I recently experienced a heart-stopping moment: searching for a specific piece of timber in the redundant pigsties where I store my carving wood, something rustled in a dark corner above my head. I froze, looked up and caught the bold stare of a small, stray ginger cat settled on top of a stack of timber. Each time I went in, Puss was not inclined to move. At first, I tried to shoo him away, our hens being uneasy with a feline presence, but Puss was having none of that. Now that feather and fur have become used to each other, I’ve found Puss an old cushion to sit on and he performs his rodent-control duty in comfort. So, maybe the saying is true: ‘A cat will choose its owner!’.
Things you will need…
• Axe and lump hammer
• 25mm or wider No.3 gouge and mallet
• Surform or plane
• 16mm, No.8, 9 and 10 gouges
• 10mm or 6mm, No.9 gouge
• 12mm, No.5 gouge
• 12mm, No.3 gouge
• 6mm, No.3 gouge
• 3mm, No.9, 10, or 11 gouge
• 6mm, 60° V-tool
• 6mm skew chisel
• Cabinet scraper
Wood: Cedar Dimensions: 300 x 200 x 150mm.
1. The first step, using a No.3, 25-38mm gouge and mallet, or a surform/plane, is to remove any loose fibres or splinters and flatten the surface with a wide No.3 gouge, surform or rasp until it stands steadily without rocking. When this is completed you can then remove the bark from the rest of the timber.
2. With a piece of chalk, draw an approximate outline of the cat shape as seen from above and using a hand saw, make a saw cut across each of the four corners down to the level of the cushion which the cat will be sat on, leaving approximately 38mm for this to be the base of the carving
3. Each of the four triangular sections can now be removed, either by sawing horizontally along the grain or by carefully working towards the sawcut using a wide gouge and mallet; this method will allow you to split off shallow slivers along the grain.
4. Having removed the corners, round over both ends using a deep gouge such as a No.8, 9 or 10, 16mm working from above and from the sides of the timber.
5. Cut the base of the tail at one end and the base of the front leg at the other end until no trace of the sawn surfaces remains.
6. End grain can be very hard to cut so use a narrower gouge, and wear eye protection if necessary.
7. Cut a groove or channel alongside the head and reduce the depth of the body by cutting towards and into the channel, then towards the tail, removing and lowering the body so that the head area stands proud. Extend the channel towards the back then underneath the chin.
8. Reduce the area in front of the chin, until you have formed a curving slope to accommodate the chest and paws, making the head approximately heart shaped. Remove the area between the ears. Using a No.3, 12mm gouge with opposing cuts, make a curving channel around the inner edge of each ear, cutting towards and into each channel to remove the area between the ears without damaging them. Carve them into a half-cone shape, both symmetrical and taper the tip of each to a blunt point. Now draw the face as a guide…
9. … and reduce the size of the head by cutting outwards from the centre — with the grain — along the length of the nose, lowering the nose and removing more of the chest if the head appears too flat.
10. Cut along the line of the edge of the cushion with a V-tool on the base of the tail, on the front of the cat, along the lower edge of the tail resting on the cushion, joining this to your first ‘V’-cut at the base of the tail.
11. Tilt the corner of the No.3, 12mm gouge across the upper edge of the ‘V’ channels cut and scoop outwards, with the grain. Repeat these V-tool cuts until the tool will no longer fit in the deepened edge between cat and cushion. Now undercut this join from both sides then tidy up the meeting edges of cat and cushion and remove any flaws.
12. Create the triangular depressions between the haunch and back leg and across the chest between the forelegs using the No.9, 10mm gouge until the outer edges merge into the shoulder and haunch and the inner sides of the forelegs.
13. You can now deepen the lower part of the chest, reduce the cat’s back towards his tail, then slope the back leg down towards his front paw.
14. The next step is to reduce the tail towards its tip and mark its edge by cutting a groove along the inner edge towards the front paw. On the foreleg, reduce the elbow into the fold of the back leg and belly.
15. Deepen the lower section of the triangular area between the front legs to make a ruff across the chest just below the chin. Here you may find it easier to cut a channel along both inner edges of the forelegs with a No.3, 12mm gouge using opposing cuts and then by cutting away from the middle of the chest towards each channel; the resulting mound between can be shaped into the ruff.
16. Continue reducing the haunch towards the foreleg and finish by shaping the rear end at the base of the tail into a blunt point. Finally, using the No.5 gouge, cut a gentle hollow behind the head and work over the whole carving, softening any sharp angles and edges.
17. Smooth off the surface of the head, making sure it is symmetrical, draw a centreline from between the ears to the tip of the nose and mark the eyes and nose in place. Flatten along the length of the nose, redrawing the centreline on the fresh surface and carve a hollow between nose and cheek pouches each side.
18. Reduce the lower jaw area beneath until the tip projects forward and is now prominent. Carefully hollow the triangular area between the brows by cutting away from the centreline and gradually reducing the depth of your cuts on the outer ends of the brow ridges.
19. Using the ‘V’-tool, mark both sides of the nose to the outer corner of the eyes. Begin each cut from the nose tip as far as the inner corner of the eye, then curve it round to the outer corner.
20. Then using the No.3, 12mm gouge, deepen the sides of the nose and both inner and outer corners of each eye, then round over the surface of each eye to form the shallow convexity of the underlying spherical eyeball.
21. Mark the outline of the nose and nostrils on the nose tip and cut the central cleft running down to the mouth. Round over each side of the upper lip into the division by inverting the No.3, 12mm gouge and shaving the edges of the groove into the cleft.
22. You can mark the mouth with the V-tool by cutting away from the cleft in each direction, unless, like mine, it is conveniently buried in the depths of the ruff around the neck. The whiskers can be shown by using the V-tool to make three or four lines on the cheeks.
23. Reduce the elbow into the fold of the belly, the back leg and shape the ankles, toes and ends of both paws, deepening the inner sides and the chest and cut a slight hollow above the toes, indenting slightly between each toe. With the V-tool, continue the cuts along each side of the tail, tapering it towards the front paw, and round it to a blunt point at the tip. Then reduce the back leg, losing it beneath the tail and the front paw.
24. Chamfer the ends/corners of the cushion so that they curve towards and meet the opposite side then smooth them off with a flatter gouge. Draw a continuous line around the cushion. Chamfer both the longer sides to a blunt ridge linking the corners and running around the whole cushion, then smooth off the surfaces as before. Finish the edge of the cushion with the V-tool and mark both sides of the piping covering the seam.
25. The outer edges of the piping are finished by using the corner of the No.3, 6mm gouge, held inverted and by slicing sideways from either side, to the highest point.
26. Thus rounding it over from both sides.
27. The ears have a little fold on the outer edges. Pare the outside surfaces smooth, shape the fold, and round over the outer edges of both ears.
28. Remove any pencil marks with an eraser then pare and remove any nicks or tool digs, checking all meeting edges are cleanly cut. Apply colourless wax polish, using an old toothbrush to work it well into crevices, then buff to a sheen with a lint free duster.