Introduction: Make a Full Size Wooden Mask From a Flat Board Using a Bandsaw

About: I split my time between carpentry & music. And, oh yes our pet bunnies Also check out the shingle art. Someday I hope to post an instructable for this

This is a proof of concept experiment. I came up with the idea after seeing some bandsaw bowls (such as rschoenm's instructable and it occurred to me that the same concept would work for any hollowed out project.

Step 1: Layout and Design

Layout and Design

This is a proof of concept experiment. I came up with the idea after seeing some bandsaw bowls (such as rschoenm's instructable and it occurred to me that the same concept would work for any hollowed out project.
After I decided to experiment with this idea of making a mask out of one piece of wood, I chose these 2 images of a Sepik River New Guinea mask from a 1960 Museum of Primitive Art NY Catalog (Raymond Wielgus Collection). That collection was later added to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I don't know if this mask is on view there. My intention is not to recreate the mask, but to give me a starting place. Having a front and side view picture was very helpful in deciding layers.

I'm guessing that in theory, portrait masks could be created this way, though in this project, I'm going for a quick and dirty effect.

The wood I'm using is a scrap pine board. It has a bow, but that will not be a problem since the layers will come from the same place. It also has weathered unplaned faces. Because this is an experiment and will probably be painted, I didn't bother with the usual prep for gluing up boards together.

quick math - for a 1X board which is actually 3/4" thick, a 45 degree cut should give up to a 3/4" glue surface. Now a 90 degree cut would give no glue surface and therefor a 22.5 degree cut (67.5 degrees from horizontal), which is halfway between, gives a 3/8" glue surface.

After I figured this out, I had to lengthen the top and bottom of the mask so that each subsequent layer would work out. This meant working my drawings from the inside (furthest forward) to the outside, making sure that each layer had 3/8" all the way around.

Step 2: Bandsaw

First outside cut is at 90 degrees. Subsequent at 22.5 degree cut (67.5 degrees from horizontal).

The entry cuts were planned to be in slightly different places, so that as each one is glued and then layered, they wouldn't be as noticeable or prone to create a weak point.

However, once I actually began the cuts, I ran into several unanticipated problems. This was my first time tilting the bandsaw table and I suddenly realized that when the table was tilted, in order to do the cuts, I had a very limited turning area. This meant that I had to cut each layer into 2 pieces, except for the last 2 pieces. I also changed the design on the fly so I wouldn't have to end up with 3 or 4 pieces. After I finished the cuts, I realized that when finishing the cut on the the 2nd half of side, I would lose a triangle as the 2 bevel cuts crossed. These small triangles ended up on the next layer. I think that I can overcome some of these problems the next time, if draw the design from the bottom (back) side so that the bevel would cut in the other direction and I would have room for a much wider piece.

Step 3: Clamp It

Clamped the mask together in stages. Next problem that came up was during the glue up. By the time I reached the last 2 layers I had misplaced the glue lines of the 2 halves enough that the piece had shrunk and I had to adjust the length of the 2 halves from each of the last 2 layers.
When it was all glued, I ended up with too much of a gap on the top and bottom of each layer. I caulked the outside of the top and bottom joints to seal it so that I could pour epoxy into the inside corners. you can see remnants of the white caulking in the photos). After the caulking was sufficiently dry, I turned the mask over with one corner facing down, so that I could pour epoxy into the joint and set it at just the proper angle so that it would fill the corners without dripping over the edge. When this had dried sufficiently, I tilted it the other way, and repeated the epoxy pour for the opposite end.

Band sawing and gluing the piece together and filling the gaps took less than 1 1/2 hours. It gave me a fairly thin yet sturdy shell to carve. If I had carved out a blank I would have been sweating out the thinning process and probably in the end left it much thicker than it needed to be.

Step 4: Carve It

Finally here are some pictures of sketching on the mask and the final carved mask.
Still to be painted/ finished. As you can see the glue seams are very prominent, but with the appropriate amount of planning and preparation they will be much less prominent. Sorry this is not a tutorial on wood carving so I did not . Hopefully you already know something about that.

Final weight 10 ounces.