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Bottle Santa

a Tina Toney Design
Getting Ready


Use the arch of the growth rings on the bowling pin as the center front [face] and center back of your Santa. Draw a line up and over the turning, halving the piece on the arch rings. Pick the side you want for the face and pencil on an F. Halve the turning again which splits the turning into quarters. This is a necessary reference step when carving on any turning to attain proper pattern placement.


The Pattern

Draw the pattern on with a pencil using a flexible clear ruler to measure the distances from the intersections of the pattern lines with the reference lines. If you desire you may trace the pattern onto onion skin, but use four pieces instead of using one large sheet. I prefer the student draw the pattern using the first method, then study the piece overall with a couple of suggestions. Are the hat trim lines of equal size, same with rest of coat trim? Do you have nice graceful lines versus jagged and have you allowed enough room between the arms and beard to work your tools easily? Leave enough room between the bottom of the cuff to top of fur trim on coat bottom. Try to keep the brow area with a nice slope downward at the outside edges. A straight brow creates a mad and mean looking Santa.


Leave the face area uncarved until indicated later in the instructions. Use a v tool to stop cut on the pattern lines, you will be removing the line, around the hat trim, beard, arms and around the outer perimeter of the hand. Don't carve the thumb in at this time. Continuing with the v tool, carving the stop cuts around the coat's fur trim. Using a knife, reinforce with shallow stop cuts in the center of the v shaped ditch.

Next, carve away the wood starting at the most narrow portion of the bowling pins neck, shaping the bottle part of the carving. Go for the basic shape as in the pattern, carving the final shape later.

Remove a layer of wood behind the arm and around the bottom of the coat sleeve. Always reinforce your stop cuts shallow otherwise you may stop cut too deeply, going further than you intended.

Study the photo and drawings closely, observing the amount of wood removed under the arms, between the back and fur trim of hat, etc. Very little wood is actually removed when working with wood turnings as compared to working with cut outs.

When you have roughed out the carving overall, stand back to observe, comparing the width of the piece from side to side. Are the shoulders the same height? Is one cuff larger than the other? Are both hand areas going to be the same size? For each correction, draw in pencil where more wood is to be removed. Look for balance in the face area? Both sides of the face should be equal from the centerline. Cheeks where beard begins should be the same height.

When you are ready, draw a shallow arch line across the forehead for the eyebrows. If you have drawn a straight across line, you'll have a mean looking Santa. Sloping the outsides slightly downward, gives your Santa a more forgiving appearance.

Draw an oval across the eye area as a guide for using the larger u gouge from the #117 standard palm chisel set. As you carve across the grain use the arch of the eyebrow line as your guide, do not remove the line. The ditch is deeper in the middle than the outside edges. The deeper this ditch is in the middle of the face, the further back the eyes will set.

Re-draw the centerline of the face down through the ditch. Draw the nose in place striving for balance. Hint: The nose is the last feature to be carved on the face and is the most vulnerable portion of this piece. Sharp tools are a must as well as patience and working slow. When satisfied with the width of the nostril area, use a knife to stop cut straight in beside the nostrils and around the bottom of the nose.

Use your small v tool or a knife to stop cut on the cheek lines from the hair, starting at the fur trim, down and across the top of cheeks and up to the stop cut at the nostril line. Remove enough wood on the cheeks to allow the nose to protrude from the face. Use the small u gouge to carve a divot between the eyebrows above the nose. Deepen both areas for the eyes lower than the bridge of the nose. Strive for a flattened area for the eye details to be painted in later.

V tool stop cut the bottom of the mustache line, then separate in the middle and up to the bottom of the nose. The middle area of the face is where I take time to use a fresh #11 Testor's blade carving slow and striving for balance in the face details. Removing small chips at a time, round the cheeks to the nostril lines. If you have lost the pencil centerline on the nose, re-draw it lightly. Mark how wide you want the nose to be at it's tip. I left mine about 1/8" wide. Using the knife, carve a flat plane that width, from just above the tip of the nose to just below the divot between the eyebrows to form the bridge of the nose. At this time use the small u gouge to form the sides of the nose above the nostrils to the inside corners of the eye area. If the cheeks are still too shallow across the area, remove more wood to lower them. Check this by viewing the profile of the nose.

Back to the tip of the nose, leaving the space you have allotted, in my case the 1/8", remove small slices of wood from the outside of the mark angled back to the width of the nostril. This slopes back to the cheek. Do both sides and keep equal. Round off the top of the mustache to the nose. This will allow you to finish the nose area without the mustache being in the ways. Round off the bottom of the nose removing the smallest of chips until satisfied.

