Carving a Caricature Colt

Simple stylized horse is easy to carve

This adorable little colt only requires a few tools to complete. Novice carvers can expect excellent results in a relatively short period of time and more experienced carvers can finish the project in a single day.

My first carving project was a horse similar to this one. Back in the 1970s, I worked in my dad’s sign shop. Smokey Joe Briemuiller, a family friend, would often stop in to sell his carvings. He could carve a horse similar to this one in 20 minutes.

Smokey Joe’s work fascinated me and I spent as much time learning from him as I could. Joe taught me how to make a carving knife from an old straight razor and taught me a lot about carving, most of which I still use today.

  1. Prepare the blank. Transfer the front and side profile of the colt onto a piece of basswood. Use a band saw to cut the side profile, but leave the wood on the side of the head flat for support. Make a series of cuts to remove of wood from the front of the horse, leaving a thicker rectangle for the face.

  2. Mark the legs. The carving blank will have four thick ecs Draw a centerline around the bottom half of the colt. Draw - - e legsand mark the areas to remove. You will remove ha *'o* car­leg. Be sure to mark the waste on both the side and end view s :: you don't remove the wrong sections.

  3. Remove the waste around the legs. Use a knife or a Y/ #3 gouge. Don't be too concerned about clean cuts at this point.

  4. Shape the areas where the legs meet the belly. Use a knife to separate the legs from the colt's belly and begin rounding the belly. Remove the wood between the legs. Use a knife or %" #3 gouge. Use caution because the grain can change unexpectedly.

  5. Round the chest. Use a knife to round the chest and create a natural flow from the chest down to the front legs.

  6. Shape the back of the head. Continue the centerline down the head, which is turned inward. Use the centerline as a guide to draw in the back of the neck. Remove the waste along the curved neck with a knife

  7. Shape the legs. Remove the sharp corners. Think in terms of triangle and diamond shapes. This will give you enough wood for a proper fetlock. Keep the upper legs thicker than the lower legs.

  8. Shape the tail. Mark the sides of the tail and carve off the waste with a knife. The tail will end up being diamond shaped.

  9. Rough in the head. Sketch in the sides of the muzzle and carve away the excess wood. Taper the forehead back to the ears and then taper the back of the ears down to the neck.

  10. Rough shape the left side of the colt's neck. Use a %" #9 gouge to get a nice round neck. Keep the gouge cuts above the main part of the body. Work toward the centerline on the back of the neck, but leave extra wood for the mane.

  11. Sketch in the mane. Sketch in the thickness of the mane by drawing a line !4" outside the centerline on both sides. Draw another line on the side of the blank to define the top of the right side ofthe colt's neck.

  12. Rough shape the mane. Use a knife to remove the waste wood between the mane and the right side of the colt's neck. Use a %" #9 gouge to smooth and round the neck, shaping both sides of the neck back to the lines defining the mane.

  13. Carve the jaw line. Draw in the right side of the colt's jaw. Stop cut along the jaw line with a knife and then cut up to the stop cut to remove the excess wood. Sketch in the bottom of the muzzle and the left side of the neck.

  14. Separate the muzzle from the neck. Use a 16" #7 gouge to remove the stock between the body and the muzzle. Do not remove too much wood from the body. It's better to have a thinner muzzle than a thin body.

  15. Shape the body. Remove any remaining saw marks. Use a knife to round any uncarved sections of the body, such as the rump and belly. Make sure the legs blend into the body naturally.

  16. Shape the ears and mane. Taper the top of the mane with a knife. The mane is thinner near the ears and thicker as it nears the colt’s body. Carve out the wood between the ears and shape the top tuft of the mane with a detail knife.

  17. Round and shape the muzzle. Use a knife to carve away the sharp corners, refining the shape of the muzzle. The face is wider at the forehead and tapers down to the muzzle.

  18. Add the eye channels. Use a knife to further refine the face. Make sure you have the shape right, and then carve from the eye area down to the tip of the nose with a 14" #11 gouge. Smooth the ridges with a knife.

  19. Carve the inside of the ears. Draw in triangles forthe inside of the ears. Carve out the three-sided chips with a detail knife. Make sure the cuts intersect to release the chip cleanly .

  20. Carve the eyelids. Draw in the top of the eyes and stop cut along the lines with a carving knife. Carve up to the stop cuts to free a small chip. Draw in the lower eyelids and use the same technique to carve the lower eyelids.

  21. Carve the eyeballs. Remove three small chips of wood to produce a slightly raised pyramid-shaped eyeball, centered inside the eyelids. Repeat for the other eye. Draw in the nostrils and mouth.

  22. Carve the nostrils and mouth. Strop cut along the nostril lines. Carve up to the cuts with a knife to remove the chips. Cut in at an angle on both sides of the mouth line with a knife.

  23. Refine the tail and mane. Make a series of V-cuts along the mane and tail to separate them into sections. Extend the cuts to the base of the mane, curving the cuts to indicate movement and flow. Enlarge the V-cuts and further refine the separation.

  24. Carve the hooves and fetlocks. Draw in the hooves and carve along the lines with a small V-tool. Cut from the bottom of the hooves up to the V-cut to separate the hooves. Carve a few shallow lines with a V-tool across each fetlock to simulate hair.

  25. Shape the bottom of the hooves. Carve a groove along the back corner of the hooves with a 14" #11 gouge. Remove any saw marks or rough cuts with a knife. Then apply several coats of Watco natural finishing wax.


    •   216" x 4" x 516" basswood

    •   Watco natural finishing wax


    •   Carving knife • %" #9 gouge

    •   Detail knife • %" #11 gouge

    •   16" #3 gouge • Small V-tool

    •   16" #7 gouge