Carving Eyes with Tony Harris – Part 2

An Eye Tutorial by Tony Harris

Part 2

Last week I posted 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 consists of Photos 13-24.

Part 2

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

#13  With the detail knife make three “soft cuts” straight in on these lines. Then carve from the middle of the eye down to the lines.  This will give it the round effect.

#14  Draw lines into the upper eyelid into the deep cuts.  This will give it a bit of a hooded eyelid.  Use 1.5mm Dockyard gouge on those lines.

#15  Use the detail knife to carve straight in to the last U-gouge cuts in the corners of the upper eyelids. Then do an angle cut up into the corner to take a wedge out.

#16  Wedges out. Progress.

#17  Draw the rest of the top eyelid and take out that line with the 1.5mm Dockyard gouge.

#18  With the detail knife make a soft straight line in the 1.5mm cut above the top edge of the eyelid. Then draw lines in for the bags under the eyes. 

#19  Use the 1.5mm Dockyard gouge to carve the the bag lines out, then use the detail knife to deepen those cuts.  After that, add 2-3 wedge cuts in the outer corners of each eye for crow’s feet.

#20  I use a Flexcut #6 1/4“ gouge inverted on the top ridge of the nose to the center of the eyes. 

#21  Use the same gouge right side up from the brim of the hat down to the center cut.  This creates the bridge of the nose.

#22  Carve the eye brows with the 2mm Dockyard gouge cutting out the shape.  Then use the 1.5mm Dockyard gouge for the hair lines.  To finish up the process, study the carving, and clean up any cuts that are needed.

#23  Side profile.

#24  Finished Ornament

#25  Tools:

          Dockyard  2mm gouge

          Dockyard  1.5mm gouge

          Helvie Detail knife

          Allen Goodman drop point detail knife

          Flexcut  #11  1/4” U-gouge for eye sockets

          Flexcut  #11  3/16” U-gouge for the edge of the nose in the sockets

          Flexcut  #6  1/4” gouge for making the bridge of the nose

NOTE: Substitute alternate tool sizes and shapes as necessary according to the size of your project.

NOTE: Keep your eyes open for an article by Tony Harris and Bob Kozakiewicz with a full tutorial on how to carve this entire ornament in a future issue of Woodcarving Illustrated!

Readers’ Comments

Our first comment this week comes from Mr. T who is giving credit where credit is due on a photo he submitted last week:

“Bob…. Meant to share that I do the carving and my wife MaryJo is the painter…. Here is a pic of her work in progress.

Mr T”

Mr. T, it’s always the right thing to do to give credit where it is due, and I’m glad you did.  Those carvers who have wives who can paint are lucky guys.  MaryJo appears to be quite a talented artist.  She really puts the finishing touches on your already terrific carvings.  Thanks for sharing the picture!

Our second comment comes in the form of a question from Leonard from Newfoundland who is a new reader and is having difficulty with carving eyes and getting the expressions on his Santa faces to look happy.  Leonard writes:

“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.”

“Hello, my name is Leonard and I just commented on the blog about trying to get my Santas to look a bit jolly and happy. Any tips of what I could change? Bit of blood on the single one, seem to get a few cuts when distracted, lol.Thanks”

Thanks for writing in, Leonard!  You’ve come to the right place.  I’m sure I can help get you started in the right direction.  First of all, carving good eyes is not just about carving eyes.  The entire expression of the face affects what the eye looks like and vice versa.  In the case of a happy face the corners of the mouth are pulled way up.  The farther they are pulled up the happier the face will look.  If the face has a mustache, its corners must be turned up.  But that’s not all.  The happy eyes must now also be arched up.  Your eyes appear to be cut straight across which gives the face a very stern look.  Compare your faces with the faces on my carvings below and I think you will see what I mean.



Look at the tutorial and you will see how the beginning of the eyes are cut into ovals.  These ovals set up the whole shape of the eyes.

Oh, as far as the blood on your carving?  No problem.  Just carve it off.  It happens to me too sometimes!

You sent me several questions this past week, Leonard.  Did I answer them all?  If not, let me know.

Our next comment comes from Dianne who is enjoying the eye tutorial:

“Can’t wait for part 2 of eye carving.  Part 1 was already extremely helpful.  THANKS!”

Thank you for your nice comment, Dianne!  I hope you found today’s Part 2 as helpful as Part 1.

Our next comment comes from Robyn Gardner who is also enjoying the eye tutorial:

“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!”

Thank you for writing in, Robyn!  Tony and I tried to make this tutorial as simple and easy to understand as we possibly could.  We are both delighted to hear that it is being well received and my readers are finding it helpful.

“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” 

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

Thanks for writing in, Richard!  Your saying about the rainbow is so true.  With every success comes many failures…practice, practice, practice.

We have a question from my good friend, Bob Nesbit from Pennsylvania about where to buy mineral oil:


I did read with much interest you Blog on Carving & painting Christmas Ornaments, but was late to the party for my comments. I just started doing some ornaments and this information will be very helpful.
This is one of the topics that is discussed within our club, but I don’t remember anyone ever saying anything about mineral oil. I’m going to give it a try this week and see how it goes. Is this something you can purchase at Lowe’s or Home Depot, and does it only come as mineral oil? I assume you brush it on and wipe off the access?
Really enjoy your Blogs and hope you can keep it going.
RJ Nes Carver”

Mineral oil is available at Lowe’s, Home Depot and your local hardware store.  It comes in a bottle/can as Mineral Oil just the way BLO does.  The best way to use it is to brush it on and wipe off the excess.  You might also want to consider using walnut oil.  I’ve been using it for awhile now and am getting great results with it.       I’m glad you’re enjoying Wood Chip Chatter, Bob, and hope you are finding it helpful.


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

Zoom: 3104603575


11/20 – Dwayne Gosnell

11/27 – Thanksgiving

12/4 – Dave Dion

12/11 – Dale Green

12/18 – Eric Owens



I’m really pleased to see all the comments and questions that came in this week.  It’s your input that creates the dialog which drives Wood Chip Chatter and makes it informative.  Keep up the good work!

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’!

Our family has a genetic predisposition to diarrhea.

It runs in our jeans.

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.

3 thoughts on “Carving Eyes with Tony Harris – Part 2

  1. Very nice tutorial. I would’ve to see from the beginning of the deep do you go by the nose..also question..when carving cross grain I get little chatter marks. Is it from the grain or is it cause the v tool isn,tsharp?. Thankyou


  2. Really am enjoying your Blog Bob. Keep those carving “How To’s” coming please, This old dude needs lots of advise. ^^5


  3. video was great.picked up a few tips..question for ya. when carving cross grain i get all these little chatter marks. Is it because its cross grain or my v tool isn’t sharp enough? thanks


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