Carving a Wooden Gnome From Salvaged Wood





Introduction: Carving a Wooden Gnome From Salvaged Wood

How to make a wood figurine of a gnome. It really is a simple task, and for the most part, I just wanted to share my gnome.

Step 1: Wood Salvage

Wood selection is key when starting out whittling. Many have given up after picking a piece of wood that was intractable, a malleable wood type key to a first time good experience. In the 9th grade, I did a DIY project on whittling for my honors English class, but I failed horribly, and ended up showing my class how to put together a skateboard. It was dreadful drivel.

So, this is a 15 year plan in motion. It was always on the back of my mind, so when I was jogging one weekend, I saw splintered wood dividers from multiple car accidents, and I wondered, is that a soft wood. I picked up a piece and took it home.

As I examined it, I found some termites, so I treated the wood with some termite spray that I luckily had. I let it treat for a day, and then I washed it with soap. It was ready.

(There are some good pieces I'm thinking of salvaging and turning into totem poles.)

Step 2: Marking and Cutting

You don't want to waste time callousing your hands with a block, so take out your jigsaw and put your wood in your vise-grip and cut it down. After the first cut, pencil in the crude shape. The picture below is actually a digital example because I started this project before considering sharing it.

Step 3: Xacto Knife Callousing

So, the best blade to start out is actually the long blade, which is in my opinion, the perfect whittling device. It just makes sense with long strokes.

Continually draw your shapes and feature until eventually you get something like this.

Step 4: Paint Your Wood

I used acrylic base paints and mixed for desired colors. I actually did a couple different layers of paint and changed the shades until I liked the look.

Anyway, this is easy stuff, but maybe it will inspire someone.



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    10 Discussions

    I like it! Especially his ears.

    We have a large number of wood carvers in our local club that salvage wood from the beach. They have become very good at identifying the species. I cannot. They do it by color if it is fresh enough, bark, or sometimes by weight. Most of the time it is a good guess! Treeline USA is a good source for tools. I've purchased from them.

    Nice carving project! Keep your tools sharp!

    We have been working with wood carvers for years and lately we have had several people try wood carving on cottonwood bark. This bark soft but surprisingly stable and gives you a really neat grain pattern in your project. We also sell all the wood carving tools, materials, and instructions to help people learn how to enjoy this woodcarving hobby (habit). If you would like to see the wood carving chisels, carving knives, or other supplies check out our website at

    Is that a "Fight the power!" gesture or something else? I'm interested in the wood - would you call it "seasoned" or to any extent decayed - certainly looks dry. Type of tree? L

    6 replies

    So the horse trail wooden fence type is the source material, which I'm guessing it pine. It was a soft wood. Yes, I'm always fighting the power.

    Fence-posts can be helluva hard, was this in any way "weathered" or decayed? The paint-job is very neat considering how cheap and nasty the brush looks! (I've used those things) L

    I'm sure it had seen long and dreary nights including the collision that separated it from the post originally.

    It's Gnome Pride- he's protesting the loss of the fishing industry to the trawlers and fish farms :) The part I never got was how you wangle the rough shape so that you can make the details by just removing wood- I always think I'd carve off a bit too much nose trying to get the shape right, so would take some off the face to compensate, then have a sculpture with a freakishly small head or something. Do you just need a certain type of brain to be able to judge "the parts that don't look like a bear" and not overcarve?

    My details aren't as perfect as you can imagine, but the real trick is using the long knife and pushing the head of the blade with the back of your thumb. I used the sharp knife that is missing from the case to dig in details, but is is truly the long blade with the thumb pressure that gets the best results. Haha. My next whittling project is going to be ten times more complex than this little guy, but it is all about pre-visualization.:)