Billy Goat


Billy Goat:
Johan Roudy shows how to create a small, detailed relief carving in boxwood.

Johan Roudy shows how to create a small, detailed relief carving in boxwood

This 70mm diameter medallion is part of a small series of low-reliefs I carved. Contrary to the previous ones I made, which showed farm animals in a strict profile view, this billy goat is depicted in a three-quarter view. Adding some perspective effects to the fine details was one more challenge.
Whatever the size you choose to make yours, it works very well as a larger, plate-sized carving. The best method I know to deal with that is to divide the design in different layers, and to figure out which elements come in front and which ones come at the back. In this carving, the highest points will be the horns, the muzzle, the tip of the ears and the hanging end of the collar. The head, the neck and the shoulder will be our three main layers.
Regarding the small size of this project, choosing a hard and fine-grained wood such as boxwood, which will hold very fine detail, should be at the forefront of a carver’s mind. As a second choice, holly, pear or walnut should also be suitable for this carving. There is little wood to remove, so it has to be removed from the right place. My advice is to work progressively, under low-angled light, and to make sure you get a good layout of the various features before going into details. 

Clamping on the bench
As you won’t need to push hard on the tools for such a relief, a non-slip router pad should be enough to hold the piece on the bench, and handy to turn the carving at a convenient angle.

Things you will need
• No.11, 1 & 2mm veiner
• V-tool, 5mm
• No.3, 2, 6 &16mm
• No.5, 6mm
• No.7, 4mm
• No.9, 2mm
• No.3, 1mm or 1mm chisel
• A small skew chisel, carving knife or scalpel
• Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) for the medallion 70 x 70 x 6mm
• A small round-shaped scraper
• Fretsaw

Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.

Did you know?
Boxwood across Europe have been attacked for 10 years by Cydalima perspectalis, also known as box tree moth. Native to eastern Asia, the larvae of this white and brown moth devastate larger and larger areas every year.

1a. Transfer the design on to the wood to the size of your choosing. To do this, print the pattern and redraw it on the other side of the paper with a pencil. Set it on the wood with tape and rub it with the back of a spoon. Once done, use the V-tool to separate the billy goat and the inner circle from the background. Then use a No.5, 6mm and small flat gouges to clear the background. Repeat if necessary to reach a 2mm depth

1b. A depth gauge in cardboard can help to check that you have an even level

2. Set in the design with the best matching gouges to get vertical walls. In the tight area above the horns, I used a very small, flat screwdriver as a chisel, sharpened like a flat gouge, to clear the background

3. Using a V-tool, mark a separation between the different features of the face,that will be treated as different layers. The ears, the chin, the beard, the jaw line, the hair on the neck, and the edge of the circle. Run the V-tool around the horn and give a small cut on the sides of the beard where they cross the circle

4. Use a No.5, 6mm to lower the layer of the neck towards the head and the layer of the shoulders towards the neck. Then, start to give shape to the neck and the shoulder. Round them slightly towards the background at the top and remove some wood towards the beard and the collar. Lower the base of the ear on the left and give a cut under the chin. Behind the ear on the right, remove a little wood to continue the shape of the neck and liberate the back of the ear

5a. Using No.5, 6mm and No.3, 4mm gouges, give a slight angle to the nose bone and the forehead. You can start to rough out across the grain and define the shapes more precisely along the grain. Use the No.7, 4mm gouge to round slightly the nose bone and give the direction of the eye socket on the left

5b. Then carve an angle from the nostrils’ area to the mouth with the No.3, 4mm to give the direction of the muzzle

6. There must be a little recess from the nostril to the eye area in order to put forward the nose and the eye socket. Using the No.5, 6mm gouge, turn around the eye socket and lower the cheek towards the jaw line

7. Now round the brow bone and the eye area. You can dig a bit more at the base and above the ear if necessary. The right side of the eye socket is defined quite precisely. After this, reshape the neck if it looks too domed

8. Carve the frame around the horns and the beard using a flat gouge, giving more space to shape them. Be careful of the grain direction and stop a little before getting to the background level. You can clear around the main strokes of the beard. Be careful not to cut deep and to keep an even angle on the frame

9. Lower the base of the horns with a flat gouge to let them run under the rim of hairs on the forehead. If the separation between the horns disappears, set it in again. On the horn on the left, use the 2mm veiner to carve a groove to separate the base of the horn from the tip, which is closer to the background. Then, round the base on its left side with a flat gouge. On the horn on the right, round slightly the base on its right side. Now, using the No.7, 4mm, carve a groove where the right horn spins, on the left side at the base, and under the line at the tip. Redraw the lines with the pencil

10. Using a No.5, 6mm and No.3, 4mm, round the top of the horns. Carve the grooves deeper if necessary to let the horn spin towards the background. On the tip of the left horn as well, carve a groove under the line and round the upper side

11. Clean and deepen its connection to the base of the horn using a 1mm veiner. When happy with the shape, mark a deeper groove on the base of the horns with a 2mm veiner. Soften the edges of the grooves with a flat gouge

