Carving Beautiful Things.

After some months of carving spoons I started wondering what else I could make with wood. Having been recently inspired to make masks for the Blazing Swan festival, it became obvious that this a carved wood mask would be the next step. Armed with a log of Fiddlewood (Citharexylum spinosum), some carving knives, an axe and some gouges, I started chipping away.

As per usual there was no real plan for what I was making, I was after all, just experimenting.

Other than mushrooms, there is another motif that I’m quite fond of which is skulls. Many years ago I was reading a zine (don’t ask, I can’t remember) and it had some kid asking a punk why punks always have skeletons in their artwork. To this the punk replied something along the lines of “we use skeletons because they’re humans without the judgement we make on gender, size, skin colour & ethnicity”. I always loved this and look at skulls with this thought often in mind. How fitting it is then, to make a carved wood mask in the shape of a skull!

How the carved wooden mask ‘Dead Wood’ came together…

My first goal was to carve this without the help of electricity.  I started chipping away at the wood with my axe but soon realised that without more specialty tools this would be too much of a challenge for me. I dusted off my angle grinder with its ‘Arbortech Woodcarver’ attachment.  This is a tool I am terrified of using as this particular angle grinder has no safety stop. It just goes! So if I was to slip, or the attachment caught, it could end VERY badly.

Abortech Woodcarver Attachment used for carved wooden mask dead wood

Abortech Woodcarver Attachment

It is excellent to carve wood with though. Especially for getting rid of large amounts of wood in a short space of time. I should name this attachment with a scary name like the Gutripper or something.

Over the course of a few afternoons I started shaping the mask. It was a summer project and wearing full protective clothing got extremely hot very quickly. Nonetheless it started to take shape as a weird-looking skull.

carved wooden mask, dead wood, starting to take shape

‘Dead Wood’ starting to take shape

A few afternoons later I had also carved out the back of the mask. There was a growth within the wood that proved quite taxing on the attachment and even with a lot of sharpening, still burnt the timber with friction.

The back of carved wooden mask dead wood starting to take shape

The back of ‘Dead Wood’ also starting to take shape

Once the basic shape was formed I took to the mask with a much less scary tool; the rasp. It took many hours of rasping to smooth out this piece but it soon started to look fairly smooth and my excitement built. I drilled some holes through the eyes and nostrils and rasped/filed inside of them.

Finishing the wooden mask

The last stage was a lot of sanding with many grades of paper. I showed a friend the almost finished skull. She loved ‘Metal’ music and was an aficionado of anything with skulls, so her opinion was an important one. She looked upon my creation and I could tell through her body language that she was a little disappointed, even though she said she liked it. I stared at it for a while and noticed that something was actually wrong! I got on the www and browsed some pictures of skulls, something I should have done a lot earlier!   The mouth was all wrong. Aaaaargh!

I cut off the teeth and started fixing the jaw with the enthusiasm of a junior dentist. It started to look ‘right’.  After some more hours of sanding, detailing with the Dremel, and a mahogany stain it looked ready. I glued and screwed an old belt to the back so it could be attached to my head

Using a 50/50 mixture of beeswax and linseed oil I gave the mask it’s finishing coat and it was done! Another mask that turned out to be a bit heavy and uncomfortable to wear, but hey, being fashionable isn’t easy.

Finished shot of 'Dead Wood' carved wooden skull mask

Finished shot of ‘Dead Wood’ carved wooden skull mask

Dead Wood Mask
Article by:

Marcus F. Napieraj

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