Carving Eyes with Tony Harris – Part 1

An Eye Tutorial by Tony Harris

Part 1

This week I am introducing Part 1 of a photo eye tutorial done by my good friend, Tony Harris from Tennessee.  Tony is an excellent carver who creates his own Santa ornaments and was gracious enough to share his expertise with us on how he carves the eyes.  Because of the number of photos in this tutorial I have broken it into two parts of 12 photos each.  Part 2 will follow next week.

Part 1

Sharp tools are important.  Before you begin, make sure your tools are sharp.  Keep them sharp as you go with periodic stropping.

Santa Ornament Pattern

#1  Face foundation set up.

#2  Draw two dots for the point of the inner corners of the eyes.

#3  Draw two “C” shaped lines for the main wrinkle.

#4  Use a 2mm Dockyard gouge on those two lines.

#5  Use a detail knife straight in the center of the 2mm cuts.

#6  Use the detail knife in at an angle to make a wedge cut out of the 2mm cuts. Take that wedge out. This will create a good shadow for the setup of the top eyelid.

#7  Progress.  Both sides completed to this point.

#8  Draw the top eyelids, trying to match both sides.

#9  Use the detail knife straight in on the lines. Stab deep into the corner but “soft cut” the rest of the line.  I usually make 3 passes. This way it doesn’t tear the wood on the eyelid and makes a good clean cut.

#10  Cut up to the eyelid line to start forming the eyeball.

#11  Clean up the eye, and carve away the pencil lines.  Carve deep in the corners.

#12  Draw the bottom eyelids corner to corner.  Most times it will be almost straight across.

This ends Part 1 of the Eye Tutorial. Part 2 will follow next week.

Readers’ Comments

Our first comment this week comes from Jim Morasco along with a photo of the terrific relief carving he did from a painting:


Just thought i would share a picture of my first attempt at carving a ” painting “. I call it “weathering the storms of life”.


That’s quite an impressive carving, Jim!  It reminds me of a big sailing ship. Very unique.

Our second comment comes from John (Mr. T) also along with a photo of some fantastic carvings he did for his wife:

“Bob…. This is some misc. Carvings in my wife’s collection.


Those are spectacular carvings, John!  Very clean work.  Excellent carving and painting, and brilliant use of antique shading on all of them!  Great job!


I’m disappointed to have gotten only two comments this week.  I thought for sure last week’s discussion on the use of BLO would have drawn some comments and questions on the topic.  Surely many of you have carving questions or suggestions, tips and photos in general that you can share with the rest of us.  It doesn’t have to be about a current or past post.  Start a new topic of discussion. Wood Chip Chatter is the type of blog that thrives on reader participation.  Without it the blog becomes dull and uninteresting.

The International Association of Woodcarvers has upcoming Zoom meetings on the following Saturdays at 3PM with special guests.  Check them out…

Zoom: 3104603575


11/13 – Ryan Olsen

11/20 – Dwayne Gosnell

11/27 – Thanksgiving

12/4 – Dave Dion

12/11 – Dale Green

12/18 – Eric Owens



Let the chips fly!  Tell your wood carving friends and spread the word about Wood Chip Chatter, and don’t forget to click the ‘Comment’ button at the bottom of the page to send in your questions and comments so we can keep Wood Chip Chatter active and keep the conversations going! 

And remember, we need your photos!  I’m sure you all have some terrific carvings to share, and photos of your carvings will help to liven up the blog’s appearance and make it more interesting.  Perhaps we can start a carvers photo section!  Email your photos to

Keep a sharp edge and keep on carvin’!

Published by carverbobk

I’m a self taught award winning wood carver who has been carving since I was a teenager. I enjoy instructing other carvers, especially beginners.

15 thoughts on “Carving Eyes with Tony Harris – Part 1

  1. I have been carving for a number of years but have always avoided faces because of the eyes. I have read many books and articles explaining how to do it but somehow none of what I saw helped me understand how to do it. Well, the simple explanation with clear pictures have made it all seem possible to me and I can’t wait to try it out. Thanks!

    On Fri, Nov 12, 2021 at 10:19 AM Wood Chip Chatter wrote:

    > carverbobk posted: ” An Eye Tutorial by Tony Harris Part 1 This week I am > introducing Part 1 of a photo eye tutorial done by my good friend, Tony > Harris from Tennessee. Tony is an excellent carver who creates his own > Santa ornaments and was gracious enoug” >


  2. I’m glad I could be helpful, Robyn! Eyes are difficult for everyone but once you figure them out and practice them they’re not so intimidating. Part 2 will complete the process and I can’t wait to get it out to everyone. Feel free to contact me if you ever need help with anything.


  3. Hello, just joined today and I also have problems with eyes to the point where I just paint them in and also trying to get my Santa carving to have a happy look to them. Gonna send along some pics to show what I mean. Thanks love the blog and can’t wait for the next eye segment.


  4. Thanks for subscribing, Leonard! I think you will enjoy the blog and find it helpful. Don’t be afraid to send in your questions, and I love to receive photos from my readers!


      1. Hi Bob, Leonard here again. Can’t wait til Friday to see what you have to say. I now have another question to ask. I am carving some of your simple Santa/ Gnomes and am having problem with connecting the lines that make the hat brim and arms. I just can’t seem to get them to join properly at the corners. I am going to send along few more photos for you to have a look at. As for the Santa I have rounded the eye sockets more and it looks better already and am waiting for the next part of the eye tutorial. I am so happy I found your blog, any tips would be greatly appreciated. Cheers


  5. This is a great help. Thank you very much. The eyes are everything and something I yet need to master. My results are either too small in proportion to the face overall or too deep, or … . At any rate this helps a lot. I’ve already tried it and getting a good feel. I’m looking forward to Part II.

    Thanks again!

    Richard Dreja … 519-477-1666

    ’The way I see it, If you want the rainbow, you’ve gotta put up with the rain.’



  6. Hi Leonard…I think the problem is in your mustache. Your mustache comes straight down from the nose then curls up. Instead, trying going straight out to the sides and then curl it up. That will give the face a happier appearance.


  7. Hi Bob Thank you so much for all you do. Attached is an unpainted carving of one of your simple Santa’s. I really like how it turned out but need to get caught up on my painting! I have a couple questions.

    If it’s already kiln dried, does it matter how long you keep basswood before carving? I’ve noticed a big difference in how hard some wood is compared to others and just wondering if over time this could change- or is it just different pieces of wood? When ordering wood I have questioned whether I should only order small quantities that I would be able to carve in a reasonable amount of time, or does it make any difference, once it’s dry- it’s dry?

    My second question is about storing carving tools. I have 10-12 knives and gouges and would like a stand or some way to hold them so they are easily accessible, organized, and not just laying on the table. I’ve seen a lot of totes or stands that people have built but wondered if there are any available for purchase that you are aware of or would recommend.

    Thanks again, Rick Carver



    1. Hi Rick…thanks for writing. Your questions are going to take me a little time to put together an answer for, and if it’s okay with you I’d like to put them in my blog.
      In the meantime, I didn’t get your photo.


    2. Hi Rick,
      I don’t know if you got my reply to your message that I didn’t get the photo you sent. I haven’t heard back from you. Do you want to resend the photo?


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