Spirit carving is more than my hobby. It offers an intriguing way to express myself and relieve stress while anticipating good fortune.

Carving a spirit or face is fun and exciting. You only require patience to master how to carve a wood spirit.

Besides the general wood carving tips, this article provides comprehensive information on the needed tools, step-by-step processes, and ways to finish your own wood spirit carving.

Wood Spirit Carving 

Carving a wood spirit enables you to experiment beautifully with your image ideas and new techniques.

A typical wood spirit encompasses nature and a human face in a single image. These delightful features come in various shapes, forms, and styles.

Best Tools for Spirit Carving

  • Drawing tools
  • Carving Knives
  • Hatchet
  • Pocket Knife
  • Rasps and Rifflers
  • Chisels
  • Mallets
  • Gouge
  • V Tool

How To Carve A Wood Spirit – 8 Steps

Step 1: Check the Tools for Sharpness

This first stage is essential to ensure you don’t mess up the process. Kindly watch out while sharpening the knives to prevent causing any safety hazards.

Once you run over your leather strop and keep each tool in the correct state, you are set to carve. Using a sharp tool allows for intricate wood carving while ensuring you don’t damage the wood.

Step 2: Prepare the Wood

For spirit carving, use any solid wood you find within your vicinity. Alternatively, you can purchase a prepared wooden block from your local hardware or arts and craft store.

I prefer using white sapwood for most of my carving needs since it’s easy to work with. Now cut the wood piece into the sizes you need to carve.

Next, remove the bark and bumpy parts using a sharp hatchet to reveal the softer sapwood. Before carving, check the other side of your wood for cracks and insect holes.

Step 3: Draw the Guidelines Onto the Wood

Draw a symmetrical line on the block using a pencil. This center line should be a general guide to ensure that you draw the facial features in equal proportions.

Next, draw an accurate outline of the features of the face on both sides of the line. Approximate to scale the distances between the mouth and nose.

Do the same to the rest of the face features, as the outline will guide you through intricate or detailed parts of your spirit carving.

Most people struggle to develop eye and nose shapes because they are too hyper-realistic. So it would help if you take time to draw outlines for the actual pattern. For instance, you can use a triangle to represent the nose.

The line beneath the nose should be the edge of the top lip where the mustache will begin. At the top of the nose are two lines: the upper eyelids. Then boom! You’re done.

Step 4: Begin Cutting Through the Guidelines

Use a gouge to do the cuttings along the guidelines you created. Next, make a short horizontal cut along the eye line to create the eyebrows ridge. I recommend short and straight cuts to avoid damaging the spirit.

You can always come again for a basic profile to perfect some areas. Clear away the materials on the sides of the nose to shape it. Finally, cut through the guidelines of the mustache and hair.

Step 5: Shape the Forehead

From the position of the eyebrows, you can now develop the forehead. With the right experience, you’ll find it easy to create without a pattern. However, if you’re a beginner wood carver, you can follow ahead and shape the forehead.

First, remove the side material to make it spherical, and deepen the top part to achieve the correct shape. Next, make a slight curve near the top edge to separate the forehead from the eyebrow, particularly on the lower end of the shape.

Step 6: Deepen The Nose Bridge Wedge

Next, you need to identify the nose tip. This involves drawing a circle to represent the nose ball. Next, define the bottom of the nose by drawing a line underneath the nose where the nose bridge will be.

Now, use a chisel to carve out the materials underneath. You will carry out two cuts: the sweeping cut and the plunge cut. A sweeping cut aims to bring the bridge of the nose forward.

To achieve the plunge cut, insert the chisel and cut along the nose line. Then, use the gouge to clean up the plunge cut.

Since each cut you make changes the look of the face, consider working a little at a time to avoid destroying the shape. I recommend working slow and shallow since you can always go back and adjust the features accordingly.

Step 7: Shaping the Mustache and Hair

Took back at every progress you make when roughing. Doing so helps you to determine whether everything is happening as planned:

  1. Use the gouge to clear materials around the mustache to separate it from the mouth. Removing materials below and above the mustache brings it forward, making it visible.
  2. Draw the hairline, and remove materials around it. Repeat the process as with the mustache.
  3. Use the V tool to define the mustache and hairline.

