How to Carve Wooden Birds

wooden blocks image by Ramona smiers from

Hobbies are great ways to express oneself by creating works of art as seen through the hobbyist’s eyes. Carving is a hobby that takes both time and patience in order to end up with a final product that reflects the creative capacity of the artist. A carver can keep the final pieces for themselves or they can make a profit from their hard work and efforts by selling their carvings at fairs and flea markets.

wooden blocks image by Ramona smiers from

Things You'll Need

  • Basswood Block Of Appropriate Size
  • X-Acto Knife With A No. 11 Blade
  • Emery Boards (Disposable Nail Files)
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Pencil
  • Glass Eyes (Optional)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fine Point Wood Burner
  • Bird Pattern
  • Parallelogram Shaped Sanding Block
  • Craft Saw
  • Glove And Finger Guard

Begin with a solid block of basswood. A pattern is recommended for the first project, but if one is not available, find a picture of a duck or bird and copy its side profile. Trace the side profile onto the block. The bottom profile will most likely be an oval or a small circle. Trace this onto the bottom of the block. It will be a carving guide only.

Cut out the basic side profile using the saw. There is now a very rough cutout of a bird.

Look at this cutout from the top and find the center of symmetry. The easiest way to learn to carve birds is to carve symmetrical birds. For purposes of this project the bird will not have a head turned one way or one wing in a different position than the other. This is a symmetrical bird. Starting from the top of the bird shape, draw a guideline all the way around the cutout, right down the center of symmetry. Do not carve on this line until you finish carving the bird. It is a guide and will keep the carver from accidentally misshaping the bird.

Put on the gloves and finger guard. Using the x-acto knife, make broad shaping cuts to remove large chunks of wood. This is accomplished by using stop-cuts. Place a straight cut into a part of the bird where wood needs to be excised. Carve toward that cut until the blade reaches it and the big piece of wood will just pop off. Stop cuts are also helpful for adding contour to the beak and the place where the tail joins the body.

Continue carving the basic shape of the bird. When possible, carve with the grain of the wood. Use the guideline as a reference and try to keep both sides symmetrical as carving is taking place.

Once the basic shape begins to emerge, pay more attention to the details. Does the head slope in at the top? Does the beak have a divot in the middle? Take the time to make small cuts to carefully carve out these details.

Use a sanding block and the emery boards (for tight places) to smooth out the final product. This step is not necessary if a rougher carved look is preferred.

Paint or burn details on the bird. It helps to work from a guide and draw guidelines with a pencil. This step is also unnecessary and will vary depending on the carver’s preferences. Glass eyes can also be added for a more realistic look.


  • Remember to use precaution when using any type of carving or cutting tool.