To shape the upper part of the nostril, use a small u gouge to shape up and into the cheek area. The #11 blade comes to good use to shape the nostril openings. If you lack the confidence in this step, it is best to carve too little than go too far at this point, but should than occur, don't despair. Use a wood putty to fill the nose area, allow to dry, and re-carve the honker.

Draw in the eyebrows using the lines you left from the oval shaped area, as the bottoms of the brows. Thick or thin, whatever you desire for eyebrow shapes. Now using your knife remove enough wood above the eyebrows on the forehead to allow the eyebrows to protrude. Don't round off the bottom of the eyebrows. Should the eye area seem too shallow at this point, lower that area now. Remember to leave a flat area for the eyes. Should you choose to carve in the eyes, draw them in lightly and use the hobby knife to shape. Final carve the face blending one area to another.

Round off all corners on the stop cuts of the beard and mustache. Shape the mittens to equal size rounding off the sharp edges, then use the v tool to carve the division between the thumb and hand. Leave the square edge on the sleeve cuffs on the mitten side and top where it meets the sleeve.

Continue to round off the shoulders and all other parts of the clothing. Shape the top of the bottle and carve a depression where you may glue and insert a cork.

Remove all original sanded surfaces using the hobby knife. Carve overall to final stage removing small chips. Now is the time to draw in the flow of Santa's mustache, eyebrows and beard. Draw in loose lines not striving for each individual tool mark.

Use a very small u gouge, a v tool or knife to detail the beard, mustache and eyebrows. A combination of these tools can be used. Using a u gouge, detail the fur trim. Fill in carving is my preference, not allowing any flat areas between u ditches. You might choose to leave large flat areas between u gouges but more planning, drawing the placement of the gouges, must be done prior to carving. Well worth the extra time!

Remove any slivers and fuzzy stuff using the hobby knife. If you are experiencing any difficulties at their removal quit trying at this time. Ignoring the fuzzies, judge the overall carving of you Santa, looking for any uncarved areas and for balance.

Seal the carving with Jo Sonja's Tannin Blocking Sealer allowing to dry thoroughly and then remove the fuzzy stuff with the hobby knife. A light sanding with a crumpled up grocery sack to smooth without sanding is the final step before painting.


A very simple palette was used on the Bottle Santa consisting of:

CHEEKS: Pre-moisten sparingly with Jo Sonja's Flow Medium. Brush mix flow medium with Adobe Red to a wash consistency. Swipe off excess from the brush across a paper towel then apply to the cheek areas. Blend out quickly at the edges then allow to dry thoroughly before any more washes are applied to build more color. Messing around the area with the brush will cause splotches.

EYES: Paint white overall, dry, Bonnie Blue iris, Black pupil.



CLOTHING-BOTTLE: Wedgewood Blue shaded with black.

Seal overall with Jo Sonja's Satin Finish Varnish allowing to dry thoroughly. Apply second coat to the face area. A good sealing of the carving, especially the face, is a must to controlling all types of antiquing. If you choose to use an acrylic, oil or alkyd base antique, I would give the Santa two coats overall of a satin or matte varnish for protection.


HINT: The secret to success using Trewax as an antique is to not allow the wax to dry while you are working it. You can continue to work back and forth between the color application and removal process without interruption. Once you have achieved the desired effect, then allow less than four minutes to pass before you buff the wax to a patina.

Using soft lint-free cloths and two clean old toothbrushes, apply Indian Sand Trewax Floor Paste Wax to the face and all whites of the woodcarving. Immediately, using the Clear wax with a clean brush and clean cloth, pull off any excess color until desired effect is attained. Allow to dry only 4 minutes or less and buff. A second coat of Clear applied and buffed in the same manner adds one more layer of protection to the surface of your Santa. When you dust the carving, just use a soft cloth to bring back the patina. This waxing will last a number of years before another wax layer may be required. SUGGESTION: Display your carvings away from direct sunlight and any heat sources such as over a TV or near a heat outlet.



This pattern requires a basswood Bowling PinMatadorObject17
available through Country Carvers, PO BOX 303, Cathlamet WA 98612.


Tools, Etc.

Assorted palm chisels, or the #117 Standard Palm chisel set. a good quality carving knife, a hobby knife handle such as Model Master with #11 Testor's blades. Another excellent handle is "Gripster" an X-Acto Product. A good quality wood carving glove, a non-slip mat for your work surface.


Paints and Mediums:

Adobe Red, White, Off White, Ivory, Black, Bonnie Blue and Wedgewood Blue. A black Pigma or Itoya permanent pen, 005. Jo Sonja's Flow Medium, Designs From The Heart Wood Sealer and Satin Finish Varnish. Krylon #1311 Matte Spray.



Trewax Floor Paste Wax in Indian Sand and Clear. Clean and soft lint-free cloths and several clean old toothbrushes help with the wax antiquing.