This is an Iron Man head I carved out of balsa. From chin to crown, it is about 145 mm tall, and about 90 mm wide at the widest part. It weighs about 150 g (a little over 5 oz.).
Step 1: Balsa Block Glue-up
I purchased blocks of balsa from a craft store and glued them all together as shown with wood glue. The individual blocks were approximately 3" x 5" x 1.5". When the glue was cured, the large resulting block was trimmed so the final dimensions were 6" x 5" x 3.5".
I made a side-view template of Iron Man's helmet by tracing a side photo of an Iron Man toy using basic drawing tools on my computer. I've included a PDF of that template just in case you are so inclined to make one of these.
Step 2: Carve Basic Shape, Lay Out Details
Using the template, I traced the outline of the helmet onto the wood. I hacked off some of the excess balsa to get down to the basic shape using a small wood saw.
Using the tip of a mechanical pencil, I traced and impressed the details of the mask into the balsa on either side of the block of wood. Then I drew in the details with sharpie to work as guide marks on the sides and front of the mask.
Step 3: Begin Carving
Using a heavy duty snap-style utility knife with the blade mostly extended, I began to carve out more of the basic shape.
If you use a utility knife in this manner it can be very useful, although EXTREMELY dangerous. You could do some serious damage to yourself or someone else if you're not careful.
Step 4: Continue Carving, Drawing in Details As a Guide
I continued carving and redrawing in details with a sharpie as I removed material.
Continually adding details with a sharpie as a guide and inspecting carefully after every couple of cuts kept me from making any drastic mistakes, like removing too much material.
Step 5: Begin Working on Details
I started working on more intricate details using a combination of coarse sandpaper, exacto blade, and a 1/4-inch chisel.
Step 6: Finish Carving, Sand Smooth
More fine details were added, and I gave the bare wood a final sanding.
As balsa is quite soft, it was easy to gouge and make little mistakes. These were fixed in the next step.
Step 7: Use Wood Filler to Smoothen, Fix Blemishes
I rubbed wood filler into the wood with my fingers, and then sort of burnished it into the wood with my palms. Working in small sections at a time, this created a smooth, non-porous surface.
I lightly sanded the surface and continued shaping areas that needed additional work. Once completed, the entire surface was smooth with no bare wood showing.
Step 8: Prime, Add Wood Filler, Sand, Repeat
I gave it a coat of spray primer, which revealed many little blemishes. These little cracks and holes and such were filled with wood filler, rubbed in really well, and then the whole thing was sanded and primed again. I went through this process three or four times.
More difficult details were added by carving out small areas of wood, refilling the void completely with wood filler, and then shaping the filler while it was still soft (second photo).
Step 9: Final Priming
Once I was happy with all the details, a couple of final coats of primer were added with a light sanding in between and afterward.
Step 10: Final Painting
I spray painted it with three or four coats of crimson red. When that was dry I added gold paint by hand, and then white to the eyes.
Step 11: All Done (with His Head at Least...)
That's it. Thanks for looking!