Horse Head Pt 2

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Now your horse head is roughed out you need to start refining the shape. Each step of this process means that you get closer to the point of no return. While you still have quite a bit of scope to alter the general design at the moment this will reduce as you remove more and more wood so make up you mind what style of head you want and stick with it if you can.


1 I have decided that my horse will be a thoroughbred and have drawn the new outline accordingly from the acetate. You need to cut to these new lines before doing any shaping or rounding off otherwise you will lose your datum points. You may prefer to do this in small steps so that you can check regularly against your acetate and reference material. It would help to draw the same outline on the other side of the head to make sure the profiles match

2 New outline of head – reduced in places from the original basic outline. Obviously, if you wish to stick with the original outline you can leave out this stage and move on to the next

3 Using the drawings in the last part make an acetate of the front view of your horse head…

4 …and transfer it to the front of your block

5 Now cut back to the lines you have drawn on the front and try to make sure that you cut the same amount off all the way from the front of the face to the underneath of the jaw. It is difficult to draw a similar outline under the head so you will have to judge by eye

6 You should now have a fairly accurate shape when viewed from the side and front but with square edges

7 Round off some of the square edges to get closer to the actual shape of the head. This will involve tapering the top and bottom sides of the nose slightly, leaving the muzzle and eye-line proud. Don't remove any of the cheek under the eye as this remains flat. Draw on any detail like eyes, nose, mane and muscles etc. ready for the next stage. As a guide the distance from the top of the head to the eye is about one third of the total head length. Don't think about carving the eyes or ears at this stage. These will come later

8 The arrows show the direction of your next few cuts, to be done with a number nine gouge around 1/4in wide. The bottom two shape the bulge of the nostril and should blend in with the side of the nose, leaving up to 1/4in raised ready to shape the finished nostril later on

9 Setting in the eye socket effectively can be a tricky job…

10 …so persevere

11 And on the other side

12 Cutting around the top of the muzzle to create the bulge of the nostril

13 Now taper the top of the head above the eye to the forelock

14 Mark the gap between the ears. Don't be too precise at this stage as the ears are almost certainly far too big. Make sure, though, that you leave the full width at the tips of the ears. This will give you more options when you come to carve the final shape. Take out the waste material carefully with a number nine gouge noting the grain direction as you do so – you will get the best results if you work from the back. Leave them as large as you can for the moment – you can refine them later

15 You will probably need a smaller gouge to clean out the bottom of the gap

16 Once the waste has been removed blend in the line of the mane through to the forelock with the high spot resting between the ears

17 Check from the front that the ears are symmetrical – if that is what you want. Bear in mind that horse's ears are constantly on the move so, if you wish to add a bit of life to your carving, don't make them absolutely symmetrical

18 This shows a circle between the ears that will give the basic shape of the top inside edge. The size of the circle is not that critical but it is important to get that inner curve different from the shape of the outer edge. We will be dealing with this in more detail in the next issue

19 Cut back the bottom outside edge of the ear into the neck. Make sure the base sits between the jaw – bone and the mane in a small hollow. Match it on the other side

20 I suggest that you draw in the mouth, checking that you get the line the same on both sides and make a first cut with a small V-tool

21 Keep this cut very shallow until you are completely happy with the line you have cut

22 Once you are satisfied you can go deeper and round off the top and bottom to form the curve of the lips. You might find this stage is easier done with your knife and a small block-cutter – you probably have a bit more control

23 The top lip of a horse is much more pointed than the bottom lip and has two soft pads at the front just off centre at each side. The bottom lip is much more rounded and full. It is important that you achieve a softness to both top and bottom lips so don't carve a hard, flat surface

Click here for: Part 1