Carving Owls

Doug Linker’s YouTube video is a great reference for carving little owls that are a bit more complicated than the 3 or 5 minute owls patterns out there. When I watch videos, I like to write down the steps to help me remember and to make it easily repeatable. Below, I share these steps so you don’t have to keep pausing and restarting the video.

Carving block = 1 x 1 and 2 3/4″ tall

Wood type = Basswood


Beak side – From the top 7/8″ for top of the beak. From the top 1 3/8″ for the bottom of the beak. (See 2:00 of the video)

Sides 3/8″ on two sides (this will be the inward point below the “ears”

1 1/4″ around the sides and back to separate the head and the body. Don’t draw the line all the way to the beak though.

Starting to carve

Step 1) Ears – Straight cut into the mark at 3/8″ on the side. Then cut a V going in about a quarter inch deep. Do the same on the opposite side

Step 2) Draw line on top from ear to ear

Step 3) From the head/body line to the line at the top of the head, round the back side of the head

Step 4) You can round out the bottom back side as well

Step 5) Separate the back of the head. Just do the 3 sides. Don’t do the front yet as we will complete that after you carve out the beak. You can round the head some here as well.

Step 6) Beak – Plunge deep straight into the 7/8″ and the 1 3/8″ lines for the beak. Cut down at about 45 degrees to the 7/8″ cut creating a shelf. Cut up to the 1 3/8″ cut.

Step 7) Do triangle cuts on the side of the beak to start to shape the beak. (This is a bit out of order from the video. Sorry, after a few owls I was not following the video but just carving.) After you do this part, you can finish the head and body separation as well.

Step 8) Create a shelf for the cartoon eyes. You’re creating a surface for the eyes. This particular owl the eyes were a little not centered at the beginning but don’t worry, you can fix this as you go.

Step 9) From the top eye area plane straight up to make the forehead aligned with the eyes. After doing that, you can then fix your eye area. When done creating the eye area, draw out the outline for the eyes.

Step 10) Stop cut the eyes with the point of your knife. Careful to not to try to bend your knife and break the tip. You can do this with several small cuts. Then take the tip of your knife and cut out the outline to create the shadow.

Step 11) From the top point of your eyes round the top to the center line while making roll cuts to make the owl’s horns as shown on the right below.

You can finish yours eyes if you want now but for this owl I didn’t.

Step 12) Next, I added small v cuts on the inner part of the horns to add some character. At this point, you can also soften up the head and round up the transition to the head. No specific time you have to do this but it needs to be done to make it look more owl-like.

After I added the lines, I shaped the beak. The beak curls downward so I shaped the top a bit and then shaped the bottom as well. Bird’s beaks are pointy, so you can make this as pointy as you like.

Step 13) Round out the body so you can be ready to draw the wings.

Step 14) Draw the wings. From the corner of the eyes start the wings. I made my wings a bit different than Doug did. I prefer how my wings turn out. Also, I end of doing the back side a bit differently as well. I make the outwards. I think he rounds his inwards.

At this point, I drew the back wings as well. These are also different than Doug’s carving.

Don’t forget we need to draw a line for the feet. Doug draws his line about 1/4 inch from the bottom. I just eye ball mine. You can make the owl’s feet smaller or larger depending on your preferences.

Step 15) Carving the wings. Stop cut along the wing lines and then cut a half v cut to create the shadows. Do both sides.

Step 16) Rough out the feet. Stop cut the top of the feet and then round the stomach of the owl to create shape. You’ll notice on the right image, I cut out small section between the feet and the wing to square it up in the front. Again, this is different than Doug’s video.

Step 17) Divide the feet in two. Plunge cut and the then do a v cut to shape two distinct claws. I like to use my small 1/8 in v-gouge to make the claw details. Simply divide the claws into three with 2 cuts on each. I will also make small cuts on the top up to the body of the owl.

Step 18) Back of the wings. Similar to the front of the wings, stop cut and then half v-cut to create the shadows of the back wings. At the top of the body, I then separated the body and the head a little more to make the wings appear to be laying on top of the body.

Step 19) My own touch to this owl, so this is not in the video. Rough a tail out. Start with small cuts to separate the tail and the body. You can draw a line if you like to help guide but you don’t have to. Make the tail bigger than your feet.

Using small chips cuts, remove wood around the wing and define the tail.

When you have the tail the shape you want, use your small v-tool or your knife and make small v-cuts to create the appearance of a feathered tail.

Step 20) Finish the eyes. Some folks will actually finish up the eyes after step 11. As long as you get them done is all that matters, not which order you carve them. 🙂

Draw some eyebrow lines. If you point them up, the owl will look more angry. If you curve them, like below, they look a little more pleasant.

Stop cut the eyebrows straight down, don’t curve this. Careful not to chip the corners. Then do your half v-cut to create the shadow lines.

Separate the eyes. In my pictures, I forgot to separate the eyebrows until I was painting this fellow. Do that now if you don’t want a unibrow owl.

Make small 3 cut chip cuts in the corners to give the eyes shape and shadows. I like to leave some flat surface as it’s easier to paint the eyes that way.

Step 20) Create the apron – Draw the apron of the owl with a pencil. Stop cut straight down and then cut up towards it to make it appear the apron is over the body.

I drew a little triangle to help guide me as I shaped the apron to look like feathers. I used my small detail knife for this next work. Cut little cuts making sure to not go too deep, then I would cut under the triangles to pop them out.

Step 21) Wing Detail – using my v-tool, I make cuts around the wings to make some final details. At this point, finish rounding out anything you need to do. Clean up your cuts and don’t forget to erase any left over pencil marks.

With that, you’re ready to paint! Don’t forget to sign, date and number your carvings.

You can make small alterations as well. Take off the horns and you get a different type of owl. I made a snowy owl. He’s makes carving # 100! Happy Carving!