Carving Fins & Tails
Medium & Large :
Carving Animals with Fins and Tails
Whales, Shark, Fish
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 areas need stone to be removed. Remember, your only removing stone, not adding any. Using a rasp, begin to file the unwanted areas away, starting with the areas that require the most material to be removed.
Carving Tails and Fins
For fish, sharks, and whales I start by streamlining the body, narrowing the front of the head and behind the front fins. I leave the tail for last. I will also try and leave the front fins or flippers so as to keep them protruding at a higher level than the main body of the carving. Once I have tapered the body to my liking, start working on the flippers and/or fins. For whales, I create a little “bump” where the blowhole is, carving the rest of the head down around it. Once all my fins, flippers, and the tail are roughly raised out, I begin to carve some of the smaller details, like gills or fin nodules.
Work your way back and forth around the animal, not doing too much in one section at a time. Keep looking at it from 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 to maintain proper scale.
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
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. Follow with the next coarsest, and then the finest. Continue until the sculpture is nice and smooth. This is an important step! The better your sanding, 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 stovetop 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. 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. 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. Once cured, use a rasp to remove 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.