Carve and Paint an Evergreen Tree

Carving trees is a lot of fun. It doesn’t require a great deal of carving skill and the end results are really rewarding. Use the completed tree as a stand¬alone project or create several trees to complement a holiday display.
I started carving trees four years ago. Prior to that,

  1. Transfer the pattern to the blank. Draw a centerline on the front and right side of the blank and on the top of the block. Transfer the pattern to two adjacent sides of the blank with carbon paper. Use the centerlines as a guide. Make sure the horizontal lines connect on both sides of the blank. Mark the depth lines in red.

My first trees were small, ranging in size from 4" to 6" tall. It wasn’t long until I was getting orders for trees up to 12" tall. The technique is the same no matter what size tree you are carving, and the pattern is easy to adapt to a variety of sizes. This demonstration uses a 3" by 3" by 8" block. Use the pattern provided or create your own pattern for an alternative size tree. Experiment with creating tall skinny trees and short fat trees. The only rule is the width and thickness of the block must be equal. 

  1. Create a wedge. Create a wedge to keep the blank square as you cut the waste wood from the tree. Use the pattern to transfer one of the perimeter lines to a piece of scrap wood and cut the wedge shape with a band saw. 
  2. Cut the branch lines. Draw a 3”-diameter circle on the bottom of the blank. Cut in along each branch line with a band saw. Do not cut past the depth line. Make four series of cuts, cutting along the branch lines on the front and side of the blank.
  3. Cut the perimeter lines. Cut along the two black perimeter lines on the front of the blank. Then rotate the blank 90°. Use the wedge to keep the blank square to the table. Offset the wedge to keep it out of the blade's cutting path. Cut the first perimeter line, reposition the wedge, and cut the second line.
  4. Round the pyramid. Secure the blank in a vise or with a bench hook. Use a 70mm #7 gouge, a 35mm #3 gouge, or a draw knife to turn the pyramid into a cone. Use the largest tool you have. Use the circle on the bottom as a guide.
  5. Carve the layers of branches. Work from the top of the tree down. Use a 16mm #3 palm gouge or a reciprocating carve with a 15mm #3 gouge to taper each layer toward the center of the tree. Start the upward cut about ⅛ above the saw cut. This gives the impression of bent branches
  6. Separate the limbs. Use  a 10mm 75 V-tool to separate the branches into limbs. The limbs start small near the top and get large as you move down the tree. Go back over the cuts with a 6mm 75 V-tool and cut as far up the branch into the tree as possible to add depth and shadows. 
  7. Shape and texture the limbs. Make a deep cut through the center of each limb with a 3mm #10 gouge. Carve three slanted lines on each side of the U-cut with a 6mm 75° V-tool.
  8. Shape the top of the tree. Carve the tip of the tree with a knife. Go back and make a series of random cuts with a 6mm 75° V-tool to create shadows.
  9. Clean up the carving. Lightly cut between each layer of branches with a hacksaw to emphasize the separate layers. Smooth each branch with a Sand-O-Flex sander in a drill.
  10. Mount the tree on a base. Mount the finished tree on a W-thick circle of wood. The diameter of the circle is %" less than the diameter of the base of the tree. Sign and date your work on the side of the base. For small trees, use ’/«"-thick circles.
  11. Apply a base coat. Thin DecoArt Americana evergreen paint heavily with water and flood the carving with the paint wash. I hold it over a plastic container. It may take several coats of paint to get a rich dark green. 
  12. Let the base coat dry. Hold the carving in a towel and blast it with 130 pounds of air pressure to keep the grain from raising. Let the paint dry for several days.
  13. Add the snow. Use Delta Ceramcoat white straight from the bottle. Apply the paint with a W-wide flat brush. Start at the top of the tree and apply the paint heavily using the side of the brush. Use a lighter application for the upper and middle branches. Apply the paint heavier on the bottom branches.



  • 8У2" x 11" graph paper !4"-scale (optional, to create your own patterns)
  • Carbon paper
  • 3"x3"x8" basswood
  • Scrap wood (wedge)
  • %" x 3" x 3" basswood (circle base)
  • Evergreen Americana acrylic paint
  • Pure white Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint



  • Band saw
  • 35mm #3 gouge (or larger)
  • Reciprocating power carver (optional) 
  • 15 mm #3 gouge
  •         10mm 75° V-tool
  • 6mm75°V-tool
  • 3mm#10U-gouge
  • Carving knife
  • Hacksaw blade
  • Drill and Sand-O-Flex sander wheel
  • W-wide flat brush
  • 1"- to 2"-wide foam paintbrush
  • Air compressor

Kevin Hutchens

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