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   Here is a sketch I did (left) for the pirate figurehead. I submitted a number of drawings for this particular company. Here is another (B)...

Let's start with the process of carving this nearly full-size Pirate figurehead.

Carving this pirate, I became really absorbed in the history,  and mystery of piracy- corsairs, buccaneers, filibusters and freebooters -  for  good or bad. Sometimes governments licensed private ship-owners to attack the merchant vessels of another country with whom they were at war. These lawful pirates were called privateers and they shared the profits with the government.

 Many respectable seafarers like Francis Drake turned pirate from time to time. Many governments secretly supported pirate expeditions, provided the pirates shared the booty with them. Treasure chests, pieces of eight, booty, shipwrecks  etc - magical words indeed. I guess there really IS a kind of 'swashbuckling glamour'  to their stories.




Here is the upright  laminated block of Beech timber. Gluing-up was done parallel to the ground. Resorcinol -  (polyphenolic formaldehyde),  was used - an excellent marine glue where high water resistance and strength is required.

 Especially tropical climates, where this figurehead is destined. Grain is running the same way and end grain is kept away from the face area (difficult to carve).






      This is the first cut of the figurehead. In this particular case I used an arbortech carving wheel attached to an angle grinder,  to arrive at  the right overall shape, along with some heavy gouges for controlled splitting of the wood. 
It's always important to keep a visible middle line drawn from the top of the head to the base. This keeps your eye on the whole balance whilst you carve, stepping back from time to time to see the overall carving for proportions.

 I've also started to carve  the scrolls on each side,  angled towards the center. These will need to become  much deeper later. I have cut the shape of two sails at the back of the pirate.








  I have drawn a pistol  on the front of his body, but later I wil carve two full-size pistols and cut them in half, dowelling them  inside his right hand and to the body,  tucked into a cumber bun and small belt just below the waist.

The figurehead is now shaped correctly. Pistols have been carved separately and dowelled in. The ears have been carved. Important to keep correct proportions and dimensions for ears, nose, eyes, mouth.  The belt across the chest in worked on next. Then the  neck muscles are carved.. Carving of the neck contours is very important. This  gives a visual impression of tension and strain. Important for a pirate in this pose (ready to attack). A scar has been carved in on the left side of the face.

A hole has been drilled into the left hand to carry the cutlass.

* The careful study of the human anatomy greatly aids the carvings of this nature.




Looking at the figurehead from this angle, you can see the timber laminates. Some timber planks run parallel and some run vertically. One must study the correct placement of the planks of wood at gluing-up time for carving stability, strength, detail,  grain and wood rings.













The bowsprit has been laminated and turned. The end has been carefully anchored in the back plate. There is a dowel also anchored in the top of the figurehead's head and the bowsprit for strong stability. Apart from a couple of dowels to strengthen key places on the figurehead, the resorcinol glue is strength enough.



The timber has now been treated against pest infestations and fungal attack with special wood solutions (turning a little pink).  Important for export, especially to island states of the world.


Here is the painted pirate. A crossed cutlass and pistol have been carved (incised), below the waist and below this is a painted square rigged ship.  He is seen here holding a real pirate's cutlass in his left hand.  This pirate figurehead is destined for a Museum. It was recently shipped   to the Seychelle Islands - off the east coast of Africa.

Return to my Main Carving Site


Carving a Mermaid and Britannia figurehead

Carving the James Craig figurehead

If you would like me to carve you a Pirate Figurehead - (any size),

for your Ship, Boat, Gallery, Museum, Shop, Den in your house etc,

Please email me. Thanks.

  2002/2017 Martin Jeffery