Thursday, August 20, 2009

Naiad Carving in Butternut by Donna Menke

This will be the fifth blog (in as many years) that I have done in order to document a woodworking project. As I started to work on this yesterday I decided that for better or worse this was going to be interesting, and should be shared. You should be able to follow my progress from the very beginning to the end. . . however that may be. Firewood? Work of art? We will find out together.
For a look at some of my other carving projects check out my web site:
I took the reference photos of this young woman 4-5 years ago. I have planned to do this carving ever since. I had to find a suitable piece of butternut- and the gumption to get started. Now it is time to get to work.
I am naming the piece Naiad for the nymphs of trees- wood is from trees- and I like working with wood. This is to appease all those ghosts of trees felled for my projects.
I have long wanted to try to carve a nude female figure. Figure sculpture by Ian Norbury has been the inspiration for this project, though he usually works in Walnut and I'm working in butternut. Another wood sculpture I admire is Fred Cogelo, who works in butternut exclusively. If my piece is 1/10th the quality of their work I will be satisfied.
To see more of my work please visit my web site:
Dug out the reference photos and traced over the major lines to make a pattern.
Transfered these lines to the 6x6x12" block of butternut wood.

Before I can do any cutting out of the blank with the band saw I need to check to make sure that both views line up so they will come out OK when carved. Darn- the feet are not consistent. The lower one in one view is the right foot and the lower one in the other view is that of the left. Back to the drawing board. This would have been easier to correct in the drawings, but I did it on the block and I think it is right now.
I split the difference between where the two feet ended, and redrew both feet to end up on that line. At least I think this will work. I had some trouble keeping the feet straight, so I labeled them and drew in a top view as a visual aid.
I really like this image. I first saw it in ad ad in a newspaper- it was 1x2", but it caught my eye. I find it graceful and not too revealing. I didn't want to do a 'naked' nude, but I didn't want to add clothing or a wrap. I think this fits the bill.
I'm not sure what I will do with the base yet. For now it will give me a hunk of wood to hold in the vise and with hold-down while I carve her. I may decide to do a series of relief carving around the sides of the base- trees? Leaves? Any suggestions?


  1. This is so interesting. I didn't realize this is how someone would start a project like this using photos from different angles. I'm looking forward to seeing more.

  2. thank you for sharing ! Ive have followed your carvings before and especially love the bird tutorial. Hope to see sucess for you and that you are appreciated for sharing your art.

  3. I did a drawing similar to this back in 2005. I always wanted to try my hand at carving. Maybe I'll try making the drawing into a carving. Yours seems to be coming along quite nice! Keep posting!!!



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