These wooden Christmas carolers are cute as a button. The more you make—the more the merrier! They are perfect to display on a window sill to brighten up your holidays.
After following this step-by-step tutorial, you can carve more carolers of different sizes and change up the hats to add visual interest. Of course, you can change up the colors too. Maybe paint them solid red or green.
To carve the largest wooden Christmas caroler (in the middle in the picture above), use a wood block that is 1 x 1 x 4 inches (2.5 x 2.5 x 10.1 cm). I used basswood. As always, if you want to go bigger, simply double or triple the measurements throughout this tutorial.
If you prefer to use a bandsaw to make a very large roughout, you will find a free, full-color pattern at the bottom of the page. It is also serves as a handy color guide for painting. Information about painting supplies—and a color guide—are also provided at the end of this page.
I used a chip carving knife I love from Focuser Carving (affiliate link). I provide some details about this knife—and some other knives I regularly use—further down this page. To carve successfully, be sure to stop and strop your knife every half hour.
Please always use a carving glove for safety. Also protect your lap with a cutting board—or a piece of wood—if you are a lap carver.
You will need a writing instrument to sketch your guidelines. I used a woodburner to accentuate some details. You can also use dark brown paint to highlight the same areas.
If you do not have a woodburner—but are thinking of getting one—consider the Colwood Detailer (affiliate link). I recently got one and it is so worth the extra cost! It’s easy to control and the results are much more professional than my previous woodburning pen.
Take a minute to watch this slide show to see the key steps for this wooden Christmas carolers tutorial before you get started.
You will carve off the corner for this project to give you some instant depth for the nose.
First, round down all the corners on your wood block. Draw a guideline that is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) from the bottom of your wood block all around to mark bottom of head (photos 1,2).
Draw a second guideline that is 2.75 inches (7 cm) from bottom all around to mark top of head (photos 1,2).
Then, draw a square nose box that is a little less than 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) down from the top of the head guideline. It should extend about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) on each side (photos 1.
Use stop cuts (photo 3) to separate the bottom of the head all around, removing wood from underneath (photo 4).
Next, use something round (I used water bottle cap) to draw a circle that marks the outline of the face (photo 6). The space between the nose box and the circle is a little more than 1/2 inch (1.3 cm). Don’t sweat it if your space is a little more or less. It won’t matter.
Remove wood to start to to shape the hat. The process is kind of like sharpening a pencil. Turn your piece often to be sure it is symmetrical. Again, you can use a push cut (photo 7), or a paring cut, depending upon your preference.
Once you have the desired shape, draw a guideline about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) across the middle of the back of the hat (photo 9). It marks where you cut the notch later.
When you are finished, your hat should look something like photos 8,9). Don’t worry if your hat shape is a little different. You can make these wooden Christmas carolers your own.
Make a stop cut (photo 10) on the back of the hat. Remove wood from underneath—until you have a nice indentation (completed in photos 11,12).
Draw a triangle on each side (photos 11,12) to mark the wood that you will remove later.
Run your knife along the guideline for the round face. Make a second, slicing cut to cleanly remove wood along your first cut (photo 13). Continue to shape the face until it is evenly round (completed in photo 14).
Next, make a stop cut under the nose box (photo 14) and remove wood from underneath. Work your way around the nose box in the same manner until it is fully separated (photo 15). Color in the corners (photo 15) to mark where you will remove wood to round the nose.
Also, narrow and shape the top of the hat so that it slightly curves up in the front (completed in photo 14). You can do this by making a sweeping cut (as you make a push cut, rotate your wrist). When you are finished, the hat should look like photo 14.
After you carve off the nose corners and round the nose (completed in photo 16), draw on the eyes and the mouth. The lines for the eyes are much easier to carve than typical eyes and they give the impression that the eyes are closed.
Make slit cuts for the eyes and remove wood from above them (photo 17). Then, carefully carve the outline of the mouth. Make a slicing cut to remove wood between the outline (completed in photo 19). The wood is fragile here so take your time.
Use a pyramid cut to make a notch on the left and right sides of the hat (photo 18). You can continue to refine the hat as needed.
Now, shape the neck and the bottom of your wooden Christmas caroler (photo 19). These little guys don’t have arms, which makes it really easy to carve the body!
Use a wood burner to burn the outline of the face, eyes, mouth, and the notch on each side of your wooden Christmas carolers (photos 20-23). If you don’t have a wood burner, you can use dark brown paint—or even a black magic marker.
To get this exact look, use the paints listed below. However, feel free to change up the colors, or go with a solid design. I typically dilute my acrylic paints with 15-20 drops of water to create a wash. Test a little on a piece of newspaper. If the newsprint shows through the consistency is good.
You can use whatever paint brushes you want. For these wooden Christmas carolers I used an angled brush.
If you prefer to use a bandsaw on a larger wooden Christmas caroler, photocopy this pattern to size.