How to….carve a simple dog-head finial


Carving doodles are both great fun, and a quick way to practice new techniques.  I usually keep a small off-cut of hardwood and a carving tool near to hand for doodling with. A great subject for doodling with is animal heads, in this instance dogs.

As we have seen on previous projects, you will need to generate a side view and a top view.  I learned to draw animals using the sausage and egg (‘breakfast’) method, like this:

fried egg plus sausage (rounded rectangle)  to get proportions for side view





fried egg plus 3 sausages gains the top view






Changing the proportions makes a big difference:








Once you have decided on a pattern then transfer the pattern to the timber, the circle is very important as it marks the position for the eyes and ears. I have left the drawing construction lines on the wood  – the vertical line and the horizontal one carry right around the block to accurately position the circle for the eye-brow ridge on the top view, and the corner of the eye and the skull circle on the far side of the block thus ensuring the pattern is squarely aligned on all sides.


First rough out the top profile and side profile and make sure you cut in the curves of the circle too.














Round over the edges, but try not touch the ears – rounding the corners of the head will leave the ears standing proud. The photo is misleading as the lack of shadow and the drawn-on curves for the ears (I changed the design at a later stage) makes it look like I may have rounded the ear section of the block but in fact it has not been rounded at all.



Mark on the eyes, nose and mouth, looks good doesn’t it? You can stop here if you want to but some detailing pays real dividends.



The muzzle has two components that the carver needs to deal with: the top of the muzzle is long and narrow and the ‘jowls’ flare out from it.  Carving this detail creates a triangular hollow where the nose meets the circle of the skull. This hollow is where the eyeball is carved.  Eyes are spherical so make sure you carve the eye sufficiently curved. While you’re at it cut in the mouth and nose.

















Just the ears left




All done. Total number of tools used is one – a nicely sharp knife.



view of underside


view from above




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