Small wood carving caricature tutorial

Carve a little guy with a big nose.


It’s time for a small wood carving caricature!  This little guy reminds me of character you would see at a bar in an old time saloon in the West.  

He’s got an oversize caricature nose and beard, a wide bottom, and is wearing a bow-tie.

He’s a really fun, little whittle—and a design that has just enough details to make him interesting, but not overly challenging. He also does not have  carved eyes to draw  more attention to his big nose.   

Have fun with this one!

Small wood carving

What you will need for your small wood carving caricature

Use a wood block that is 1 x 1 x 3 inches (2.5 x 2.5 x 7.6 cm). 

You will need a ruler and writing instrument to sketch your guidelines.  

I always advise wearing a safety glove (and protecting your lap with something flat and hard) no matter how experienced a carver you are. Accidents do happen and we rarely see them coming!  

You can carve this entire caricature with just a knife, or use a U-gouge to carve the nostrils (a great tool to have on hand if you continue carving faces). 

As always, a painting guide is included at the end to help you get a similar look. 

Small wood carving caricature tutorial at-a-glance

You may want to watch this short video that provides an overview of the key steps to this tutorial before you start this small wood carving tutorial. 

Set up your small wood carving caricature

You will carve off the corner for this wood carving.

Draw a guideline all around that is about 1/4 inch (0.64 cm) from the bottom (photos 1,2). Draw a second guideline all around that is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) from the bottom. Draw a third guideline above the second one to mark the top of the nose, which is about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) higher and  is 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) wide on each side of the front corner—and angles down to 1/4 inch (0.64 cm) above the guideline below it— extending all around (photos 1,2).

Note: Ignore the word ”robe” in photo 1.  This carving went in a different direction than initially planned.  Sometimes the wood ”speak” and I must obey! 

Guidelines for little wood carving1. Front guidelines
Back guidelines for little wood carving2. Back guidelines

Roughout your small wood carving caricature

Use stop cuts (photo 3) to separate the guideline for the feet all around, removing wood from underneath. Continue in this same fashion to separate the next two guidelines (photo 4).

Initial stop cuts on little wood carving3. Stop cut to separate guideline
Second stop cut of little wood carving4. Using stop cuts on the second guideline

Sketch some details on your small wood carving caricature

Sketch the hat, and color the wood to remove on the front and back (photos 5,6). You will remove about a 1/4 inch (0.64 cm) ) on each side.

Sketch the wide nose and cheeks (photo 5). The nose extends about 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) on each side. Sketch the mustache. The mustache extends  about 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) on each side and almost 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) high.

Draw the top of the pant line, which is about 3/4 inches (1.9 cm) below the bottom of the nose (photos 5,6).

Also, mark where you will split the legs (photos 5,6). The width is less than 1/4 inch (0.64 cm).

Front details on little wood carving5. Front details
Back details on little wood carving6. Back details

Carve the hat on your small wood carving caricature

Make a wide V-cut to start the hat (photos 7,8). Once you have access, you can slice the remaining wood off. 

After removing wood from the other side of the hat, add a brim line all around that is a little more than a 1/4 inch (0.64 cm) wide (photo 9).

Make stop cuts along the hat brim line and remove wood from above (photo 10). Keep the brim thick for now. You will refine the hat later (to avoid breaking the brim).  

Vcut on little wood carving7. Making a V-cut
Hat progress on little wood carving8. Progress on hat
Brim of hat is marked on little wood carving9. Brim on hat is drawn
Carving hat on little wood carving10. Carving the brim

Carve the nose on your small wood carving caricature

You can hold your knife like a pencil and move it along the nose guideline (photo 11) and make a second slicing cut to remove wood. Or, you can use stop cuts to separate the nose.

Shape each side of the nose and each cheek (photo 12). Tip: Carve at a downward angle up to the eye sockets (photo 13) to shape the top of the cheeks.

Sketch on the nostrils (photo 15).  Use your knife (or a U-gouge) to carve the nostrils.

Use stop cuts to separate the mustache (photo 14).  Once you have access on top of the mustache, you can further refine the cheeks. 

Carving nose on little wood carving11. Separating the nose
Shaping nose on little wood carving12. Shaping the nose
Carving eyes on little wood carving13. Carving up to the eye sockets
Nostrils are sketched on little wood carving14. Nostrils are drawn
Carving mustache on little wood carving15. Separating the mustache

Add the arms to your small wood carving

Sketch the right arm (photo 16) and the left arm (photo 17). The arms are about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) wide. Tip: you can draw a center line to help guide your sketch. 

