Carve a Miniature Tiki Mask and Color It Cheaply and Eco-friendly




About: I'm an electrical engineer and work in the e-Mobility business. I really enjoy collecting skills and learning new techniques. Although I'm not an expert at any of my hobbies, I'm pleased with the results mos...

In this instructable I want to show you how you can carve a miniature tiki mask from scrap wood.

For non-toxic coloring and finishing, I used boiled linseed oil and coloured pencils.

I only used the most basic tools and materials, so almost everyone should be able to do this for free or at a very low cost.

A warning to all woodworking/carving professionals out there:
I am not a professional carver. In fact, this was my very first attempt at carving anything.
Please forgive me if I made stupid noobie-mistakes, but feel free to comment.

Also, I am not a native english speaker, so please excuse my spelling or grammar mistakes but please feel free to correct me.


I made a second tiki mask which I posted as slideshow:

Step 1: Tools and Materials


scrap piece of wood from the hardware store (probably pinewood)


for marking
- pencil
- ruler

for carving:
- optional: chisel for shaping the piece of wood
- various types of exacto knives (try to figure out which blades work best for you)
- sharpening tools for the blades
- a bristle brush to remove the wood shavings (you could also blow them away but that's more messy)
- superglue to replace wood pieces that broke away and to seal cuts in your fingers
  (you don't want blood on your wood and band-aids are annoying when handling small objects and knives)

for coloring and finishing:
- colored pencils
- Blu-tack
- steel wool
- boiled linseed oil
- cotton swabs to apply linseed oil
- paper towels to remove excess oil

Step 2: Shaping the Piece of Wood

A tiki mask usually has a convex face.
So, the first thing you have to do is make the face of the rectangular block into a convex face.

For this step, you can use a knive or try to use a chisel.
I used a chisel for the big parts that needed to come off and then made the surface even with an exacto knive.

I would not recommend using a belt sander or sandpaper for shaping the wood.
The sand paper will leave tiny abrasive particles in the wood that will blunt your blades as you work.

It helps to draw the convex shape to the faces of the wood and then work it until it has an even shape all the way across.
You can either control the shape by using a straightedge lenghtwise along the surface or just by feeling and eyeballing it.

Step 3: Getting Inspiration and Drawing Your Design Onto the Wood

To get some inspiration for this project, I looked on the internet for the various styles of tiki masks.
I tried to figure out what elements I liked best and then combined them to one design.

Drawing a grid onto the piece of wood helps to get a symmetric look.

Step 4: Carving the Tiki Mask

After you have drawn your design,  it is time to carve the wood.

Try to start with easy cuts such as small and straight grooves. This helps to get used to the material and the tools.
try out different tools to finde those that work best for you.

Remember to keep your fingers out of the knive's way. It might help to somehow fix the piece of wood onto your table.
I used clamps to fix a wooden board onto my table against which I could support the piece I was working on.
This way I didn't have to hold it and my fingers were out of harms way when the knife slipped.

Step 5: Coloring and Finishing

When you are satisfied with your carving, start to clean up any pencil marks. The wood might also be a bit dirty from handling it.
I used blu-tack for the pencil marks and steel wool to clean the surface.

For coloring, I used coloured pencils. Just paint you work with the pencils and take off excess pigment with blu-tack.
Then apply the boiled linseed oil with a cotton swap and let it soak for a few minutes. After that, you can take off the excess oil and pigment with a paper towel. The linseed oil needs quite a bit of time to dry (actually, it doesn't dry, it oxidizes) so leave it at least overnight. Then you can add more color and a few more layers of oil by repeating the process and letting it dry after every layer. If you feel that the wood is saturated, your work is done!

Boiled linseed oil is a natural, non-toxic treatment for wood that has been used for centuries. Since the coloured pencils are made for kids, I would assume that tey are non-toxic too. Although the linseed oil has a very specific smell, I think it smells a lot better than other wood treatments.

Step 6: Finished!

After the tedious drying process, you have your own miniature tiki mask!

Now you can hang it somewhere or give it to someone as a present.

To hang it, I bent a triangle shape out of wire and attached it at the backside with tape.
You could also use a self-adhesive picture hanger.



