Simple Pleasures: Wooden Egg Carving

Simple Pleasures: Wooden Egg Carving

There is a universal satisfaction, a joy, that humans experience by making things with their hands. Back in the day, everything was made by hand. Often the person making the thing would be the end user of the object. This everyday reality provided ample opportunity for people of all ages and all walks of life to experience the satisfaction of being a Maker.

By contrast, our culture has evolved to the point that nearly everything we own or consume is made primarily by machine with very little human interaction. In fact, today, “made by hand” can often mean made in a “sweatshop” where thousands of like objects are cranked out daily most likely without that joy to which I allude.

I would like to offer you a way that you might experience this satisfaction, this joy, for yourself.

Let me take you back to my youth. All my life I have had a connection with wood and the working of wood. When I was a boy, maybe 9 or so, I had an inspiration, an urge you might say, to carve an egg. I have no idea why. I took a piece of discarded 2×4 pine and whittled it into an egg shape. It was beautiful. I loved the random pattern of divots created by removing small chips of wood while carving. I found another piece of wood, not Pine but Ash, carved another egg and this time I sanded it smooth. Very pleased with myself, I presented these creations to my family. They were surprised at the simple beauty of the objects and that I could in the space of an hour or two create such evocative pieces. My brother, sisters and even my parents where inspired. I showed them how and we all carved eggs together.

Now it is your turn read on and I will show you how. It does not take anything special: a scrap of wood, a utility knife, sand paper (if you choose) and an hour or so of time is all you will need. I would LOVE to see what you make. When you are finished take a picture and share it with @forestique on Instagram or Facebook using the tag #forestiqueegg. 

This is not a challenge a contest or a competition. It is simply an opportunity to experience one of the forgotten simple pleasures of life: making something with your hands.

Caution: whittling an egg is generally safe. It can easily be done without cutting yourself. Never cut toward your hand or fingers and always use a sharp knife. If your hands get tired stop and rest them. Before you begin, take a moment to watch our video on Basic whittling safety tips here.

Step 1) Find a piece of scrap wood. If neither you or your neighbor has one lying around find a construction site, they always have scraps of wood, probably in the dumpster. Many local home improvement stores have small pieces of wood available for pennies on the dollar if you look for the clearance bin (it’s usually towards the back of the store in the lumber department). I suggest that for your first effort you use a piece that measures 1 ½” x 1 ½” x 2”. This will give you a nice sized egg that does not take too long to carve. A 2 x 4 actually measures 1 ½” x 3 ½” so a two-inch length of a 2 x 4 can yield 2 egg blanks.

Step 2) For some of you this may be the hardest step. Cut the scrap of wood into a shape in which the length and width are even, and the depth is somewhat longer (about a 3rd longer or width times 1.33). If you do not have a saw for this purpose I suspect you know someone who does and will be happy to help.

Step 3) Carve both end of the blank into rounds.

Step 4) Carve away the edges so that you now have a cylinder.

Step 5) make a pencil mark around the cylinder that will identify the widest part of the final egg. No need to measure here. Everything from this point on is done by feel. Just place the line where if feels right.

Step 6) Carve the ends in toward the center making the end of your blank spherical. Do this by taking chip all the way around checking for circularity and then make another ring of chips. You will feel it as the egg shape emerges. Be careful to take smaller and smaller chips as you get closer to the finished shape. Be mindful of the direction of the grain of the wood. if it seems to tear rather than cut then rotate your blank 180 degrees for cutting that area. There is much to learn in this process, the lessons are self-evident so I do need to say much more.

Step 7) Once all the carving is done you may be happy with your work as it is. For a sooth egg you can take sand paper and start smoothing out all the high points. Start with rough paper to cut faster (about 100 grit) and then use finer and finer grit paper to achieve the smoothness desired.

Step 8) If you would like, apply finish to you egg. You could use oil, stain, paint, clear coat, markers or nothing at all.

Step 9) Revel in your new-found skill set and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from working with your hands and making something! Maybe share the joy and teach a friend how to make an egg themselves. Don’t forget to show us what you’ve made by posting @forestique and using the tag #forestiqueegg.

For a more exotic hand carved wooden egg I have taken an old branch from a cherry tree. Notice the Spalting (the dark lines) in the wood. Carving a section of a branch can sometimes be easier than a piece of pine simply because the section is already cylindrical. Old hardwood branches, however, can be more difficult to cut due to their higher density. The following images are of the branch I carved to make the egg in the photo.

I hope you have enjoyed exploring the process of carving a wooden egg by hand. I have 20 kits that contain everything needed for creating 3 eggs available here. If you are interested in learning more about whittling check out this fun video on carving. I’d love to hear your feedback, questions, comments and ideas and can’t wait to see what you create!

Henry Wischusen