How to …carve a traditional cat-head, part 1

On a traditional a Tall-ship there is a beam that sticks out of each side near the bow off which the anchor is hoisted and carried, keeping all that pointy metal away from the soft wooden flanks of the ship. This beam is called the cat-head. As the beam is very exposed to damage, the end of the beam is often capped with an applied sacrificial terminal that has a decorative piece with a lion mask either carved (if the cap is wood) or cast (if the cap is metal) into it.

Here is a pinboard to illustrate:

http://www.pinterest.com/avenuew/ships-cat-heads-and-lion-head-carving/

The lion mask is surprisingly easy to carve and is a most satisying weekend project.  The cat-head is generally about 9 inches in height if carved full size, but the one in this guide is only 4 inches square.  Most medium density timber will suffice for this project, mine is in oak but any timber that does not have distracting figuring will be fine.

imageHere is the first step after squaring off the block, the pattern is drawn on.  No side view for this pattern as the carving is a form of deep relief carving – the surface is cut back but the carving is an illusion of 3 dimensions that relies on the brain interpreting the shapes to read the carving as a lion.

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image carve the mane back as much as you dare – this is dropped back about 15mm (1/2 inch) but the deeper you cut this back, the more convincing the final carving will be.  Note, do not cut the juction between the background  (mane) and the face with a sharp edge, the hair will flow off the face and a shapr edge is the last thing you want.  Also do not clean off the gouge marks as they will help give the hair more life.

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imageWith a v-tool cut around the nose, muzzle, cheeks and eye-ridge.  Do this in several passes and cut the line as deep as you dare.

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imageRound over the outside of the whole face and round over the edges of the v-tool cuts.

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The lower jaw is set back in height below the muzzle and so this has been done here.

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imageThe mouth as been re-drawn, as has the centre-line and the top edge of the cheeks has been cut in with a v-tool.  The muzzle has been rounded over right back to the mane.

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imageOK, quite a bit of modelling has gone on. The mouth has been cut back to the depth of the big canine teeth – at this scale the carving is tricky for the smaller details and so I am not putting in the lower jaw canine teeth but you can if you want to. The chin has been rounded as have the cheeks and the eye balls have been relieved ready for rounding . The fore-head has also been rounded and the eye-brows started.

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imageCleaned up with the centre-line removed, however the centre-line position has been marked on the back so I can re-draw it if need-be.

Part 2- a smidge more detail and then the mane

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