wood carving pattern: Trace the shape

  • Use our free cardinal wood carving pattern (at the end) to trace your bird on one side (photo 1).  You can use Scotch tape or glue to affix it.
  • Reverse the cardinal wood carving pattern (white side will be up) to draw the opposite side of the bird on your block (photo 2).
  • You can also trace the back of the bird on the top of your block (photo 1) or just eyeball it like we did.
Cardinal template on wood1. Attach and trace an outline of the pattern
Wood cardinal pattern2. Reverse side of template

Cardinal wood carving pattern: Roughout the shape 

  • Using a roughout knife, start to remove wood around the pattern on both sides (photos 3,4).
  • Use a stop cut to cut the underside of the beak, removing wood from underneath (photos 5,6).
  • Draw a line to indicate where you will reserve wood for the head (photo 6).
  • Remove wood from the back of the cardinal (photo 7).
Removing basswood3. Remove wood around guidelines
Shaping cardinal wood carving4. Continue roughing out wood
Carving cardinal beak5. Use stop cuts to create the beak
Starting head of cardinal wood carving6. Beak is cut and wood for head is reserved
Shaping back of wood carved cardinal7. Shaping back of the cardinal

Cardinal wood carving pattern: Shape the head and beak

  • Shave wood off each side of the head to narrow the shape (photo 8).
  • Mark wood on the top and the sides of the head where you will use 2 pyramid cuts to remove wood (photos 9-11).
  • Use an angled cut to remove the wood from the back of the head (marked in photo 11 and completed in photo 14).
  • Mark the wood that you will remove to shape the tail (photos 11,12).
Carving head of wood cardinal8. Narrowing each side of the head
Tail of wood cardinal9. Wood is marked for removal
Notching head of wood cardinal10. Starting first pyramid cut
Cardinal head in wood11. Pyramid cuts are made on each side
Shaping wood cardinal tail12. Removing excess wood

Some terrific knives you will love!

The knives pictured below are easy to use and hold an edge extremely well. They are also very sturdy, which is awesome for beginner wood carvers. The FC001 is a great all-around carving knife. The FC016 is my go-to for making clean pyramid cuts with ease.  I use the FC015 when I need to remove a lot of wood without too much effort. Lots of great wood carvers on Instagram use them. They are also readily available, which is a plus these days. Check ‘em out! Every purchase you make via these affiliate links helps support this website. Thank you! 😀

Cardinal wood carving pattern: Refine the bird

  • Continue refining the cardinal until you reach the desired shape (photos 13-16).
  • Make a line cut on each side to define the underpart of the wing (photos 14,15).
Front view of wood cardinal before painting13. Front view of cardinal
Right side view of wood cardinal before painting14. Right view
Left view of wood cardinal before painting15. Left view
Back view of wood cardinal before painting16. Back view

Cardinal wood carving pattern: Wood burn to add texture (optional)

  • You can use a wood burning pen (affiliate link) to create texture and interest on the beak, head, wings, and tail of the cardinal (photos 17-21).
  • Look at photos of real cardinals to help guide you (photo 22).
  • If you do not have a wood burner, you can use your knife to make cuts and use brown paint.
Wood burning a cardinal17. Creating texture with wood burning pen
Front view of wood burned cardinal18. Front view
Right view of wood burned cardinal20. Right view
Left view of wood burned cardinal19. Left view
Back view of wood burned cardinal21. Back view
Cardinal on wood22. Use real pictures for guidance

Cardinal wood carving pattern: Time to paint

Front of painted wood cardinal
Right side of painted wood cardinal
Left side of painted wood cardinal
Back view of painted wood cardinal

To get this look (all brands listed contain affiliate links):

Photocopy this pattern to size

If you prefer to carve with a pattern, photocopy this to size to fit your wood block. 

Free cardinal wood carving pattern

Cardinal wood carving pattern and tutorial summary

  • Our cardinal wood carving pattern is easy to use and carves up very quickly.
  • You can carve the entire piece from a basswood block with just a knife.
  • A wood burning pen is optional for texture (you can use your knife if you don’t have one).
  • The paint is applied in layers so the top is darker than the underbelly.
  • Click here to see more pictures of real Northern cardinals for reference.

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