Medium & Large : Carving a Fox
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, realistic or more of your own style. There are many different ways to carve the same animal. If your wanting a realistic carving try looking 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.
If a textured finish is preferred, I start using my rasp in a controlled direction from bottom to the top.
Feet: Looking at the feet of the fox, begin to file in between the legs to separate the left side from the right, staying as centered as possible, using the thinnest rasp available, with the fox silhouette this will leave you options on the stance. I carve this groove between the left and right limbs down to where I think the belly of the fox should be, you will have the option of four feet per side now. If a standing more stable look is what you are looking for then you will want to remove the set of "toes" furthest back on the hind legs and then remove the middle legs so that you are left with only four limbs. If a fox in motion is preferred then you will be choosing two legs on one side for the front and rear limbs and then removing the same limbs on the opposite side so as to create the look of an animal in motion. Once you have removed the limbs you don't want, this should open up the bottom belly area of the fox for you to shape the remaining limbs in your preferred style, don't make the limbs too thin as they will be susceptible to breakage. For fine feet details I use the pointiest rasp I have and “draw” in the individual toes and claws. Remember not to make them too thin in detailing or they will be prone to breakage or chipping. Narrowing the belly between the front and hind legs will help give the fox a more contoured look and also get rid of the “blocky” appearance it has to start. Making the neck narrower will also help create the definition between the body and the head.
Head: Look at the head; usually animal bodies are larger than the head so file the head down to be more proportionate with the body. I use roughly the width of a rasp per side too narrow the head and thus allow the front shoulders to flare out, I then narrow the nose more so as to define the cheeks. Try not to let it get too thin.
Ears: Ears are usually small and tapered. Do these parts at the end as they are easy to snap/file off if they get too thin. I save the division between the ears until I have the head the proper scale I want for my sculpture, then sculpting my ears with my rasp until they are close to the size I want them and then finish them up with the first stage of sandpaper.
Nose and Eyes: For the scale of the nose, I usually use the width of my rasp on either side of the snout and carve material away flush with the “brow” ridge. I then round it slightly and add some definition to the eyes and ears.
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
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.
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, small scratches will still remain. Follow with the next coarsest and remove all unwanted scratches, and then the finest grit will smooth your stones surface to a glassy texture. Continue until the sculpture is nice and smooth. Sandpaper one is an important step! The more consistency achieved in your first stage of sanding, the easier sandpaper two will be and the faster sandpaper three will be !! Then the more dramatic 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 overnight 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, wipe off excess after an hour or so. 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, just placing together to get a visual of how flush they will be. Once dry, 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, usually about 15-30 minutes, you can also wipe off any excess glue that has seeped out. Once cured, use a rasp to remove excess glue not wiped away, and continue carving. If there is a big gap missing instead of just a flat break , you can make a filler by mixing some extra dust with an epoxy glue. Mix well and apply quickly, do some adjusting of the epoxy before it starts too harden up. Rasp and finish your shaping when it is cured and it will sand smooth.