Introduction: Wooden Piggy Bank

About: Hi, I'm Sam and I like to make things - check out some of my projects below. I worked for this site from 2014 - 2023 and have nothing but love for the Instructables community. Keep making great stuff!

I have wanted to get into wood carving for a long time, with both hand tools and power tools.

This wooden piggy bank is my first attempt at a power carving project, and was made for one of my kids as a Christmas present.

It is made from layers of scrap pine boards which were cut, glued up, carved down, and finished into the little pig you see here. It is approximately 11" long, 6" tall and 6" wide, with a cavernous belly to hold all the monies.

This was a fun project, and I learned a lot along the way.

Hopefully you can learn something from what I've shared here, and perhaps even be inspired to carve your own wooden piggy bank. Thanks for taking a look!

Step 1: 360-degree Look

Here's a look all around the finished wooden piggy bank.

Step 2: Pattern and Pieces

I began by drawing up a pattern, which is linked below as a PDF should you want to give this a shot. The general look and shape was inspired by a small pig toy that my kids have.

I could have carved this from a solid piece of wood, sawed it in half, bored out the middle, and then glued the two halves back together. But I have piles and piles of scrap pine boards, so I figured I'd try something a little different.

The pattern was used to create three different shapes, two of which are used twice each, and one of which is used four times, for a total of eight layers. Please see the pattern itself and photo notes above for details on the layout.

I laid out the pieces so the grain runs in alternating directions in corresponding boards, both because I thought it might look cool, but also to provide some added strength to the finished pig. For the narrow legs to be strong, I ensured that the boards that would be making up the bulk of the carved legs had the grain running vertically (these are the outer "B" boards.)

With these considerations (and a keen eye to avoid any knots), I laid out the pattern pieces and everything was cut out with a band saw using a narrow, fine-toothed blade.

Step 3: Outline Top Profile

The layers were stacked together, and the top profile was drawn on.

Step 4: Mark for Open Space Cut-outs

The two "A" boards in the middle and the two inner "B" boards will have their middle areas removed. These were marked accordingly.

About an inch was left all around the outside to provide plenty of material for carving and shaping.

Step 5: Cut Out Open Spaces

The open spaces were cut out with a band saw, with the entry cut made at the bottom of the pieces.

These entry cuts are in the same location where the bottom hole for the plug will be made later on, so they won't actually exist on the finished piggy bank.

Step 6: Glue Up Layers

The layers were glued up and clamped two at a time, as it would be next to impossible to glue all the layers together in one shot.

So for each half the order of gluing was thus:

  • A plus inner B, and outer B plus C
  • Once dry, AB plus BC

Then the two completed and dry ABBC halves were glued together.

Step 7: Cut Out Top Profile

The top profile was then cut out on the band saw.

It's terribly difficult to pick your nose with your knuckles, so please mind your fingers.

Step 8: Carving Burs

I'm using a Foredom woodcarving kit along with some carbide burs, most of the time using this carving table I built a while ago.

I basically used the burs in order from left to right, as I got down to finer and finer details. The larger red burs are quite aggressive and worked great for roughing and rounding out the basic shape.

The blue bits were great for slightly finer details, while the small double-cut bur was excellent for the finer details like the eyes and tail.

As I said, I'm a complete newby when it comes to power carving, so I did a lot of experimenting and fiddling around with different bits and burs to see what I liked.

Step 9: Mark Waste Areas, and Dig In

I marked on the pig the areas where I wanted to remove material, and started rounding off the sharp angles.

Making guide marks like this makes a huge difference, and helps to keep you from removing too much material.

I would not recommend using a sharpie marker for this however. It bleeds into the soft pine and there were a couple of places where I needed to remove extra material just to remove the pen marks. Pencil is much better!

Step 10: Refine Shape

I kept moving the pig around and viewing it from different angles, and removing material a little here and a little there.

The idea is to remove enough material that it stops looking angular and boxy, and appears to be a general pig-shape.

Step 11: Eyes, Part One

For the eyes, I left round bulbous protuberances in the eye areas.

Then I drew on an eye-like shape with pencil for each eye.

Step 12: Eyes, Part Two

Using a small bit, I carved out the top of the eyeball, leaving the upper bulbous area intact to be the upper eye lid. Then I cut out the bottom in the same manner.

Then a bit of careful shaping was done to refine the eye further. I then repeated this for the other eye.

The tail was carved out with the same small bit.

Step 13: Unfinished

Here's a look at the carving work once I was satisfied with it.

It was still fairly rough, but I was perfectly happy to leave it that way.

Step 14: Coin Slot

The coin slot was made by drilling a couple of holes and then using a jig saw to connect them. I then gently nibbled the roundness of the holes away with the jig saw into a square-ish shape for the corners.

Step 15: Bottom Hole

The bottom hole was drilled out with a 2" hole saw. The rubber plug whose large side was 2 3/16" across was purchased at a hardware store for a few bucks.

Step 16: Staining

The finishing I did on this piggy bank was a multi-step process.

I began by applying a light color of oil-based stain.

Once the stain was dry, the pig was brushed with a coat of shellac to seal the first coat of stain.

When the shellac was dry, I gave the entire pig a light sanding with 220 sandpaper.

I then rubbed on a darker stain, which penetrated the slightly roughed-up shellac just enough to add some depth and character to the wood.

Step 17: Subtle Painting

Layers of light washes of acrylic paint were added to age the pig a little, and to emphasize the grooves and cracks around the eyes, nose, mouth, legs and tail.

To create this faux grime, I primarily used a dark umber color mixed with a bit of black.

This subtle painting and aging really helped define the features of the pig. Prior to this step, the features just didn't stand out and the entire pig looked kind of 2-dimensional.

Step 18: Clear Coat and Wax

A protective layer was created by spraying on several coats of semi-gloss lacquer, with a rub down of superfine steel wool in between coats, and after the last. This method results in an ultra smooth finish.

The final step is to rub on and buff off a layer of wax. This completes the finish and makes all the colors really pop.

Step 19: The END!

If you make one, please leave a photo. I'd love to see how yours turns out!

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