Hand Carve a Majestic Buck

Hand Carve a Majestic Buck

With this project, I wanted to create a majestic look that captures the deer’s graceful movements. To accomplish this, I posed the deer walking down a sloped base.

I enjoy carving deer because even if you use the same general pose, you can give the deer a different attitude by changing the position of the ears. If you choose to make the project a doe instead of a buck, slim down the features of the body.

In this demonstration, I’ll insert the antlers before beginning the woodburning process. If I were to carve the project again, I’d burn the piece first rather than working around the antlers. This way, I wouldn’t have to worry about breaking the antlers. 

Start by tracing the left side-view pattern onto the blank. Cut the profile with a band saw. Trace the top, back, front, and right side view of the deer onto the blank. Leave extra wood around the legs so you can change the pose of the legs as needed.

  1. Rough out the side view of the deer. Use a 10mm #7 gouge. Leave extra wood around the legs and face. Draw in the legs and underbelly on both sides. Shade the areas to remove.
  2. Remove the extra wood around the legs. #7 gouge to remove the shaded areas. Remember, you are carving away half of each of the four legs.
  3. Rough out the legs and neck. Draw in the shape of the legs and neck. Carve away the extra wood with a 10mm #7 gouge.
  4. Rough in the shoulders, hips, and knees. Mark the areas to remove. Carve away the extra wood with a 10mm #7 gouge.
  5. Carve the bridge of the nose, eye sockets, and ears. Use a detail knife to remove the wood alongside the nose and at the base of the ears. Use a 14″ #7 gouge to carve the eye sockets and the area between the ears.
  6. Carve the cheekbones. Use the patterns as a guide to draw in the cheek areas. Carve away the extra wood with a 14″ #7 gouge. The eye area should protrude a bit. Taper the area under  the jaw with a detail knife.
  7. Carve the shoulders. Mark the angle and shape of the shoulders. Carve these areas with a 10mm #7 gouge.
  8. Carve the pelvis. Carve the pelvis and rump area with a detail knife. Then carve the lumbar region with a 10mm #7 gouge.
  9. Carve the eyes. Draw the eyes. Stop cut along the eye lines with a detail knife. Carve away small inverted pyramids for the tear ducts. Remove the excess wood in front of the eyeballs and undercut the eyeball to make it look round.
  10. Carve the mouth and jaw. Draw in the mouth and make a stop cut along the line. Shape the chin area and refine the bottom jaw where it meets the neck area.
  11. Start shaping the legs. Mark the centerline on the front side of the back leg. Then mark the bend in the knee, the brisket, and the Achilles tendon. Carve down at an angle from the center- line mark, which is the highest part on the leg.
  12. Finish shaping the legs. Cut at an angle from the bend in the knee to the brisket. Carve at an angle toward the Achilles tendon. You want a slight hollow on either side of the tendon. Use the same techniques to carve the other legs. The legs should end up roughly diamond shaped.
  13. Carve the nose and ears. Draw in the nose and hollow of the ears. Carve both areas with a %” #7 gouge. Use a detail knife to remove the gouge marks and round any rough areas on the deer. You may also use a flame-shaped ruby bit in a rotary power carver or sandpaper.
  14. Cut the antler blanks. Trace the pattern onto a 2″-thick blank. Cut along the lines with a band saw. Then cut the antler blank in half. Draw the front-view pattern onto the antlers.
  15. Carve the antlers. Remove the excess wood with a knife. If you want the buck’s antlers to look like they are in velvet for a spring or summer look, leave the antlers thick. For a fall buck, reduce the thickness of the antlers with a flame-shaped ruby bit in a rotary power carver.
  16. Drill the holes for the antlers. Mark the area to drill using the pattern as a guide. Carefully remove the wood to make a hole with a flame-shaped ruby bit in a rotary power carver. Be careful not to damage the head.
  17. Burn in the facial features. Draw in the facial features using the pattern as a guide. Trace along the features with a sabre woodburning tip. Burnish the eyes, nose, and inside the ears with the side of the woodburning pen. Use the tip of a flame-shaped ruby bit to texture the base where the deer’s hooves meet the base. Outline the textured area with a woodburing pen.
  18. Burn in the rest of the fur texture. Use the hair patterns as a guide. Then draw in the front hooves and the dew claw on the raised leg. Trace along these lines with the woodburner. Glue the antlers in place. Burnish the hooves and antlers with the side of the woodburning tip.
  19. Basecoat the white areas. Thin white acrylic paint with water. Apply a base coat of the mixture to the eye areas, neck, chin, underbelly, and tail area with a #5 soft-bristled brush.
  20. Basecoat the brown areas. Thin nutmeg brown acrylic paint with water and use the same brush to basecoat the brown areas. Paint the antlers with the thinned brown paint. Let the paint dry thoroughly.
  21. Drybrush the white areas and the antlers. Dip a soft- bristled brush lightly into undiluted white acrylic paint. Scrub the tip of the brush on the palette and lightly touch the bristles over the white areas to add subtle highlights. Use the same technique to drybrush over the antlers.
  22. Drybrush the brown areas. Mix white with golden brown acrylic paint until you have a light brown color. Use the same technique explained in step 21 to drybrush this mixture over the brown areas. Do not use this mixture on the antlers.
  23. Paint the black areas. Apply undiluted black paint to the eyes, nose, and hooves with a detail brush. Use the same brush to paint the mouth and dew claw. When dry, apply your clear finish of choice. I use a low-gloss tung oil, but lacquer or polyurethane will work as well.


•  3″ x 53A” x 614″ basswood or wood of choice

•  l”x1!6″ x2″ basswood or wood of choice (antlers)

•  Acrylic paint: nutmeg brown, black, dull white, golden brown

•  Low-gloss tung oil or finish of choice


•   10mm #7 gouge

•   %” #7 gouge

•   Rotary power carver with flame-shaped ruby bit

•   Detail knife

•   Woodburner with sabre and knife-point tips

•   Paintbrushes: Blick studio bristle #5 soft, Blick #5660 detailer, wide soft-bristled brush for drybrushing

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