Carving Butterflies & Dragonflies
Carving Butterflies & Dragonflies
Congratulations! You have an opportunity to produce your own work of art.
As you carve your personal soapstone animal, you must remember
to have fun.
100 grit wet/dry sandpaper
320 grit wet/dry sandpaper
600 grit wet/dry sandpaper
Tung oil (food grade)
Think of what kind of carving you would like to do. There are many different ways to carve the same animal. Look at pictures in books or on the internet. Looking at a toy model of the same animal can also be helpful. It is good to find pictures of multiple angles.
Keep in mind that soapstone is a soft mineral, so detailed work is very limited. As with all minerals, you will get varying hardness between soapstone pieces; however they are all fairly soft.
Click here to download the printable PDF
Set up a bucket of water to carve/sand in,
or dip the carving in as you go.
Water keeps the dust down, making clean up much easier.
Look at your soapstone animal and decide which large areas need to be removed. Using a rasp, begin to file these areas away, remember, you're only removing stone, not adding any. Start with the areas that require the most material to be removed.
Shaping: Body & Wings
For butterflies and dragonflies I start by carving the wings down to help create the body, try not to make the wing too thin as they will be prone to breakage. For both of these silhouettes you can have the wings patterned or even separated into two different levels, so there is even more depth in your carving ! Once your wings are thinned down you can begin rounding the body, removing the square edges and perhaps creating segmented sections on the body as well. Again, don't go too far, you can always use your rasp or another carving tool to get your stone very close to the general shape you want and then bring it to your desired finish with the sandpapers. Once the wings and body are where I want them, I then begin with wing patterns as described below.
Work your way back and forth around the animal, not doing too much in one section at a time. Keep looking at all angles as you carve. It is easy to get carried away on one section and remove too much material. If this happens, you will just make the whole sculpture smaller.
There are natural
fractures in stone and
it can be easy to drop your
piece while carving.
If a breakage occurs, don't panic!
Let your piece to dry, then use
superglue to repair the break.
Allow time for the glue to
cure, and continue
Carving Details into the Wings
Now that the body of my butterfly or dragonfly is shaped, I can begin my finer detailing on the wings if wanted. I like to use a very pointy carving tool for this, whether it's the tip of my rasp, a nail, or even the tip of a file. When deciding any pattern I always start by drawing the pattern lightly on the stone, only when I'm certain about the design is will I begin tracing that pattern repeatedly to carve it deeper into the rock so when i start my sanding I don't have to worry about erasing my pattern with stage one. If you do though, just carve your pattern into the stone again.
Once satisfied with your animal's shape, it is time to begin sanding. Starting with the coarsest mesh of sandpaper, sand away all the unwanted tool marks, this will still leave small scratches behind, that is ok, your just looking for consistency on the surface of the stone. Follow with the next coarsest as it will remove the small scratches left behind. All the scratches or texture you don't want should be gone before sandpaper number three, and then the final sandpaper is the finest and will leave you with a very smooth surface !! Continue until the sculpture is your desired smoothness. Sandpaper number one is an important step! The better your first stage of sanding, the easier stage two will be and then sandpaper three will be faster, with all stages done properly the better the sculpture will look when oiled.
Sanding in water is a must, because frequently dipping it will show you where more sanding is needed.
Leave your sculpture to dry, or warm it on the stove top on low until the stone is completely dry.
Included in the kit is a food grade tung oil. Apply the oil with a thin rag, wiping off excess after a few hours. Allow 24 hours before applying a second coat. Tung oil leaves a more matte finish. If you want your carving to be super shiny, spray with an aerosol water-based wood varnish available from most local hardware stores. Traditionally, carvings are heated up and beeswax is applied to the surface.
Sometimes stones get dropped or seams in the stone let go and break while carving. When this happens, the first thing to do is stop carving.
Rinse off any dust on the carving and let dry. Do not rub the pieces together, as this may alter your contact points making the breakage point more noticeable and more likely the join will be visible . Once dry, if the break fits back together well, apply a medium viscosity superglue on one of your contact points. Place the two pieces together, squeezing them together until excess glue weeps out the sides. Place your carving it in a spot where it will sit undisturbed until the glue sets, wipe off the excess glue that has been pushed out and wait, usually about 15-30 minutes. Once cured, use a rasp to remove any excess glue, and continue carving. If there is a big gap missing, you can make a filler by mixing with extra dust with an epoxy glue.