Two-Hour Pelican

eNews: Strop Talk

Two-Hour Pelican

Carve and paint this comical bird in an afternoon

By Don Swartz

Even a beginner can finish this carving in an afternoon. It’s a great way to practice making strong, deliberate cuts. Once you master the basic techniques, you can change the shape of some features to personalize them or add character. This piece was inspired by a 1950s pelican carving that I saw in a gift store. The distinct cuts evoke a great deal of character. I’ve made them in a variety of sizes; the basic technique is the same regardless of the size. After carving three or four, you’ll be finishing them in an hour.

Carving the Pelican

Transfer the pattern to the blank and cut the side view with a band saw. Reduce the width of the beak and head. Then, shape the back, shoulders, tail, and feet. Carve the sloping front shoulders and add the details to the head. For a rustic look, I left the saw marks visible on the base. Add details to the base with a woodburner if desired.

Finishing the Pelican

Paint the carving as desired. I used gray Age-It EASY liquid to make the carving look old and rustic. (Just paint it directly onto the wood.)



•Basswood, 2″ (5.1cm) thick:
3″ x 7 1/2″ (7.6cm x 19.1cm)

• Acrylic paint

•Antiquing fluid, such as Micro-Mark
Age-It EASY (I use the gray)


• Band saw

• Carving knife

• Palm V-tool

•#3 palm gouge: 3/8″ (10mm)

•#5 or #7 palm gouge: 3/8″ (10mm)

• Paintbrushes


About the Author
Don Swartz of Lancaster, Pa., was a physical therapist for nearly 40 years. He is the owner of Hillcrest Carving, a carving supply store near Lancaster.


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