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Whittling Santa Pencils

by Punot1946


This quick-carve project is lots of fun and makes a perfect stocking stuffer. Santa’s face is carved into an ordinary pencil; an affordable material which is readily found at dollar stores and discount stores. <br/>My first exposure to carving pencils was in 2002 when a local carver named Elmer Sellers showed me how to carve a face in a standard pencil using only a knife. Since then, my carving technique has evolved and I have given away hundreds of Santa pencils during the past six years. <br/>Leave a Santa pencil with a tip at restaurants or give them to anyone who shows an interest. Carving pencils at a picnic table in a campground always brings interested visitors. The Santa pencils are a traditional Christmas treat for my granddaughter’s teacher and classmates. Cut off the lower portion of the pencil and thread a string through the eraser for a unique Christmas ornament. <br/>Carve printed pencils on the side opposite the printing or carve away the printing when you remove the paint. A good material source is a local supplier that imprints pencils for advertising. Buy the pencils without printing in your color of choice. <br/>I use red hexagonal pencils to instantly convey Santa’s red suit. Round pencils work just as well, but I suggest you use a hexagonal pencil for your first attempt. Use plain wooden pencils and leave them unpainted to represent woodspirits. You can also carve the flat carpenter’s pencils. <br/>

  1. Shape the forehead. Use the ridge between two flat planes of the pencil as a centerline. Make a stop cut perpendicular to the ridge Vi' down from the metal collar and as deep as the two adjacent ridges. Do not cut deep enough to hit pencil lead. Move down ’/w" and cut up to the stop cut to remove a V-shaped chip. 

  2. Remove the paint from the carving area. Start about 2" below the stop cut made in step 1. Hold your knife at a low angle and slice the paint off the flat planes on either side of the centerline. It may take four or more slices to remove the paint. If your knife digs into the grain, start your cut from the other end. 

  3. Define the nose. Make a second stop cut just below the start of the angled cut made in step 1. Move down 3/i6n and cut up to the stop cut to remove the chip. Move down %" from the second stop cut and make a third stop cut. Carve up to the third stop cut from 3/ie" below to remove a third chip. 

  4. Define the mustache. Move down an additional 3/ie" and position the knife point on the centerline ridge. Make a cut at a 45° angle from the centerline down to the edge of the flat plane. Repeat for the other side of the mustache. Cut up from 3/i6" below the center of the mustache to remove the chip. Remove the centerline ridge from the mustache down to the painted area.

  5. Carve the nose. Divide the third stop cut, just above the mustache, into thirds. Carve away the two outer thirds with a ’/s’-wide gouge. Angle the cuts toward the centerline slightly. Leave the center third as the nose. Varying the angle of these gouge cuts increases or decreases the width of the nose. Use a knife to free the chips if necessary.

  6. Carve the eyes. Stab the point of an old knife straight down, perpendicular to the pencil, at the top of the gouge cut made in step 5. Move it back and forth a few times to create the eye. Repeat the process for the other eye. Position the back side of the knife toward the nose to make symmetrical eyes.

  7. Woodburn the texture and shadows. Use a woodburner to add three short vertical lines for each eyebrow. Use the flat side of the burner to add a small shadow near the tip of both sides of the nose. Burn four curved lines on each side of the mustache. Add three more lines to define the bottom of the mustache. Then burn long flowing lines in the beard.

  8. Paint the carving. Add a small dab of painton each eyebrowand paint the mustache. Thin the paint for the beard so the burned detail shows through. Carve off a small area of paint on the back of the carving and sign and date your work. You may want to use initials to save space.



Choose full-size pencils and hold the lower portion, well below the carving area, in your non-carving hand. Hold the upper part of the pencil on a flat hard surface for controlled safe cuts.



• Standard pencil

• Acrylic paint: white or off white



Whittling knife

• #11 gouge: Vs" or 2mm

•                         Woodburner

• Old knife

• Small paintbrush of choice