Cheating Eyes
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 pupil.

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.