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British Beefeater

Monday 9 July 2018

I am going to show you how I carve the Beefeater – a national historical figure which provides a great subject for a character carving. The intention is not to create a scale model but a piece which is appealing, so some artistic licence prevails

Planning & timber

All my carvings start with a drawing, which will be the size of the work I want to produce.

I used a block of jelutong (Dyer costulata) approximately 190(h) x 70(w) x 50mm(d) (7 1/2 x 2 3/4 x 2in). Leave a block at the base of the figure about 38mm (1 1/12 in) to assist with holding the piece in a clamp or vice. These dimensions allow me to carve with both chisels and knives as the piece can be comfortably held in my hand as well as in a vice.

Roughing out

Steps 1-2

Use the templates to mark the outline on the wood

Steps 3-4

Waste wood on a carving of this size can easily be removed by hand or with a small saw. An effective method is to make saw cuts from the edge of the block up to the outline of the pattern, and then use a shallow gouge to remove the wood

Step 5

Cuts can be made on all sides of the block. Once the rough shape is established

Step 6

Use a coping saw to cut up through the base and separate the legs

Shaping the block

Steps 7-10

Using the template, draw in the outline to the front, back and sides, and carve up close to the final shape. Refer to the plan to draw in the broad details such as arms, legs, feet and head, always leaving more wood than needed in the initial stages.

Steps 11-14

Using the V-tool, cut in the arms and remove the surrounding wood. The same process is repeated with the other features until they are at the same stage. Regularly drawing and redrawing details on the block is worthwhile. I have marked the top of the head to indicate where the brim of the hat will be and carved up to the line.

Carving the smaller blocks

Steps 15-18

The carving is now progressed by refining the various shapes and marking in the finer features such as the hands, feet, head and hat.

Carving the detail – head & face

Step 19

The head and face is almost a carving within a carving. The hat is an important feature of this character, so be careful to get it right. Mark in the rim and carve the shape down from there

Steps 20-21

Next, mark in the eyeline and nose, and allow for the beard, together with the ruff type collar. Having set the blocks in, the next step is to shape and refine these features. The eyes are put in to complement the smile and carved simply as slightly curved lines

Clothing & hands

Step 22

I do not attempt to cut in all the fine detail found on this ceremonial outfit but rather do enough to create the effect. The patterns are put in with the V-tool and refined with the mini pelican knife

Step 23

The left hand is hanging relaxed down the side of the body. The right hand is carved with fingers extended to let the staff rest between the thumb and the forefinger. The staff is glued in place and set in a small hole drilled in the base to provide a bit more security.

Legs, feet & base

Step 24

The legs need to be well shaped with the feet set firmly on the ground, pointing out slightly. Buckled shoes complete the outfit.

The base & finishing

The carving is now complete so cut off the temporary clamping blocks at the base. Leave a little extra wood and level the feet by securing a small sheet of medium sandpaper on the bench and rubbing the base of the feet to and fro, and side to side. Make sure

the figure remains vertical from all angles when sanding in this way.

Saw a base into a rough oval shape and carve the surface with a broad tool cut. Carve the lance with a detail knife. Stand the figure on the base and locate where the lance

will rest, then drill a hole in the base to make the lance more secure.

Now mount the whole thing and glue everything in place ready for the finish. Jelutong soaks up any finish quite rapidly and

I find spirit polish works very well. A couple of coats are all that are needed, whilst buffing with a quality wax provides a soft attractive sheen.