How To Carve Lion  Head Appliqué Onlay  Like Master

How To Carve Lion Head Appliqué Onlay 

Wood Appliqué Onlay of a Lion Head is one of the multiple projects I carved during my professional life as a woodcarver. I am talking about Lion-related carving projects. 

When I was in my 20s I had a first paid project of a lion head. I remember it as if it was today. Big private property of one "big shot" business people. He built multiple very expensive houses throughout of USA. And one of those homes was in Elkhart, Indiana. It was definitely one of the biggest and nicest homes in a small town. 10000 sq. feet, as I remember. I had a construction business back then, and multiple people worked for me. While my employees worked on installing Doors and all the fancy moldings, I was working on just one raised panel.

Lion Head Onlay


It was a unique panel. That panel was a central focus of a bar and visible from a great room. The owner of this beautiful Classical Home involved one of the best interior designers in his home. 

My part was to carve a lion head onlay and install it on this central raised panel of a bar. I was young and passionate about carving. I thought, I know everything. Later I found out it is not the case. I would have to carve this lion head again I would take a different approach. I would carve like a Mater. Or I should say like Master woodcarvers of the past did. The approach of the Past. And I have no doubt My Lion Head onlay would look much better. Much more beautiful. 

Like I said above, I was Young, and thought, I-know-all. 

Since this carving project, I had multiple Lion head Appliqué Onlay commissions. 

And every time I was getting better and better. I will try to show You what works for me. What steps I am taking when carving Lion head Appliqué Onlay. 

3 Stages To Carve Lion Head

Researching Stage of Lion Head Carving

Learn to Carve Lion Head

Stage number one in Wood Carving should be always researching stage.

My teacher asked me.

Do you want to be a Master Wood Carver?

Research the work of old masters. Visit museums. Read books. Look for old images and try to understand why they carved the way they carved.

It was much harder back then. Now it is easy.

I spent a lot of hours researching. I was looking for many references. And it is good practice. It surprised me how many lion heads You can find on the internet. Today it is easy. You can plug Your search term - How to carve a lion head and You will find many blog posts and images.


For example, when I was searching for reference materials I found one of the oldest carvings on a Lion Head carved by a carver who lived in the seventh century BC in Assyria. I can only imagine his workshop and the tools he used. The smell inside of his tiny shop. How do I know if it was a tiny shop? By researching old master's shops. 

I am interested in every little detail. This lion head sculpture has the face of a roaring lion.

Archaeologists found this carved lion head during excavation by one of the oldest cities on the planet earth Nimrud. It was a royal building in ancient times. This lion was most likely an element of furniture.

At the last defeat of the Assyrian empire at about the end of the seventh century Before Christ, the royal buildings at Nimrud were burned, and the lion head carving element was blackened through exposure to fire.

I don't know about You, but for me it is a very interesting.

research stage of carving lion head


The Goal of research is to understand as much as possible about subject you research. I our case it is a lion head.

It is always a good idea to research not only work of old masters but real live lions. I am not asking you to go to safari and take a lot of pictures, no. Just go to Pinterest and search for Wooden Carved Lion Head High Resolution Stock Photography.

I assure you you can find very interesting photos of a lion.

Before I even did not realise that lions don't look the same. African lion differs greatly from Asian lion. Face is different. Now it makes sense. Lion is a cat. And just like cats not all the same.

Same applies to lions. For example, I have Persian cat and it has a flat face but when I was growing up in Russia cats, we had were different. 

For the Project in my School of Woodcarving, I choose African Lion. It has a prolonged face and looks very scary when roaring. So I studied more African Lions. I took notes about everything. Muscle movements, Position of eyes of a lion. Hair.


Don't skip researching stage. Yes, you could just copy old master's carved lion head but I assure you, you will get a much better result if You invest time in researching. You will understand much better.


Modeling Stage of Lion Head Carving

Learn how to cave Lion Head in Wood. Wood Carving School

Is Modeling important for woodcarving?

Modeling is one of four biggest keys to mastery in the Art of Woodcarving.  Four keys of success in woodcarving are.

  1. Design for woodcarving
  2. Modelling before carving
  3. Sharpening Woodcarving tools. 
  4. Mastering Carving techniques


I believe modeling stage before woodcarving is very important for very simple reason.  You are getting your brains ready for Three-dimensional artwork. I always like to give an example.  There are three types of artists in life. 

  • Fine artists, who work on canvas with pencils of brushes e.t.c.
  • Artists who make sculptures.
  • And Carvers, who carving wood or stone

Remember when you were in school.  You can always find a boy or girl talented in drawing.  No matter how small town or even village you go you will always find and artist who can paint. Millions of people able to do that.  And they all work in two-dimensional world. 

But You can find only thousands, not millions of artist who work in 3D. We call them sculptors. Most of them work with clay. With clay you can add some details and if you don't like take is out. And so on.  Modeling is more difficult than drawing, but still not the same as a third group of artists. Carvers. 

Look around, how many do you find. May be hundred. But certainly not thousands and not millions. Carver is an Artist who also makes sculptures. The only difference is Carver takes away material and can not add it back. In other words, Carving is an art of deduction.

Yes, Woodcarving is an art of substruction and if you don't model first you have a lot more chances to make mistakes on a real woodcarving project. It is easy to fix on a clay model and it is almost impossible to fix on wood or stone.

Also, if you model before carving, you can always use this model as reference. That is what I do. I take my callipers and measure every detail and translate my wood lion head project. 


Carving stage of Lion Head Carving

What Is The Best Wood For Wood Carving? woodcarving school, school of woodcarving, wood carving lessons, woodcarving courses

 The Last stage is Carving process. 

This Stage is the longest. And that is what my School of Woodcarving is all about. I have a course 

" How to Carve a lion head Appliqué Onlay " 

I will show You my approach not only to woodcarving but also from design to modeling and so on. I will show you my tricks of a carving trade or carving techniques. 

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Alexander Grabovetskiy Woodcarver -Woodcarving School- school of woodworking

Author Alexander Grabovetskiy Woodcarver

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