My favorite rule of thumb is to do the easy and obvious areas first, working in gradually to the final shape. This means taking out the big chunks, the more I can prep with the band saw, or other quick waste removal tool, the quicker this stage goes. Use the big gouges and your mallet when necessary to hog out the rough shape, this can be a good work-out.  Whenever possible, designate the fixed items such as the pole hole, tail hole, saddle outline etc. so that you don't remove wood that you'll want later.   Drawing on some of the general shapes and designs on your animal is helpful, don't bother with details at this time.  Work toward a general shape just being careful to leave enough wood for planned details. I get good use out of my old sets of Prismacolor colored pencils at this stage, designating areas, high and low spots and so on.

Remember: When using a chisel without a mallet, you can push right through the wood or even come on down hard holding the chisel in your hands. When not using a mallet, one usually holds the chisel with the writing hand on the handle and your other hand on the steel chisel shank. When using a mallet, continue holding the steel chisel shank with your non-writing hand and hold the mallet in your writing hand. When using the mallet, you don't need to have a tight grip on the chisel shank, just be a guide for it as the mallet blows on the handle and steers the chisel through the wood. Your hands won't get as tired this way and your carving live will last longer.

When using the both hands on the chisel technique for more detailed carving, often times it really helps to give the blade a dual motion, the push from your writing hand on the end of the handle and a sideways motion with your wrist from your other hand holding the steel shank. This combined motion makes a diagonal cut through the wood which acts somewhat like a saw blade cutting, I use this technique especially on areas of end grain.


Very little sanding is done on a carved animal, if so, it is usually just before or after painting on the white primer.  My favorite time to sand is after all or most of the carving is done and the white primer has had several days to get bone dry.  Then all of the little wood hairs are raised and easy to smooth down.  When the animal is all white it is also a good time to see any last minute carving adjustments that might need to be made.  Use 36, 40, 50, 80, 100 and 120 grit sandpaper, the coarser paper is more for shaping, the finer paper for smoothing. Some shaping type sanding or rasping can happen at the building stage. A small hand held 2-1/2" diameter pneumatic drum sander is a good tool for shaping. Always cover the animal's glass eyes with masking tape early on if they are in, sand paper can make an unsightly scratch. Never sand an area which will be glued, sanding fills the wood pores with dust and makes a weak glue joint. If an area to be glued needs shaping, use a chisel, saw, or plane, etc. not sandpaper.
The different Stanley cheese grater type rasps and regular carpenter rasps are handy tools. The smaller pointed ,usually Italian, carving rasps are good for details, but usually your carving chisels will serve you better.


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