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Miniature Mallard Woodcarving

Pat Mikula-Moore carves and paints a realistic-looking miniature mallard existing in a natural wildlife habitat.

Materials and Tools:

drawing paper
2 pattern copies
basswood block approximately 3" x 5" x 6"
rubber cement
band saw
safety carving glove
1" straight or #3 gouge
large, medium and small #9 gouges
large, medium and small #11 veiners
medium-sized bench knife
small fine-detail knife
sharp 2-3 mm V-tool
medium V-tool
5/8" V-gouge
carving tools
various grits of files or sandpaper
deffuzer pads on a mandrel
rotary tool for defuzzer
safety glasses
tack rag
spray lacquer sealer
white gesso primer
various sizes of paintbrushes
paper towels
water source
craft foam plate for a painting pallet
pine oval base approximately 5" x 7"
stain or paint for base
small piece of driftwood
two-part epoxy
green, gold, black and brown acrylic paints
rubber gloves
plastic zipper bag
bamboo skewers
craft sticks
1/16" x 6" brass wire or rod
wire cutter
power drill and 1/8" and 1/16" drill bits


1. Sketch a bird (mallard) design and make two copies — a master copy and a working template.

2. Cut out the working pattern template with scissors.

3. Attach the top view of the working pattern to a basswood block using rubber cement.

4. Wear safety glasses. Cut the block following the outside line with a band saw.

5. Use the side-view pattern template and sketch in the silhouette. Sketch in the center lines on four sides.

6. Put on the safety glove. Rough out the carving up to the penciled lines using a large flat or #3 gouge, cutting one view or flat plane at a time before moving to the next. Round the hard edges using the same large gouge or a bench knife. Check the pattern template frequently as a reference and for symmetry.

7. Draw in the large areas of muscle and feathers groups using a marker.

8. Outline muscle and feather areas with various size gouges. Round these cuts to make a soft transition between areas, creating hills and valleys using the large flat or #3 gouges. Start with the top view first to lessen the chance of breaking the wings.

9. Pencil in the fine details such as the individual feathers, feet and cheeks.

10. Carve and outline these details with a 2-3 mm V-tool. Clean any rough areas using a fine detail knife.

11. Finish by filing, using an extra-fine diamond file or sanding the piece.

12. Pencil in the fine details on the underside of the birds wings (same process for the top of the bird).

13. Carve and outline these areas on the underside of the wings. File or sand using the same process as the top of the wings.

14. With a light touch, defuzz the woodcarving to eliminate leftover fine particles using a rotary tool and deffuzzing pad. Be sure to wear safety glasses and operate the rotary tool at a slow speed, going away from the wing tips.

15. Wipe the woodcarving with a tack rag.

16. Seal the finished carving with a lacquer-based sealer.

17. Using the deffuzing pad and mandrel, lightly defuzz the miniature woodcarving one final time. Finish sealing with a coat of lacquer.

18. Prime the bird woodcarving with a white coat of primer such as gesso. Several thin coats may be needed.

19. Block in the base coat colors: Use green for the head, orange for the feet, beige and blue for the wings. Use several thin coats of color to get a solid and even base color. Let dry.

20. Distribute the darkest shade of color anywhere shadows might naturally occur. Let dry.

21. Highlight areas using the lightest shade of color. This is where the sunlight would hit on the high spots of each color. Dry for 24 hours. then seal with at least two coats of lacquer sealer.

22. Prepare the oval base. Sand, stain or paint the base, then seal the base with lacquer spray. Glue a small piece of driftwood to one side of the base to create interest to the wildlife woodcarving.

23. Mix papier-mâché, water and acrylic paint for a base color such as black, brown or gray to match natural-looking ground colors.

24. Model the papier-mâché mixture neatly around the driftwood piece and to the edge of the wooden base using craft sticks or a gloved hand to smooth it into place. Let dry for 24 hours.

25. Carve bamboo skewers to resemble cattails using a small detail knife.

26. Assemble cattail leaf clusters using natural grasses or bamboo shavings.

27. Make the supporting rod using a brass wire the thickness of the bamboo cattails.

28. Rough up the brass rod with sandpaper to accept the painting later.

29. Paint all cattail pieces using green and brown acrylic paints. Let dry.

30. Drill small holes in the papier-mâché using a 1/8-inch drill bit.

31. "Dry fit" the cattails and the leaves into the drilled holes in the papier-mâché.

32. Mix two-part epoxy and glue these pieces permanently into the drilled holes. Let dry.

33. Dry brush shades of green, brown, gold and black onto the papier-mâché and epoxy fitting to resemble a natural wildlife habitat.

34. Drill a 1/16-inch hole on the underside of the mallard, the same size as the brass rod, and mount the painted bird on the completed habitat base of your miniature mallard woodcarving.

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