5 Minute Wizard
This beginner project is a great
way to hone your woodcarving skills.
By: Tom Hindes
Originally published in Wood Carving Illustrated
- Basswood 3/4" square by 8" long (makes two blanks)
- Acrylic paints of choice (optional)
- Carving knife
- V-tool: small
- Paint brushes (optional)
The five-minute wizard is a perfect project for learning basic carving skills and is also well suited for demonstration purposes. I display carvings at gift shops, festivals, and art fairs; I whittle or carve whenever I get the chance. The five-minute wizard is a simple project that can be given away to spectators. Children especially enjoy receiving a souvenir. I normally carve the wizards while I’m at the event, and then take them home and paint them. I give away the painted ones to onlookers while I carve a supply for the next event.
It may take a bit longer to make your first few wizards, but once you have the steps down, you’ll be completing them in about five minutes and quickly carving a large supply. They make wonderful little gifts for random acts of kindness. Leave one along with your tip at the local restaurant or give one to your favorite cashier. You can also attach a pin back or turn them into keychains.
I create 4"-long wizards, but you can adapt the technique to any size carving. Start with a triangular blank (see below for instructions on cutting them) and leave a little extra length for easy handling. Once you are comfortable with the technique, experiment with tree branches to make rustic-looking wizards. Make sure your knife is sharp and strop as necessary throughout the carving process.
Cutting Triangular Blanks
- Set a table saw blade to 45° and cut halfway through a scrap block of wood, such as a 2 by 4.
- Cut from both directions to create a 45°-angled groove in the middle.
Slice halfway down the length of the board through the
center of the groove with a band saw.
- Clamp the angled jig to the band saw table.
- Position a square carving blank in the groove and feed the blank through the band saw blade to create two triangular carving blanks.
Step 1: Outline the bottom of hat.
Make a mark on the corner, 1 1/2" down from the top of the blank. Draw angled lines from the mark out to the edges of the blank. Make 1/8" -deep stop cuts along these lines with a carving knife.
Step 2: Relieve the face up to hat.
Start a slicing cut 1/4" down from the stop cut on each of the flat surfaces. Cut up to the stop cuts to create the surface for the eye sockets and cheeks.
Step 3: Shape the face.
Position the blade on the outside corner of the blank 1/4" down from the stop cut. Cut up to the stop cut to remove about 3/16" from both sides of the face.
Step 4: Define bottom of nose.
Make a deep stop cut on the front corner, 1/2" to 3/4" down from the bottom of the hat. Cut up to the stop cut from below to separate the bottom of the nose from the mouth and chin.
Step 5: Outline the nose and eyes.
Draw the nose and top of the eyes. Starting at the inside corner of the eye, plunge the knife tip in and cut to the bottom of the nose. Then start at the inside corner and cut to the outside corner of the eye. Repeat the two stop cuts on the opposite side.
Step 6: Shape the nose and cheeks.
Using the knife tip, cut up to the stop cuts made in Step 5 and remove a chip from each side of the nose. The deep area where the cuts intersect will be the eye socket. Remove the corners on the bottom of the nose.
Adding The Details
Step 7: Outline the mustache.
Draw the hat, mustache, and beard. Angle the knife blade toward the mustache and make a stop cut around the mustache. Cut down toward the stop cut to separate the cheeks from the mustache.
Step 8: Shape the beard.
Cut up to the stop cuts under the mustache. Cut along the beard outline to finish shaping it. Go back with the tip of the knife or a small V-tool and add hair lines and texture to the beard and mustache if desired.
Step 9: Shape the nose.
Give the tip of the nose a rounded or pointed shape. Then shave down the top to create the bridge of the nose. Cut up from the tip of the nose and free the chip by carving down from the eyebrows. Carve in small semi circles for the eyes.
Step 10: Shape the hat.
Use your thumb to push the back of the knife blade and roll the blade back toward you as you cut the hat to a point. You can make the hat long and pointed, squashed down, or even folded at the top. Use your imagination and make it your own.
A 'Whittle' Tip
For maximum control, position your thumb on the back of the knife blade and use it to push the blade where you want it to go.
I use acrylic paints to finish the wizards. You can paint them with your own color scheme or leave them natural. Whatever you decide, be sure to erase, carve, or sand away the pencil marks. These marks will often show through layers of paint.
Show Off Your Work!
We'd love to see your finished projects. Share them with us on social media!
About The Author
Tom Hindes is a professional whittler and carver. Now retired from a career in technical training development at Ohio State University, Tom lives outside Delaware, Ohio. He carves Noah's arks, Christmas ornaments, wizards, and gnomes.