Use stop cuts to separate the arms (photo 18), removing wood around your cuts. Make a pyramid cut to carve the inside crook of each arm (photo 19).

Right arm on little wood carving16. Right arm is drawn
Left arm is drawn on little wood carving17. Left arm is drawn
Splitting arm on the little wood carving18. Making a stop cut
Pyramid cut on little wood carving19. Making a pyramid cut

Refine some details on your small wood carving

Make stop cuts to separate the waist all around (photo 20), removing wood from above your cuts. Also, shape the stomach and inner arms.

Use a V-cut to split the feet and the legs (photo 21). Carve the shape of the shoes (completed in photos 22,23). Note: You will sketch the heels in the next section before carving them. 

Carving the waist of little wood carving20. Separating the waist
Splitting the legs of the little wood carving21. Splitting the feet

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! 😀

Add final details to your small wood carving

Sketch the bow-tie, shirt front, and where you will make V-cuts to carve the front heels on your small wood carving (photo 22). On the back, sketch the little Y for the tush and the back heels (photo 23). 

Carve these details and shape the brim of the hat all around. I used a micro U-gouge to deepen the nostrils further (completed in photo 24), but you can achieve the same look by carefully shaving wood off with your knife. Just take your time and be careful not to break the nose.

Use small stop cuts to separate the bow tie, carefully removing wood from around your cuts.  Or you can make one cut holding your knife like a pencil—and make a second slicing cut—to remove the wood. 

Remove some wood from under the pockets so it appears that his hands are bulging slightly from inside his pockets (completed in photo 22).

Also, shape the mustache, and refine the cheek, to accentuate the mustache (photo 22).  Sketch some S-shaped lines on the mustache  (photo 24) that you will carve in the next section. 

Bow is drawn on little wood carving22. Final front details are drawn
Tush is drawn on little wood carving23. Back details are drawn
Lines are drawn to carve on little wood carving24. Mustache lines are drawn

Clean up your small wood carving

Add a few wrinkles to the inner arm, pants, and the hat (completed in photos 25-28).  Make a slicing cut on each side of the cheek to separate the hairline (visible in photos 25-27). 

Clean up your cuts and check for symmetry (I had to slightly reduce the width of the right arm, which is visible in photo 26).  Make stop cuts all around the hat, to create the bottom of the band (photos 25-28), removing wood from underneath.  Make another top cut on the top of the band, removing wood from above. The width of the band is about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm).  Tip: Sketch the band before you carve it. 

Narrow the wood above the band all around a bit to further accentuate the big nose of your small wood carving caricature (photos 25-28). Carefully reduce the thickness of the brim under the band. Tip: Turn your wrist as you make your cuts. Take your time here. 

Front view of unpainted little wood carving25. Front view prior to painting
Right side of unpainted little wood carving26. Right view prior to painting
Left side of unpainted little wood carving27. Left view prior to painting
Back of unpainted little wood carving28. Back view prior to painting

Add color to your small wood carving

For great painting tips, read this page. All paints listed below are mixed with drops of water to create a milky wash (unless otherwise noted).

Start with light washes and build your colors in layers. To get a similar look, here are the paints/brands to use: 

  • Face: Ceramcoat tawny medium wash with 1 drop of Academy burnt sienna. 
  • Shirt: Craftsmart vanilla wash. Shadow around shirt cuts: add 1 drop Ceramcoat black. Save reserved paint.
  • Hat and shoes: Add 1 more drop of black to reserve of white paint wash.  Add water as needed. 
  • Hat band and bow tie: Wash of DecoArt calico red.
  • Pants: Apply Ceramcoat leaf green wash and reserve extra paint. Add 1 drop of black to wash and more water (as needed) to darken the green paint.
  • Beard and hair: Apple Barrel dolphin gray wash. Let dry completely and dry brush beard, hair, and nostrils with 100% Ceramcoat black. Dry completely and dry brush with 100% vanilla. 
  • Shoes: Winsor & Newton burnt sienna wash.
  • Cheeks and nose tip: very diluted wash of calico red.
  • To highlight nostrils: wash of Ceramcoat terra cotta.
  • Pants: Dry brush with white and let dry. Then dry brush with black. 
  • Shoes: Dry brush with burnt sienna. 
Painted front of small wood carving29. Painted front of small wood carving
Painted right view of small wood carving30. Right side of small wood carving
Painted left of little wood carving31. Left side of small wood carving
Painted back of little wood carving32. Back of small wood carving

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