Tubby man wood carving project

Carve yourself a little man with a big belly. 

Sometimes a wood carving project shows you how far you’ve come with your carving skills.  I thought it would be fun to update an old carving—and add my own creative twist—to illustrate that if you stick with carving, you will improve with each carving (and improve your painting skills, too).

I carved my first caricature (see picture below), which was “Marvin” from Jack Price’s book on Carving Small Caricatures in Wood.

It totally ignited my obsession for wood carving and creating!

I gave my updated guy ears and a pompadour hairstyle, which makes it really fun to carve.  I also (mostly) used the flat plane carving style. 

Wood carving project
Marvin caricature carvingMy very first caricature carving!

What you need for this wood carving project

You will need a wood block (basswood is recommended) that is 1 x 1 x 4 inches (2.5 x 2.5 x 10 cm), your knife of choice, a pen (or pencil) to mark the wood, and a ruler. 

A template is provided below, if you are carving from a small wood block.  Use the pattern at the end of this page if you want to make a larger wood carving project and use a bandsaw to create your roughout.  

Please always carve safely by using a good carving glove and lay something hard and flat across your lap (to protect vital blood arteries).  

In case you‘re wondering… I used my OCC Tools straight edged knife with a blade that is nearly 2 inches long.  

A free painting guide is provided at the end of this page to help you get this same look for your tubby man wood carving project.  

Let’s get to carving your tubby man wood carving project! 

Tubby man wood carving project tutorial at-a-glance

See the key steps to carve your tubby man in the short video below.  


Preparing your wood carving project

Photocopy the template below (photo 1) to size to fit your wood block.  Cut out the template and trace it onto your wood block (photos 2-5).  

Tip: If you scotch tape the template to a piece of cardboard—and cut it out—you can use the template again and again to create other tubby men (or women).  

Wood carving template for tubby little man1. Wood carving project template

Just for reference, the middle of the neck on the front is about 1 3/4 inch (4.5 cm) from the top of the wood block.  The tops of the feet are about 3 1/2 inches (8.9 cm) from the top.

On the back, only the middle of the neck is a little higher than the front—about 1 1/4 inches (3.2 cm) from the top.  

Right view of tubby man wood carving guidelines2. Wood carving project right guidelines
Front guidelines for tubby man wood carving4. Wood carving project front guidelines
Left view of tubby man wood carving guidelines3. Wood carving project left guidelines
Back guidelines for tubby man wood carving5. Wood carving project back guidelines

Making first cuts on your tubby guy

Your first step with this wood carving project is to roughout the tubby man.  

One of the advantages of working with small wood blocks is that there isn’t that much wood you have to remove.  The template takes up most of the wood block.

Use V-cuts to start sections on the tubby man where you want to remove wood.  I like to start with the corners of the neck (photo 6), then move to the feet (photo 7).  It’s okay if you need to make more than one V-cut to remove all of the wood.

Then, separate the head  from the neck on the front (photo 8) and the back.  You will separate the head on the sides later.  

Making a V cut on tubby man wood carving6. Making a V-cut at the corner
Making another V cut on tubby man wood carving7. Making second V-cut
Separating head on tubby man wood carving8. Separating the head in the middle

Add some details to your wood carving project

Draw a center line on the front.  Sketch the pear shaped front of the face (photo 9).  

Also, add the nose box, which is 1/2 an inch (1.3 cm) wide at the widest point, and a little more than a 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) across the bottom.  The nose box starts about 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) from the top of the wood block.  If you aren’t familiar with my triangle-by-triangle nose carving technique, click here

Also, draw a guideline around the block that is about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) from the top.  Note: Ignore the lapels on the shirt as I made a design change for the shirt and overalls later (see photo 38 for reference).  

Add the arms on each side, which are about 1/2 an inch (1.3 cm) in width.  The hands will be hidden inside the pockets.  

Also, draw a line all around that is 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) from the top of the wood block, which is where you will separate the waist (photos 9-12).  

On each side, draw the hair line, and reserve a small triangle for each ear, which will peak out from the hair (photos 10,11).  

On the back, add lines for the shoulders that are about a 1/4 of an inch (0.6 cm) wide.  Also, add a small Y on the tush (photo 12).

Front details on tubby man wood carving9. Front details are added
Right details on tubby man wood carving10. Right view of details
Left details on tubby man wood carving11. Left view of details
Back details on tubby man wood carving12. Back details

Start the lower body on your wood carving project

Use stop cuts to separate the waist all around, removing wood from underneath (photo 13).  Tip: Start at the corners and work your way toward the middle.  

Then, remove wood to narrow the sides of the legs below the hips (photo 14).  

Use a wide V-cut to split the legs (photo 15).  Work your knife up along the guideline (you can switch to a slicing cut here).  

Narrow the height of the shoes.  I like to shave wood off in layers, cutting in toward the body (photo 16) first.  Then, carefully remove the wood with a controlled stop cut to avoid slicing off the foot!  If you do lose a foot, just glue it back on, and let it dry overnight.  

Separating waist on tubby man wood carving13. Separating the waist
Narrowing legs on tubby man wood carving14. Narrowing the legs
Splitting feet on tubby man wood carving15. Making a V-cut
Reducing feet on tubby man wood carving16. Reducing height

Carve the upper body of your wood carving project

Use stop cuts to separate the arms, removing wood from underneath (photo 17).  Make a pyramid cut to start the crook of the arm (photo 18).  Tip: Draw a triangle to guide you.

Make a stop cut to cut into the shoulder on the front and side (photo 19).  Separate the back of the arm (photo 20).

