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Carving "The Cow Plaque"

by Tina Toney

©A Tina Toney Design

This pattern has been designed for the novice wood carver. Basswood would be my choice for this project, however, if you have chosen to use Pine, be certain to seal it with Jo Sonja's Tannin Blocking Sealer prior to painting. Pine will eventually yellow the whites if not properly sealed.

As with all pine wood carvings, do not locate the carving where it will be subjected to extreme changes of temperature. Near heat sources or in windows where sun will strike it is to be avoided.



  • A 10"x12"x3/4" thickness of carving wood.
  • A standard sized set of palm chisels, a good carving knife, a non-slip mat for your work surface and a good carving glove.
  • Paints and Sealers: Off White, Flesh, Black, Light Blue and Barn Red or the colors of your choice for the base. A stencil for the checkerboard or the stencil of your choice. Designs From The Heart Wood Sealer for basswood. Jo Sonja's Matte Finish Varnish. Fine grit sandpaper in 220.
  • Brushes: A 1/2" angular shader, 0 round detail should work nicely on the cow and a 3/4" straight brush for the base. A small stencil brush.

    Transfer the main features from the pattern (see below) to the wood by tracing with graphite.

    Referring to Figure 1, (above) divide the base in half as indicated by the dotted line between the legs. Stop cut around the tail, udder and back leg. Remove the forward half of the wood on the left hind leg. Stop cut around the top of the front left leg and right leg then remove the forward half of wood on the left leg.

    Turn the wood carving over, remove the wood behind the right legs. This positions the cow with its right side on the front half of the base and the left side on the back half. Carve the wood away in the same manner for the ears. Carve the udder midway between the rear legs. The udder will be slightly lower than the legs in the areas heavily drawn in Figures 1 and 2.

    The dotted lines in both figures represent the corners that you will round over. Leave the hip bone protruding. Shape the cows head by removing a little extra wood behind the jaw and ear. Round over the muzzle and ears.

    Scoop out the wood with a spoon shaped U gouge on the inside of the ears. The Holstein Cow is a smooth animal and I sanded mine to reflect that trait. I suggest that you not sand until you are satisfied with the carving as sanding leaves particles of grit embedded in the wood that will dull your carving tools should you continue to carve. Seal with appropriate sealer prior to painting.


    Flesh tone for udder, inside of the ears and the nose. An Off White and Black on the body of the cow. Any color of your choice to match your home for the base and complimentary color for the stenciling. I used Light Blue with Barn Red squares. Seal the carving with Jo Sonja's Matte Finish Varnish.

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