Step 8: Setting up the Eye and the Eyeballs

You remember the guidelines you drew for the eye—cut materials around the part where the eye will be to make it raised. Be mindful not to remove any material inside the shape; that’ll be the eyeball.

Next, scoop with the gouge around to bring depth to the corners of the eye. Lastly, use a skew chisel to round out the eyeball.

If you are a beginner in carving, here’s a guide on how to start wood carving.

Types of Woods for Spirit Carving

Choosing the type of wood for carving shouldn’t be much of a bother to you. While you can carve wood spirits on a tree in the forest, you can also use any wood block you find.

Like face carving, bringing a spirit shape out of wood isn’t complicated. While you can use any wood type, here is the best wood for any carving project.

  • Birch: It’s generally pleasant and makes a popular option for both newbie and experienced woodcarvers. It has an aromatic smell, and its branches are available for most spirit carvers. I recommend using this wood type for carving while it’s still green. Moreover, its branch is the perfect size for carving a face without special preparation.
  • Cottonwood bark: This is a great softwood and super easy to carve in. However, seasoned wood carvers shy away from using this wood type since its grains don’t show.
  • Basswood is an important quality when carving someone’s face. It’s suitable for beginners because it features accentuated grains that make the carvings impressionable.
  • Cedar is very aromatic and suitable for carving when still green.
  • Pine is incredible when it comes to carving spirit faces. While this wood type comes in different colors, I prefer white pine, which is easy to work with and delivers the expected results.

Spirit carving is not picky when it comes to the kinds of wood. You can choose any wood around you. However, some woods are harder to carve, while others are easy to work with.

If you can’t access the above woods, you can look for alternatives like apple wood and butternut.

How to Improve Your Wood Spirits

The secret to improving on a face carve is to practice repeatedly. Below are some woodcarving tips to increase your confidence and creativity in spirit carving.

  • Add more hyper-realistic features to your spirit face.
  • Use 60-grit sandpaper to smoothen your carving surface and get rid of loose stringy remnants.
  • Sharpen your tools to get great results.
  • Apply wood finishes on your spirit for a better impression.

How to Finish Your Spirit Carvings

Applying a finish is not always mandatory. Nevertheless, doing so allows your carved spirit to shine and last longer. Many finishes are suitable for the wood spirit when approaching this task.


Beeswax can be your first option when finishing your wood carving. It is effortless to apply and reapply on the spirit surface. First, apply the wax using the brush, then allow it to dry for 10-15 minutes before buffing it.

Besides offering adequate protection, beeswax is water-resistant and can preserve your art piece reliably.


Painting is a perfect and safe idea for finishing wood projects. It makes an impressive effect and will serve as a protection on the wood for many years.

When you apply paint, use a thin layer and recoat later to avoid creating a wooden mirror. Allow it to dry for about 24 hours, and sand the first coat using sandpaper before recoating. Repeat this process until the wood carving appears smooth.

Besides paint, other finishes that you can use include oil, stain, or a clear coat of polyurethane. However, for the finishing touches, watch out to prevent damaging the shadows and fine details of your spirit.


Where to get free wood spirits carving patterns?

Getting already made patterns is a better idea for a beginner or any carver who wants to make work easier. You can get free wood spirit patterns on Pinterest.

How to carve your own wood spirit with a Dremel?

With Dremel, keep in mind to use different power carving bits. Use small or large bits to shape various parts of the spirit. Remember to follow the steps above, from drawing the guidelines to defining face features. Here are some of the best dremel for carving.

How do you carve a wood spirit on walking sticks?

Carving a wood spirit on a walking stick entails the same steps as on any other wood surface. But, I recommend using a Dremel since the wood has a narrow diameter that requires precise cuttings.


There is no specific time frame for learning wood spirit carving to perfection. However, there is always something new to learn every day once you take this path.

I advise you to keep learning and practicing the above steps to become a pro. Also, comment on how your project went and what we can do differently to enhance the outcome.

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