How to Power Carve a Shark out of Walnut
Work your talent on walnut and power carve your own masterpiece shark's head.
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If you are looking for something a little different for your next woodworking project, then this power-carved shark's head might be just the thing you're looking for.
With just a piece of walnut and some basic tools, you too can make your own version of this masterpiece. Follow this simple guide to find out how.
As you can imagine, like any project of this nature, you'll need some tools and materials before you get started.
Materials and gear needed
- Walnut wood lumber
- Dremel rotary tool and various bits
- Clear polyurethane spray
- Clear gloss polyurethane
- Pencil and paper
Step 1: Sketch out the design
Like any project of this nature, the first step is to plan your piece. Grab a pencil and some paper and get sketching.
In this case, as you've probably already worked out, the final work will be a shark's head breaking out the water surface. You can modify the design to however you see fit.
If this is one of your first forays into wood carving, try not to make your design too elaborate, but ultimately do what suits you. Since such projects are obviously in 3D, you should also take the time to mock-up sketches of the piece from various angles.
Once you've refined your design and are happy cut out the pieces and transfer the rough design to your block of walnut. You don't need to be too precise as you will likely modify the design as you begin to carve out the block.
Step 2: Begin the carving process
After you've transferred the rough design to the piece of walnut, take the block and secure it to your workbench. Then, depending on your design, cut off any large excess pieces as required using a hacksaw.
In this case, there will be empty space around the nose of the shark, so these can be simply cut off rather than carved out. Don't throw these pieces away as we will be reusing them in a little while.
Keep trimming off any excess not needed until the very rough shape of the shark's head is complete.
Once an edge has been removed, be sure to redraw your rough outline of the shark's head on the newly exposed edges to act as a guide for later carving.
With the removed sections, these will be reattached to the rough block to make the water splashing effects. Split them along the grain, as needed, to make smaller prisms of wood.
Once complete, glue them around the base of the walnut block and secure them in place using elastic bands until the glue is fully cured. You may want to add some notches here and there to the blocks to prevent them from slipping on the block's surface while drying.
Do not do anything else until the glue is fully dry!
Step 3: Begin the power carving process
With the wooden wedge pieces fully dry, you can now remove all the elastic bands in preparation for the main event -- power carving.
Grab your Dremel tool, and begin to work the sharp edges of the wedge pieces. We are trying to make them appear more organic and curved to simulate splashing water. Keep working the piece until the wedges blend into the main block and have a flowing water effect.
You can either use your eye to judge the realism of the design or use reference images to help guide you. Be sure to extend any curves into the base of the walnut block too.
You want it to appear to be one continuous flowing piece. When you've finished it should appear as if the whole piece was carved from a single piece of wood.
Once the rough overall design of the splashes is complete, switch out the Dremel bit to a smaller carving piece. Use this to add more splash details to the edges of the block and wedges of wood.
Map out and excavate wavy patterns all over the base and the wedges.
This will take some practice to master, so dare to make mistakes. You can always carve out any screw-ups, so don't worry.
Ultimately attempt to give the water portion of the sculpture an energetic and chaotic appearance as best you can.
Be sure to carve out the main water splashes around the shark's head too.
With the basic overall design, we can now begin to add more fine details to the piece. Switch out your Dremel bit with a cylinder burr.
This has a large surface area, so will make short work of the excavation work to come. Use this bit to really work into the nooks and crannies of the piece and give the water some real depth.
Keep working on the piece as needed.
Once you are happy, we can now move on to carving out the shark's head.
Step 4: Shape the shark's head
Swap out the Dremel bit once again, and then begin to shape the shark's head. Trim down the walnut to match the rough outline of the shark's head you've sketched in 3D.
Round the edges and attempt to make the head look as "real" as possible. Feel free to refine the design as you go and make the nose more pointy, or stubby, as needed.
Once you are happy with the rough overall shape of the head, we can then sketch out the position of some of the other main features -- like the jaws.
Once you are happy, grab your hack saw once again and cut out a wedge to make the rough void for the mouth.
Next, grab your Dremel once again and begin to round and shape the mouth as needed. Widen the void too as required.
Once you are happy, grab your cylinder burr once again and excavate the maw of the shark as needed. Sketch out the gums and tooth line of the shark, and carve the details using your Dremel.
Step 5: Continue to add more details to the piece
With the rough shape of the shark's head now complete, we can return to the splash parts of the piece and add more details. Using your cylinder burr, begin to carve out holes and deeper cavities.
Think of this process a bit like replicating the holes you often see in driftwood. Keep working on the piece until you've added as much further depth as you deem fit.
Once happy, switch your Dremel but once again to a finely detailed one and start to add fine details to the shark's head. For example, add the eyes.
Next, move on to the jaws of the shark and start to carve out the front row of teeth and gums, top, and bottom. Add other features like the shark's nostrils.
You will also need to excavate the areas of wood behind the teeth inside the maw of the shark too.
Once complete, move back the teeth and further refine their shape. With the front row of teeth complete, you can now attempt to add a second layer of teeth just behind them.
Take your time, and slowly remove layers of wood until fully formed.
Rinse and repeat for the top row of teeth, as needed.
Step 6: Smooth down all exposed areas of wood
With the main carved details more or less complete, we can now begin to clean up the sculpture. Add a smoothing bit t your Dremel, and run over all carved areas of the sculpture.
Work the tool into all the nooks and crannies, but be careful not to unduly damage any of the finer details on the model.
With that complete, grab some sandpaper and give the sculpture a good once over.
Once complete, you can add some more fine details using ink or paint. For example, darken the eyes of the shark to really make them "pop".
With that complete, tape over the water splash portion of the sculpture.
Once complete, take some clear polyurethane spray and add a thin coat to the entire surface of the shark's head.
Leave it to cure, and then fully remove all the tape from the splashes. Once complete, take some clear gloss fast-drying polyurethane and paint the water portion of the sculpture by hand.
This treatment should leave the splash details of the shark model darker than the shark's head. So, be sure to avoid accidentally getting any of the polyurethane clear gloss on the shark's head.
Leave to dry, and then your masterpiece is complete!
If you enjoyed this project, you might be interested in some more woodworking projects. How about something a little more ambitious like a scale model working car?
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