Holiday Carving / Patterns & Projects

Holiday Memories Santa

Quick and easy carving produces a functional display

By Shawn Cipa

This Santa project provides an ideal way to display your favorite holiday photo. It also makes a great gift for family and friends. The folk-style photo holder is an easy and fun-to-do design that is perfect for beginners, and is a great break from involved projects that more experienced carvers may be working on.

The design is a very basic shape; it can be carved simply, or details may be added according to your skill level. For example, I have left the robe simple, but you may decide to add texture, folds, or ruffles. The tree pot could be carved as a more elaborately-shaped vessel. Alternatively, you could choose to omit the beard details for a simple, smooth effect.

I use several gouges to rough out the basic elements and to add details, but a knife could be used to do most, if not all, of the work. Choose a clear piece of basswood for both ease of carving and painting purposes. Clamp the blank down during the roughing-out stage to provide control and ensure safety.


Finishing notes
Seal the carving with a mixture of equal parts boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits. Wipe off the excess, and allow the carving to dry overnight. Thin matte acrylic craft paints with water, and apply the colors in layers. You can use my carving as a guide or create your own color scheme.

After the paint has dried, seal it with one good coat of Deft satin lacquer or a few thinned coats of polyurethane. When the clear coat has cured, antique the carving. Slather on a brown gel stain, and immediately wipe the excess stain off of the carving.


The photo holder
The holder is made from a common coat hanger wire. Use the thinnest gauge wire you can find. Cut the wire to length with snips. Sand off the glaze coating on the wire to prepare it for painting. Using one or two pairs of pliers, carefully bend it to shape according to the provided pattern. Paint the completed holder with high-gloss gold enamel spray paint. Once the paint has cured, mount it to the carving by gluing the stem into the drilled hole with cyanoacrylate (CA) glue or an all-purpose cement.


• Basswood: 3″ x 4 1/2″ x 7″ (76mm x 11.4cm x 17.8cm)
• Coat hanger wire: 18″ (45.7cm)
• Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue
• Boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits: 50/50 mix
• Paint brushes
• Acrylic paints, such as Americana: apple barrel bright red (robe, face), apple barrel flesh (face), royal purple (shading), summer lilac (cuff shading), hauser light green, black forest green, school bus yellow (gloves), terra cotta (tree pot); Folk Art: white, Italian sage (cuff shading), light blue (beard); Ceramcoat: tangerine (gloves), antique white (face, beard, tree pot)
• Satin Lacquer, such as Deft
• Oil-based gel stain, brown
• Gold enamel, high gloss
• Spray paint

• Band saw (optional)
• Carving knife
• Detail knife
• Shallow gouge: 3/4″
• Fishtail gouge: 1/2″
• V-tools: 1/2″, 3/8″, 1/8″
• Drill with bits: 1/8″ dia.
• Wire snips
• Pliers for bending
• Medium-grit sandpaper (to remove glaze from wire)


CLICK HERE to download the Holiday Memories Santa Pattern.


CLICK HERE to purchase Shawn Cipa’s books, including Woodcarving the Nativity in the Folk Art Style.




CLICK HERE to read the full article with step-by-step instructions in Woodcarving Illustrated Holiday 2007 (Issue 41). 

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