Welcome to this caveman caricature carving tutorial to carve this little guy with a prehistoric twist. This step-by-step tutorial offers clear instructions and tips that will keep you carving with confidence.
The caveman is holding a club in his hand, which definitely raises the difficulty level a notch. However, you can always carve him without the club. His eyes and ears are also simple.
There are other details that are fun to carve, such as the jagged loincloth. The little bump on his Neanderthal head adds to his charm!
Use a basswood block that is 1 x 1 x 3 inches (2.5 x 2.5 x 7.6 cm). Like many of my little whittles, you will carve off the corner to give you more carving space for the head and body. You will also carve this caveman from the top down to ensure the shape of his prominent head.
You will need a carving knife of choice, a ruler, and a pen or pencil for sketching. I also used a V-tool and U-gouge, but will include pointers for substituting a knife. A small pin vise (or a screw) will help you create a hole in his hand to hold the club, which is optional.
Always carve safely with a good glove and place a flat piece of wood (or a plastic cutting board) over your lap.
I provide a painting guide at the end of this page and a pattern for this caveman caricature carvIng. It’s for those who prefer using a bandsaw to create a larger carving, or want to photocopy the pattern to size to trace the pattern.
Watch this short video to get a quick overview of the full tutorial before you begin your caveman caricature carving.
Start by slightly rounding off all four corners with your knife. Mark the front (photo 1) and back (photo 2) of your wood block.
Add a guideline all around—about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) from the bottom—to mark the bottom of the caveman’s loincloth (photos 1,2).
Add another line about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) from the top to mark where you will carve the little head bump (photos 1,2).
Optional: Add a small box (marked H) that is about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) square at an angle to reserve wood for the hand that holds the club (photos 1,2).
Starting at each corner, remove wood toward the center to form the small head bump (photo 3). Continue removing wood, turning your piece often to ensure the head bump is symmetrical all around (photo 4). You can round the top later.
Add a guideline to mark the bottom of the wide nose (photo 5), which extends about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) on each side of your front corner.
Add another guideline a little more than a 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) above that guideline to mark the bottom of the eye socket (photo 5).
Make a deep stop cut across the top guideline (photo 6). Tip: Rock your knife back and forth. Meet the stop cut from above (photo 7) to remove wood and create a flat eye socket (visible in photo 8).
Start to round the head on each side (photo 8).
Use a stop cut—and remove wood from below it—to carve the bottom of the wide nose (photo 9) on your caveman caricature carving. Now, sketch the sides of the nose and the mouth (photo 10).
I used a V-tool (Stubai #39) to carve the sides of the nose (photo 11). If you do not have one, you can hold your knife like a pencil and carve along the guideline, making a second slicing cut to remove the wood.
I used a U-gouge (Stubai #11) to carve each nostril (photo 12). Tip: Twirl the gouge from side to side, using your knife to slice off wood from underneath. If you do not have a U-gouge, you can use a knife. Turn your wrist as you carve to create the curved cuts. Then, remove the wood from under your curved cuts. Be very careful here—and use a knife that has some flex—to avoid breaking the knife tip.
I used a V-tool to carve the mouth (photo 13). Tip: Hold your V-tool in an inverted position (photo 13), which prevents you from slipping and cutting yourself. If you don’t have a V-tool, hold your knife like a pencil and move it along the guideline. Then, make a second slicing cut.
Cut up to your previous cut so the top lip will be set back (photo 14). Add a guideline a little less than a 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) down from the top lip (photo 15) to mark the bottom lip.
Make a V-cut to start the bottom lip (photo 16), carving up to the bottom lip to shape it (completed in photo 17).
Narrow the sides of the lips on your caveman caricature carving by making a stop cut at an angle (photo 17) and removing wood.
Add a neck guideline all around the front and back (photos 18,19). Note: You may have to shave off the hand box on the front and sketch it again later.
Use a V-tool (or a knife) to separate the neckline all around and cut into the neck on each side to create the shoulders (photo 20).
Sketch the arm on each side of your caveman caricature carving and add boxes for the hands (photos 21,22).
Use your V-tool to slightly separate the arms and hand boxes (photo 23), which you will deepen and refine later. Or, you can make stop cuts with your knife. Note: Do not separate the line between each hand box and arm—because the caveman isn’t wearing a shirt.
Add a guideline that is about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) higher than your first guideline to mark the top of the loincloth (photo 24).
Separate the top of the loincloth all around using stop cuts (photo 25).
Use your knife (or a V-tool) to cut the jagged bottom of the loincloth all around (photo 26). Tip: Use pyramid cuts and vary the length of your cuts to add interest.
Use a wide pyramid cut to carve the crook of each arm (photo 27). This will give you access to shape the arms, hands, and lower body (completed in photos 28-31).
Once you have the basic shape of the arms, hands, and body of your caveman caricature carving (you will noodle it later), sketch on more details, including the eyes, cheek lines, smile lines, fingers, and belly button (photo 28). Note: Make sure you have enough wood depth to make a hole in the hand that holds the club (optional).
Also, sketch the ears on each side (photos 29,30).
Draw a center line where you will split the legs on the front and back (photos 28, 31). Mark where you will remove wood on each side to shape the feet (photos 29,30).
Use a small pin vise (or a Dremel tool or metal screw) to make a hole through the hand where the club will be inserted. It’s important to do this before you carve the fingers because the wood will be more stable. Angle the hole as close to the body as possible (photo 32).
After the hole is created, use shallow V-cuts to separate the fingers. Be careful here as the wood can crumble. If you run out of room for a thumb on the hand with the hole, you won’t notice it.
Use stop cuts to separate the ears all around and use V-cuts for the inner ear (photo 34).
Separate the eyes by pushing your knife along the guideline (photo 35) with your thumb, and make a second slicing cut to cleanly remove wood. You could also hold your knife like a pencil. Or, you could make a stop cut and remove wood from the inside of the eye socket. You will add the pupils and eyebrows later with paint.
Make a stop cut on each side of the marked caveman (photo 36) to remove wood and roughly shape the feet.
Make a wide V-cut to split the legs about a quarter of the way through the wood (photo 37). Tip: For small caricature carvings, don’t split the legs completely for added stability and to avoid breaking them.
Sketch the toes on each side of your caveman (photo 37 ) and carefully separate them. Tip: Use V-cuts on the front of the toes before removing wood from the tops of the toes.
Use a small pyramid cut (or micro U-gouge) to carve the belly button (visible in photo 40).
Once the feet and toes are shaped, create an arch under each foot by turning your wrist as you remove wood (completed in photos 40,43). Be very careful here.
I carved the club from a stick found while camping (photo 39). You could also use a scrap piece of wood. The end of the club needs to be narrow enough to slip into the hole. You will use wood glue to secure it in place after painting.
Before painting, clean up your cuts, especially on the loincloth. Add some V-cuts in the crook of the arms. I also made small pyramid cuts in corners of the arms, nose, and ears to create shadow. Use whatever acrylic paints and brushes that you want. Read this article for great tips on painting.
To get this look use:
Photocopy this pattern to size to trace it on your wood block, or if you want to create a larger pattern and use a bandsaw to create your roughout.