12. Redraw and set in carefully the eye using a carving knife or a scalpel. Round the eyeball using the small screwdriver-chisel. Dig deeper at the corners to enhance the roundness of the eye. Shape the lower eyelid. Using a No.5,6mm gouge, remove a little wood to approach the eyeball. Remove a bit more at the corners to let it slip under the upper eyelid. Carve a groove below the eyelid using the No.7, 4mm and soften the transition with the cheek with flatter gouges. Round slightly the upper eyelid towards the eye with a flat gouge, checking that the overall shape is looking good

13. With the No.7, 4mm, lower the beard, starting at the corner of the mouth. At the bottom, the beard will climb on the frame. Redraw and mark the nostrils and the mouth with the V-tool. Clean under the nostrils with a flat gouge to shape the upper lip and connect it to the cheek. Use the No.3, 3mm to lower the lower lip. Now use the 1mm veiner to separate the lower lip and the chin with a groove. Refine the lower lip with a small, flat gouge. Now set in and round the chin towards the beard

14. Refine the shape of the eye socket on the left, which is almost just suggested. Use the 1mm veiner in continuation to the nose bone to separate the eye socket and soften the transition between them with a flatter gouge

15. Goat ears are a tubular-type shape with an opening on the side, widening at the end. Use the No.7, 4mm to shape the opening, then mark the edge with the V-tool. Use the corner of a No.7 gouge to remove the waste towards the base. The lower part of the ears should almost reach the background (or the neck for the right ear), while the tips should stay at the initial height

16. Round above the opening towards the background with the No.5, 6mm and flatter gouges. When you’re happy with the shape, you can set in more precisely the outline with the best matching gouges

17. With the main features of the head set, add details on the neck. Redraw the collar, and use the V-tool to set it in. Remove the waste on the neck to let it stand out. The tip of the collar hanging stays as a high spot. Carve a groove with the No.7, 4mm to lower it at the top and flatten around to give the general buckle form, without setting in its final shape. Then use the corner of the No.7, 4mm gouge to clean some of the tight areas

18. Round the wattle with a small, flat gouge, and define more precisely the shape of the buckle and its prong with small, flat gouges. Give an angle on the top and left side to give some depth and perspective to the buckle. Then you can dig the inner edges around the prong and set in precisely the tip of the collar

19. Clean the surface of the beard. Redraw the main strokes and use a V-tool to carve them under the chin, and more lightly at the corner of the mouth. This can be done more or less randomly, provided that it gives the direction of the hairs. Some strokes can merge or divide

20. Give more life to the strokes by shaping them with 1mm and 2mm veiners and a No.3, 2mm. The small, flat gouge is useful to define some layers from one stroke to another and to give an angle or shape a convex part in the hairs. Then use the veiners, letting the tool run from one stroke to another. Check the shape of the whole beard as you go. Once happy with the hairs, set in the edges more precisely and clean the background with small, flat gouges or the scalpel in tight areas

21. Refine the shape of the neck and the shoulder and redraw the few rims of hairs. Carve a few strokes with the V-tool to indicate the direction of the hairs on the neck, along the line of the shoulders, and lightly, as a caress on the wood, on a couple of spots here and there. Carve the hairs as you did for the beard, but more superficially. Use the small, flat gouge to define what stroke overlay the other

22. On the isolated spots, use the No.3, 2mm to remove the outer edge of the V-tool mark in order to integrate the small strokes to the plain areas. Carve a rim of hairs strokes at the base of the horns and along the spine line

23. On the plain areas of the neck and face, you can use a small, rounded-shape scraper to remove some tool marks. I chose to keep some tool marks in some places, such as around the nose bone, as it was helping the eye to ‘read’ the relief

24. Carve some little undercutting behind the ears and the horns, under the tip of the collar, and along the nose and muzzle. Clean the background and all its connection to the billy goat

25. A texturing effect can be made on the horns. Gently place the cutting edge of the No.5, 6mm on to the wood without pushing, and twist the handle from left to right and from right to left to let the tool ‘walk’ at the surface of the wood. At each move, it will remove a small amount of wood and create a texture on the horn. Search for the best angle to give to the tool to be efficient and let it work without pushing it into the wood

26. Carve the angle on the rest of the frame using No.3, 16mm and 4mm, and check that you have an even height between the frame and the background all along the circle. Cut the medallion with the fretsaw and clean the edges with sandpaper. Be careful not to damage the tip of the horn

27a. Using your finger as a fence, draw a line about 1mm from the edge. Along this circle, use a cardboard template to mark a line every 7mm and then the middle of each subdivision. With the No.5, 6mm, set in the pattern of the frieze using the lines as a guide. Use the same tool to make a cut on each side of the ogives. At the middle of each ogive, make a little stop cut along the circle with the scalpel

27b. Use the 2mm veiner to carve a small flute to complete the pattern of the frame

28. The background can be marked with a punch. Mine is made of a bunch of small nails taped together and stuck into a handle. This will add some contrast and make the billy goat stand out. To finish the medallion, I polished the wood with a green scouring pad before applying a coat of wax. Once dried and buffed, I added a patina of dark-coloured wax to enhance the details


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