Cute Shelf-Sitter Cats

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Cute Shelf-Sitter Cats

Folk-art felines make charming pins or decorations

By Shawn Cipa

I designed these carved dark and orange house cats to be mounted on my version of Noah’s ark. However, you can easily modify the patterns to turn them into shelf-sitters, pins, magnets, or ornaments. Adapt the paint suggestions to represent your family pet. Although there is a certain amount of detail and realism in these cats, I have attempted to infuse a modern folk-art flavor by incorporating bold colors and my own stylization. Before diving in to this project, check out how to care for your paintbrushes.


Cut the basic shapes with a band or scroll saw and carve the cats with your tools of choice. I use small palm gouges and a detail knife to work the pieces into shape and carve the details. I don’t sand the pieces, preferring to leave the carving marks to enhance the folk-art feel.


I finish my carvings in a four-step process. First, seal the carving by applying a thin layer of boiled linseed oil thinned to a 1:1 mix with mineral spirits. Let the mixture soak in for a bit, and then wipe off the excess with a clean cotton rag. Let the carving dry overnight. Next, apply acrylic paints thinned slightly with water. Layer the paints, shading with darker tones. When the paint is dry, seal it with high-quality fast-drying satin polyurethane. Apply the polyurethane as thinly as possible, but work it into all of the crevices. Let the carving dry overnight. Finally, antique the carving with oil-based gel wood stain. Slather the gel stain on, and then immediately wipe it off with a cotton rag. Let the carving dry overnight.

Painting Guide

Dark Cat

• Base for body: dark chocolate (1)

• Stripe detail: black (1): striping detail

• Facial details, stripe highlights: antique white (2)

• Inside of ears: flesh (3)

Orange Cat

• Base for body: antique gold (1)

• Lowlights for body: Jack o’ lantern orange (1)

• Stripe details: rookwood red (1)

• Facial details and paws: antique white (3)

• Nose, inside of ears: flesh (2)

1 Americana

2 Apple Barrel

3 Ceramcoat


• Basswood, 3/4″ (1.9cm) thick: dark cat, 1-5/8″ x 1 7/8″ (4.1cm x 4.8cm)

• Basswood, 3/4″ (1.9cm) thick: orange cat, 1-1/2″ x 2-1/4″ (3.8cm x 5.7cm)

• Acrylic paints: see Painting Guide above

• Boiled linseed oil

• Mineral spirits

• Fast-drying satin polyurethane

• Oil-based gel wood stain: antique oak, colonial, or old oak

• Cotton rags


• Knives: carving, detail

• Gouges: assorted small

• Saws: band or scroll

• Pencil

• Paintbrushes: assorted

About the Author
Shawn Cipa was recognized as “Santa Carver of the Year” after he won Woodcraft’s National Santa Carving contest. He is the author of several books with Fox Chapel Publishing. Shawn accepts commissions for his work and can be contacted at

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