You can shape the bottom of the chin and the top of the shirt a bit (photo 21) and refine it further later. 

Now, repeat these steps on the other side of the tubby guy wood carving.

Making stop cut on tubby man wood carving17. Making a stop cut
Making pyramid cut on tubby man wood carving18. Making a pyramid cut
Carving shoulder on tubby man wood carving19. Cutting the shoulder
Cutting back shoulder on tubby man wood carving20. Back shoulder is cut
Front progress on tubby man wood carving21. Progress from the front

Carve the ears on your wood carving project 

Use your knife to separate the ear.  You can make stop cuts (photos 22, 23) and remove wood from around the cut.  Or, you can make your stop cut and use a slicing cut.  

Starting ear on tubby man wood carving22. Making first stop cut
Stop cut to separate ear on tubby man wood carving23. Making another stop cut

Carve the nose on your wood carving project

Carve the nose using my triangle-by-triangle nose carving technique (or use another technique if you prefer).  

First, make a stop cut under the nose along the guideline (photo 24).  Start the first pyramid cut on one side (photo 25).  Repeat on the other side.  Then, cut your knife at an angle to start the cheeks (photo 26).  This will give you more access to clean up any wood strings left over from your pyramid cuts (visible in photo 26).

Then, draw on some facial details, including the wood on the nose that you will remove, the eyebrows, smile lines, mouth, teeth, double chin, bottom of the pants, and the front hairline (all visible in photo 27).  Also, draw the hairline on the back (photo 28).

Making stop cut under nose on tubby man wood carving24. Making a stop cut
Making pyramid cut for nose on tubby man wood carving25. Making second cut
Angling cheek on tubby man wood carving26. Angling cut for cheek
Adding face details on tubby man wood carving27. Facial details are drawn
Back hairline on tubby man wood carving28. Back hairline

Carve the details on your wood carving project

Shape the nose by removing the excess wood (photo 29).  Then, make a stop cut along each smile line (photo 29) and remove wood from inside the smile line.  This will give you greater access to shape the nose.  

Next, separate the teeth and the mouth line with small stop cuts or slicing cuts.  Also, separate the double chin line and shape the chin area (completed in photo 31).

You will also need to carve the forehead back a bit (photo 32).  Once that is done, make a stop cut to separate the top of the brow.  You will make one long cut and mark where you will eventually make a V-cut to split the brows (photo 33) later on to avoid crumbling.

Now, start to reduce and shape the hair (photo 34). 

Narrowing nose on tubby man wood carving29. Narrowing the nose
Carving smile line on tubby man wood carving30. Carving the smile line
Separating teeth on tubby man wood carving31. Separating the teeth
Carving forehead on tubby man wood carving32. Carving back the forehead
Carving eyebrows on tubby man wood carving33. Making a stop cut
Shaping hair on tubby man wood carving34. Reducing the hair

Carve more details on your wood carving project

Continue to shape the hair and make a V-cut to separate the part on the front and the top (photo 35).  Tip: Go slowly and be careful not to crack the hair in the front.  

Also, carve the hairline on the back.  Use a stop cut and remove wood from underneath (completed in photo 36).  

Draw the shirt and overall details on the front (photo 37) and carve them (completed in photo 38).

Cutting part in hair on tubby man wood carving35. Carving the part
Carving back side of tubby man wood carving36. Carving back details
Details on wood carved man37. Details are drawn

Clean up your wood carving project

Use your knife to clean up any wood fuzzies, or to deepen cuts in places where you will change the paint color.

Front view of unpainted tubby man wood carving38. Front view of unpainted tubby guy
Left view of unpainted tubby man wood carving40. Left view of unpainted tubby guy
Right view of unpainted tubby man wood carving39. Right view of unpainted tubby guy
Back view of unpainted tubby man wood carving41. Back view of unpainted tubby guy

Paint your wood carving project

Front of painted tubby man wood carving42. Painted front of tubby man
Right view of painted tubby man wood carving43. Painted right side of tubby man
Left view of painted tubby man wood carving44. Painted left side of tubby man
Back view of painted tubby man wood carving45. Painted back of tubby man

Use any type of paints and brushes that you want for your tubby man wood carving project.  I use acrylic paints and water them down with about 25 drops of water to create a wash.  

Here are the brands and colors to get this same look:

  • Full body (base coat): Academy burnt sienna wash.
  • Teeth: 100% Craftsmart vanilla. 
  • Ears and face: Ceramcoat tawny light wash. 
  • Hair and eyebrows: DecoArt burnt umber wash. 
  • Lips, inner ears, and smile lines: Dry brush DecoArt burnt umber.
  • Shirt: Ceramcoat pumpkin mixed with burnt umber wash.  
  • Overalls: Apple Barrel blueberry frost wash and dry brush with Apple Barrel white.  Mix with one drop burnt umber for highlighting the wrinkles. 
  • Shoes: FolkArt medium gray wash. 
  • Nose tip and cheeks: Windsor & Newton cadmium red light (very diluted with water) and Apple Barrel bright red (very diluted). 
  • Finish: I dipped the piece in boiled linseed oil, but feel free to use another type of finish. 

Tubby guy wood carving project pattern

Photocopy this pattern to size to fit your wood block, or use with a bandsaw to make a much larger wood carving project.  

Pattern for tubby man wood carving

Tubby man wood carving project summary

  • This pattern is my own creative twist on Jack Price’s original “Marvin” pattern.
  • The pompadour hair is fun to carve on this little man. 
  • You can use my triangle-by-triangle nose carving system to get a perfect nose. 
  • Save your tubby man and redo him a year or two later.  You will be amazed at your progress!



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