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Supplies Needed for Project:

  • X-Acto Knife with blades or a carving knife
  • 5/8 or 3/4 inch x 11/2 inch x 4 1/2 inch  block of wood       (basswood  or  butternut preferably with the grain running lengthwise)
  • Graphite transfer paper & pencil
  • Pattern, this one or one of your choice
  • #220 grit Sandpaper

  • Furniture oil,  paste wax, or paste shoe polish

  • Hopefully unnecessary,  an adhesive bandage

****If  printing this page, enlarge fish pattern to fit wood dimensions above)



X-Acto Handle Shapes & #11 Blade

Transfer pattern to the 1 1/2 inch side of the piece of basswood . Drill a small hole at the eye location to later insert your keychain. (Do this before cutting outline while you have more wood to hold) Cut out sides and one end of outline with a band saw or skill saw before cutting off the end length. You will have the block shape of your fish and be ready to carve.  

Basic Beginner Pattern

Determine which direction the grain is running. You will want your carving cuts to go with the grain. (Practice making a few cuts on a scrap of wood or a potato)  You will find that you must slice into the wood and all the way through the cut to come up and out at the end of the slice.  It is almost like using your spoon to scoop out melon balls. If you do not cut out at the end of your cut you will rip or tear the wood. Your cuts may be very short or longer, whichever you can do  easily without tearing the wood.  If your chip does not drop off by itself it is not cut all the way. Do not pull off your chips as this will also tear the wood.


Start carving your fish.  All that is needed with a stylized piece of art is rounding off all the edges on both the front and back side of the cutout.  Keep rounding off and shaping until you think it actually looks like a fish. Always cut with the grain (it is easier)  After you have rounded the edges, determine the center side line of your fish and do some more rounding as you probably quit too soon. Keep working until you have a nice smooth fish. It does not require any details of fins or scales.


from N W C A

The carvers of the Northwest Carvers Assn. want to encourage you to continue the art of carving. Try a few more simple stylized carvings before moving on.  We have added patterns for Christmas Decorations that may be carved in this same manner.  Soon you will feel comfortable enough to go on to more detailed relief or articles in the round.  You will be able to do any of these projects with the 3 basic tools mentioned in the FAQ page as long as you keep your tools sharp. Read  our other tutorials that we have added.   Enjoy our links. They will open the world of carving to you and introduce you to carving supply areas and also to more tutorials on wood carving.  


Be sure to visit our other web pages & links from our Home page


When you are satisfied, use the sandpaper to smooth the fish. Stylized art is usually smooth finished. You do not want any cuts to show. With more practice it will not take very much sanding and later on you can develop a style that requires no sanding.  Your fish will be smooth and feel good to the touch.


Dust off all sawdust and apply one of the finishes listed above.  If you have cut marks and use anything to finish with that has color, your marks will show . (Don't want that) Attach your chain and the project is finished.



Created by BMiller......updated Dec 2016