Want to learn how to carve a frog that will make you grin? Our adorable frog sits upon his very own Lily pad.
Just grab a roughout knife and a detail knife and you‘re ready to get carving.
We use a basswood block that is 1 1/2-inches (3.8 cm) wide by about 3 3/4-inches (9.5 cm) high. You will also need a sturdy roughout knife to remove wood, and a smaller, detail knife.
A pencil or pen will come in handy for drawing your guidelines and details. We always recommend wearing a good carving glove for safety.
At the end of this page we provide a painting guide.
If you prefer to create your roughout with a bandsaw, we include a full-color pattern at the bottom of the page.
Draw your first guideline a 3 1/2-inches (8.9 cm) from the top to mark the Lily pad (also the base).
Your second guideline will be 2 inches (5 cm) from the top to mark the bottom of the frog’s head (photo 1).
Your third guideline will be 1/4-inch (4.5 cm) from the top to mark the bottom of the frog’s eyes (photo 1).
Round all the corners on the block (photo 2). Separate the base by making stop cuts in each corner and removing wood from underneath. Work your way between the corners until the base is separated all around. Tip: You do not have to cut too deeply at this point. You are just reserving the wood for the Lily pad (base) that you will carve later (photos 2-5).
Start to angle back the head of the frog head on the front and back by removing some wood (photos 3,4).
Roughly sketch the head, legs, and body (photos 2-5). For this design, the eyes and head will be slightly cocked to the left (photo 2).
Note: Frogs have 4 toes on their front legs. We forgot one (oops!) and updated our design later in this tutorial (see photo 20 for reference). You should draw 5 toes on your block.
Using a knife, separate the head from the body on the sides and the back (photos 6-9). You will carve the front later.
We use a combination of stop cuts and V-cuts to separate the head. Also, remove excess wood from the sides of the frog (photos 7,8) to begin to shape the rear legs.
Note: Removing this excess wood is the hardest part of carving the frog. You will want to use a sturdy roughout knife.
Remove some wood from the head on the front of the frog (photo 10) to be able to sketch the face (photo 11).
Also, mark the wood that you will remove on the side of the face (photo 12) and the sides under the back of the head (photo 13).
Photos 14 and 15 show the progress of the frog after this wood has been removed.
Cut along the guidelines of the legs on the front of the frog and remove wood from the sides (photo 16). We start by slicing the wood off (photo 17).
Remove wood between the leg lines to shape the chest of the frog. We found it easier to start on the sides and move toward the middle. If the wood splinters, turn your piece around. If removing wood proves to be too challenging, you can use a deep gouge here. If you do not have one, you can always sand any rough cuts later.
Draw the neckline on the front of the frog (photo 18) and separate it (photo 19). We use a V-tool (it’s easier on our hands), but you can use a knife and make stop cuts along the neckline.
At this point, we realized that frogs have 4 toes on their front legs. Fortunately, it was easy to slip in that errant toe (we numbered them for reference in photo 20).
Now, remove wood from the middle of the back down toward the Lily pad to shape the bag of the frog (photo 21).
Also, remove wood from the sides of the front legs to refine the shape of the front of the frog (photos 22, 23). Make a cut that sweeps upward by turning your wrist to get the desired curve.
You may have to turn your piece around to be sure you are carving with the grain. Also be careful not to snap your knife.
Tip: If you experience splintering, make a cut halfway from the top and another cut halfway from the bottom (so they meet in the middle).
Before you shape the back legs and toes, remove some wood under the back legs to create a little space between the frog bottom and the Lily pad (photos 24,25).
Draw a center line on the back to help you draw the legs on the back (photo 25), which extend around to the front side (photos 26,27). There will be a slight gap between the legs on the back (photo 25).
Using your knife, cut along the guideline you just drew for the back legs (photo 28), removing wood above it. You can use a series of stop cuts, V-cuts, or line cuts (use whatever is easiest for you).
Once the back legs are separated, carve the bottom of the legs at an angle (photo 29). Since the cut lines of the legs on the back can be sharp, you can slice some wood off to flatten them (photo 30).
Use a sharp detail knife to cut along the guidelines for the eye and remove wood from underneath (or, use a V-tool to outline the eye if you have one).
For the eyes, we use a pull cut (or paring cut) to carve along the guideline. Take your time and be mindful of cutting across the grain (it may help to turn the piece if your cuts start to splinter or crumble).
Once the outline of the eye is complete, remove wood at a downward angle to shape the eyeball (photo 31). Make a small pyramid cut in each corner of the eye for shadow. Also, carve the eyebrow (see progress photo 32). We use a a deep stop cut and slice off a little wood under it.
Use the same process to carve the outline of the mouth and tongue. Once the outline is complete, remove some wood from inside the mouth (around the tongue) so the tongue stands out (photo 33).
Also create a small mound above the nostrils. Create a sweeping motion with your knife above the nostrils (turn your wrist as you cut upward) to create this mound (photo 34).
Draw on the hind legs that curve under the frog (photos 35-37).
Separate the hind legs with your knife (photos 38-41). Note: We wet the carving so you could see the fine details.
Round the Lily pad and use a V-cut to make 2 indentations on the front and back (photos 38-41). We also narrowed the chest under the head a bit (photos 38,39).
You will use black paint to color in the nostrils.
We wash down our acrylic paints with water (simply put a few drops in a paint well and add water, or take a little paint with your brush into a new well and dip the brush into water until you get the consistency/color you like.
Of course, you may use whatever paint brushes you want and any brand of paint that you may prefer.
Full strength paints are indicated with 100% below:
To learn more about painting wood carvings, click here.