This vampire wood carving tutorial makes it fun to carve a villainous figure that is lying in this open coffin. He is spooky and cute at the same time. I don’t think you really have to worry about scaring anyone too much!
This carve also has some elements that are used in relief carving. However, you probably would not carve as deeply around the vampire as you would in a traditional relief carving.
The most challenging part of making this vampire is cleanly digging out wood around the vampire’s body. Simply clean up your cuts as you go and you should be able to carve this piece over a weekend.
Happy Halloween carving!
Use a wood block that is 1.5 x 7/8 x 4 inches (3.8 x 2 .2 x 10.1 cm). Note: I started with a block that was 1.5 x 1.5 x 4 inches (3.8 x 3.8 x 10.1 cm). David used a table saw to cut the block down. The remaining wood remnant can be attached with small hinges to open the top of the coffin (optional and not pictured).
Of course, if you want to make a bigger vampire wood carving you can double or triple the measurements. Note: If you prefer to use a band saw for your roughout, use the full-color pattern (at the end of this page).
You will want to use a pencil (or pen) to sketch your guidelines. A ruler (or measuring tape) will also be helpful.
I always recommend carving with a safety glove. It’s so easy to slip and cut yourself (and you never see it coming). Using a leather-lined Kevlar glove will also provide some added cushioning.
If you carve on your lap, also be sure to place a piece of wood (or something hard and flat) across your legs to protect the arteries in your upper thighs.
You can probably just use one knife for this vampire wood carving. I only used a straight knife with a nearly 2-inch (2.5 cm) blade. Note: If you have a V-tool and a gouge, I’ll point out places where you can substitute them in this tutorial.
A painting guide is included (at the end of this page) for getting the same look as my vampire wood carving.
Watch this short video to see the key steps to creating your vampire wood carving.
Draw a center line down your wood block. Mark the wood that you will remove to shape the top of the coffin on each side (photo 1). The widest line (that extends across the bottom of each triangle) is 1 inch wide (2.5 cm) and the remaining two sides are 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) long (photo 1).
Also, mark where you will narrow the sides of the bottom of the coffin so that they are 1/4-inch (0.6 cm) at the widest point. Draw the inner outline of the coffin, which should be about 1/4-inch (0.6 cm) wide (photo 1).
Roughly sketch the vampire. The head is about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long and 1-1/4-inch (3.2 cm) at its widest point. The lower body is 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) long. The legs are about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) wide (photo 1).
Note: I ended up changing the eyes to give the vampire a longer forehead (to accentuate his widow’s peak). This means you can ignore drawing the eyes (you will add the eyes later).
You can easily carve the nose using my triangle-by-triangle nose carving technique. For now, add a small nose box (about 0.5 inches square) that starts a little less than 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) from the bottom of the head. The mouth is also about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) wide at the widest point.
Use your knife to narrow the sides of the coffin at the top (photo 3) and the bottom on one side (completed in photo 4). Tip: Start in each corner and work your way toward the middle to avoid grain issues. You may have to turn your piece if the wood starts splintering. Be sure that your cuts are symmetrical on each side.
Repeat on the other side.
Run your knife along the guideline. I used a paring cut (photo 5), which allows better control of the knife. Tip: wear a thumb guard or tape on your carving thumb for added protection. You can also hold the knife like a pencil. Note: If you have a V-tool you can substitute it here.
After making your first cut, you can use a slicing cut underneath to cleanly remove wood in one piece (photo 6). Use a pyramid cut to cleanly remove deep chips of wood around the neckline (photos 7,8). Note: You will separate the head later.
To separate the lower body further, cut the wood at an angle (toward the coffin) to create a little space between the body and the coffin‘s inner wall all around (visible in photo 8).
Draw where you will separate the arms (photo 9). The hands will be hidden by the pants. You can also use a stop cut to separate the pants from the shirt. For simplicity, I decided not to carve a belt and just cut the waist across (visible in photo 9).
Use your knife to split the legs (completed in photos 9, 19-21. Use V-cuts (if you have a V-tool you can use it here instead).
Also shape the shoes (photo 10).
Switch to stop cuts—and remove wood in small sections—to separate the ears and the head of the vampire (photo 11). This will be the toughest wood to cleanly remove. You may need to remove wood in layers. Be super careful here not to dig too deeply and break the tip of your knife. Note: If you have a gouge, you can use it here.
Take your time and clean up any wood splinters or fuzzies as you go.
Make a stop cut under the nose—all along the bottom of the nose box. Make a pyramid cut on the right side of the nose (photo 13) to cleanly remove a chip of wood. Then, repeat on the other side (photo 14).
Draw the vampire’s cheeks (photo 15) and use stop cuts to remove wood around the cheeks. Also, shape the nose and carve the eyes (photo 16) by making an upward angled cut on each side of the nose. This will give you access to remove some wood from underneath your cuts.
Separate the top of the mouth and the outline of the fangs (photos 17,18). Carefully remove wood from above the mouth and around the fangs in layers to get the desired depth of the fangs (more visible in photos 19-21). Tip: Take your time here as the fangs are delicate.
Clean up your cuts all around and deepen cuts in places where you will use different colored paint (such as cuts between the hair and the face). This will help prevent paint from bleeding.
I generally use a wash that is achieved by adding 10-20 drops of water to each drop of acrylic paint. You can use any brand of paint that you want (I favor Delta Ceramcoat) and paint brushes (I like round and angled brushes best).
To get this same look, use the following paints:
Simply photocopy this pattern to size to fit any wood block that you want to use. If you plan to make a much larger vampire wood carving, you can use this pattern with a bandsaw.
I love these very sturdy Focuser Carving knives (affiliate link). Their carving knife is very comfortable to use.
The chip carving knife is my go-to for clean pyramid cuts. The long whittling knife is good for roughing out wood.
All are terrific for beginners, reasonably priced, and readily available.
They also support this website whenever purchases are made using these links (at no cost to you).
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