On most of my carvings I create a highly detailed eye such as the one shown
below on the left. Sometimes however, especially on smaller carvings, I find
it almost as effective and much easier to do what I call a "cheating" eye,
as shown below on the left.
I use an old philosophical tip that Pete Engler passed on to me quite a few
years ago to create my "cheating" eye. He stated that sometimes the illusion
of detail can be just as effective than intricate detail. By no means is it
true in every case but sometimes, especially on small, less realistic type
carvings it can be very effective.
Below I give a few tips on creating a "cheating" eye. Try it sometime, you
might be delighted with the results.
To make a "cheating" eye I simply start by using a #7 or #9 gouge to push
straight in for a "stop cut" for the upper eye ball, either tool will work
fine. I then use a small #3 gouge or chisel to create a bevel straight
across from corner to corner up to the "stop cut", this bevel will be
shadowed somewhat by the upper eye lid creating an illusion of roundness. I
now simply use a U gouge to "scoop" out an iris. Most of the time stain or
paint will leave the iris darker than the surrounding eye, but I often
darken the center of the iris with a pen or pencil to give the illusion of a
As you see on these eyes I have made "stop cuts" both on the top and bottom
of the eye balls with a detail knife. I then round the eye balls with the
detail knife, paying special attention to get the corners clean. I next made
a stop cut for the iris by slightly pushing in a U gouge (veiner). I then
use a smaller U gouge to slightly hollow out the middle of the iris to
create the pupil. This is a painstakingly intricate process that must be
done with a steady hand and without being in a hurry. But dang, it does look
good when done right.