St Francis by Jim Rourke

Step1 and 2: Cut log to length desired and stand it up. This is a catalpa log. The customer who ordered this brought it to me to carve a St. Francis as a gift for his grandparents.  He had planted this tree as a child with his grandfather but the tree recently showed signs of dying and had to come down. So, it was a special sort of project.



Here is the result of the first tank of gas.  The saint is blocked out roughly leaving small blocks for the bird to be on his shoulder and for the bird on the oval bowl he will be holding.  The face area is also just framed by the hood but already you should be thinking about where the nose will end and how the head will be positioned in relation to the body so it sits naturally, not too far forward or back.  The block at the bottom to the side will be a rabbit.  The centerline is established by carving the overlap of his cloak in front.  The overall height is decided and a shallow line is cut to show the top of the base.  I use a shallow cut here because I will stand back for a better look to check it out before going too deep to the point where it can't be changed if need be. And it did need to be lengthened a bit later on as you'll see.  The waistline is established by roughing in his rope belt. Lastly I made preliminary cuts where the cassock lays in layers around his shoulders. So far, so good, I haven't made any overly deep bad cuts and the major shapes are established.  That's all I hope for in the blocking out stage. Most of your major decisions are over now so relax!



    Here I've carved the small bird and touched up the bowl some.  The hands are just basically outlined.  The customer wants an actual bowl so it can be used to place birdseed in it so I'll give it some depth by grinding back and forth with the tip of the dime-tip bar.  The drooping sleeves of his cassock are hollowed out here also. Hollow up inside to where his arm should be.
     The face is pretty much completed except I thin the beard now and then as I progress.  He has no moustache.  I've deepened the outline of the hood around his face and deepened the neck area also. Good depth around the neck is important.  The hairline is carved rather round shaped in front like monks tend to have that circle of hair around their heads and bald on top.
     Basically to carve a face I start by making a triangle for the nose.  Then I make angled cuts towards each other to denote the eye socket's depth and proceed to round them out.  Once a nose is carved so it stands pronounced from the cheeks I carve the mouth by making two arched cuts that meet to form the lips, then I slightly undercut the lower lip. Add eyebrows, wrinkle lines, cheekbones and you're done!  Faces are hard, don't be discouraged. Try to avoid flatness, the most common mistake.  This face was carved entirely with the dime tip chainsaw and the whole carving was done entirely with two Echo chainsaws; a 404 with an 18" bar with semi-chisel .325 chain and an ancient 3000 top handle dime tip with quarter pitch chain.



Another view of the face. The cardinal ( chosen as an artistic reference to Catholic Cardinals) on his shoulder is done now.I've carved his feet wearing sandals and roughed in the bunny some more.  I've also extended the length about 3-4 inches as he seemed short-legged to me.  That's a common mistake I have to watch out for.



   This shows the rosary beads carved as they hang from his rope belt.  The loose ends of the belt are also carved now and the belt is detailed with relatively evenly spaced incisions to make it look woven.  The cassock has folds added now by coving with the tip of the dime bar and sharper folds are made by sharper cuts.  Vary the length of the folds and go deeper and wider near the bottom, sharper and narrower at top.



This picture shows the cardinal on St. Francis' shoulder.  Be careful carving the beak with your dime tip, little bird's beaks break easily. Well that's it!  Here's the completed carving from different angles. The catalpa wood was really great to carve, not too soft, not too hard and it holds detail pretty well.  St. Francis is a pretty popular garden sculpture I've had a few requests for over the years so I hope you'll give one a try someday and this step by step was of some help to you!.