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    26 Discussions


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Wait really, " superglue to replace wood pieces that broke away *and to seal cuts in your fingers*"

    *("and to seal cuts in your fingers")

    really come on is that a joke or something, because you could lose a finger that way.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    nope, no joke :D
    done it hundreds of times, still all fingers attached...
    the cut heals better than with a bandaid ;)
    doctors actually use cyanoacrylate-based glues to seal wounds...
    of course, the glue I use is not certified for medical use, but I haven't had any problems so far. (this is my personal experience)
    In fact, cyanoacrylate polymerizes instantly when it comes into contact with water. So it just closes up the cut and stays there.

    greetings from germany

    Dr The BoB

    3 years ago on Step 6

    Cheers mate!

    I've been doodling a Tiki Idol for a while now, that I'm planning on using as the front panel for a computer case I'm putting together.

    Thank you very much for the instructable, its going to a long way in helping me get it built.


    1 reply
    majjussDr The BoB

    Reply 3 years ago on Step 6


    this sounds awesome! Please post a picture when you're finished! Or even an instructable! Good luck with your project!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    is it easy and how fast can someone make it because i am thinking to have it as a bonus to an assesmentt task that is due 9th october

    jreynolds iii

    4 years ago

    Thumbs up! nice results,especially for your first go at carving. (bonus points if you kept all your fingers attached)

    1 reply
    jreynolds iii

    4 years ago

    Thumbs up! nice results,especially for your first go at carving. (bonus points if you kept all your fingers attached)


    4 years ago on Introduction

    For rounding the wood, you might want to try a hand plane. I used a cheap one to round off a hiking stick and the results where quite good. The end result is similar to what you would have if you used a knife but trust me, it's easier and a lot faster. Great carving! Keep it up! Woodcarving is fun and very rewarding.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction


    thank you so much for your positive feedback and the great tip!

    If you haven't noticed yet, I have made a second instructable with pictures of my second tiki ;)

    A few days ago, I found the two small tikis I made and I really want to carve another one soon. I will absolutely try to round the wood with a hand plane. I'm just worried that the small piece of wood might be hard to handle with a hand planer without cutting myself. So, maybe I will round a longer piece of wood and cut it to tiki-sized bits after rounding.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Like the carvings, Looks like a cool project. I would like to use them for wood carving this summer at camp.

    Just some interesting facts about your last page. My aunt would always point out Non-toxic just means that it wont kill you right away. And boiled Linseed oil is mostly harmless (don't drink it for breakfast) however the fast drying kind in the big box stores has heavy metals in it which are toxic (again don't drink for breakfast.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, thanks for your comment! Please feel free to use it for your summer camp!
    It would be great if you shared some pictures!

    I don't know for sure which additives were in my linseed oil, but I think they have to be declared on the bottle, I will look at the bottle's label when I get home!



    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that they don't have to be listed on the bottle only on the msds sheet. It would be just fine as long as you don't eat it or put it on something you were going to eat off of. I will take pictures.

    Dream Dragon

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work, and Thanks for sharing your project. There's no one consistent type of Tiki because it is a general umbrella term for a style of carving mainly from Polynesia, but it might be worth thinking about what your Tiki represents?

    An "Air" or "Sky" spirit might have birdlike attributes and be decorated with Feathers, while an "Earth" or "Forrest" spirit might be more tree like and decorated with leaves. Think also about Rock, Fire, and Sea Spirits, things that primitive island people might venerate.

    If you are doing this project with Children in mind, they might find it interesting to invent the myth of their particular Tiki, explaining who it is and what it does.

    1 reply
    majjussDream Dragon

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction


    thanks for sharing this interesting information!
    Maybe it will give me some inspiration when I carve my next tiki.

    Chris Bilton

    7 years ago on Introduction

    looks really good, and so simple, a great start to a fabulous hobby, well done !


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I think that would be possible. But maybe you would have to use different tools for working with bone.. I imagine bone to be kind of hard and way more brittle than the soft wood I used in this project.
    I don't know if the coloring process will work for bone.
    I wouldn't use boiled linseed oil for finishing bone, as it changes to a yellowish colour when it oxidizes. This would discolour the bone material.
    You could use a runny type of cyanoacrylate (superglue) to soak the material after coloring with the pencil. This will strengthen the material and could bond the pigment to the bone. After the glue has bonded, the piece can be polished, but I don't know how much of the pigment will remain.

    If you try it, please let me know how it worked!