Woodcarving Driftwood for Gifts

Santa Driftwood Carving

Woodcarving Driftwood Makes Wonderful and Unique Gifts

Driftwood carving also known as woodcarving driftwood is something that other people tend to ask me about quite a lot. They wonder how you can take a piece of ordinary wood washed up on the beach and then actually make something from it. And they also want to know how I can create either whimsical or even realistic looking faces and characters.

If you live on or near a beach then you are likely to be aware of all the driftwood that just lies about for the taking. Sometimes there are just a few pieces that can be found washed up along the shoreline and sometimes there are lots of pieces scattered around.

Sometimes I just get the urge to make things. My spirit becomes restless and will not settle until I am using that energy to create something. Carving up pieces of wood picked from the beach or found while out walking in the mountains and forests really helps to calm my rather restless soul. There is a real joy and beauty in taking something that seems to have little or no value and then transforming it into a special gift for someone or making a piece of art for myself.

Take a glance around beachy areas or even in the mountain regions and you will find traditional crafts people who enjoy decorating with wood which has been found and collected naturally. Other items that can be found in nature like seashells make the perfect gift for someone that is in tune with their environment and who has an appreciation for hand made art and craft pieces. Driftwood, River Root and a large variety of other wood types can all be transformed from a simple broken off branch into a piece of art that you can be proud of. In this article, I’ll show you some of my own work and also provide you with some resources and information so you can get into carving as a hobby yourself.


Search First for the Right Piece of Driftwood to Use


As a child, I have fond memories of going to visit my Grandmother and then we would walk across the length of the beach and search for suitable pieces of wood to use. She usually kept a few pieces displayed in her home, as I do. I started to carve about 12 years ago and started off by making Santa Claus. then moving on to other things including an Eagle with a Dreamcatcher.

Several years back I had a really stressful job of which I did the second shift. I would finish my job really late between midnight and two in the morning but I was unable to get to sleep straight away because I needed to unwind and relax first. In order to get to a peaceful and relaxed state, I started doing creative things like painting which I found very calming. I began to love and cherish these early hours of the morning as they belonged solely to me and there were no other distractions or things to worry about.

Carved Wood Santa Makes a Great Holiday Gift

Santa Driftwood Carving


Carving a Driftwood Santa is easy enough.  Find a piece of driftwood that has the shape that resembles what you have in mind.  Stroll beaches, desert washes, or even forest streams for river root.   Some people just pick pieces up without knowing if they will work or not, but it’s really your choice how you want to do it.  Me, I don’t take a piece that I can’t already see the design in it.  The Santa woodcarving on the left is one of my favorites as I could see an old time Santa with a flowing beard even before carving and painting.  These Santa’s make great gifts. 

Dry the wood thoroughly, about a week, before working on it.  An Xacto Knife, and a Dremel are the only tools you need.  Carve it, then paint it and drill a small hole to put a piece of ribbon or twine for hanging.  It’s now ready to hang on the Christmas Tree or a wreath, or give as a gift.



Carving Starts with Your Inspiration

When I lived for a time over in Europe, I saw many traditional wood artists making things out of River Root. I spent some time studying their art and creations to see how the pieces of wood changed and developed and I took a lot of ideas and also inspiration from them as well. I was in the Peace Corps at this time and I did not have the means or resources available then to get a book, but I really would have loved having this book below. It has techniques, interviews with artists that carve and create from different woods, and also tips that you will find useful.


Carving Found Wood: Tips, Techniques & Inspirations from the Artists

There are photos to provide you with inspiration and ideas for your own work as well as techniques explained so you don’t end up accidentally cutting yourself like I did and also tips on how to work with different types of wood that are available. There are also some great interviews with the artists and it is so clear that they love working with with a variety of woods naturally found locally in nature.



My Carved, Painted and Polished Driftwood Eagle

This Eagle  with the dreamcatcher was my second carving. I think my fingers got carved more than this piece of driftwood. but I was still pretty new to carving driftwood at the time. Since I did not know much about technique, I was unaware of the things that would really help me such as the protective leather finger guard and the thumb guard.

Sometimes I search for a piece of wood based on a vision of what I would like to make, and sometimes I don’t have any idea in mind. Sometimes the piece will suggest an idea or resemble something as I look at it. The Eagle was one of those pieces. It just looked like something to me. The more I stared at it, the more the top resembled an Eagles head.

You cannot always just find driftwood washed up on the beach and use it. It really needs to be dried first if it isn’t dry already. Patience may be in order if pieces need to dry as you might have to let it dry for a week or so. While the driftwood is drying you can spend some time reflecting on your project; what you will make and how to do it. With the Eagle piece, I could see the shape of the head and I started to create the white feathered area before I began cutting out the beak shape. I did not find it that hard except for the fact that because I was inexperienced and not using finger guards, my hands were a little sore which made it more challenging.

After carving the Eagle to my satisfaction, I then painted the head area and waxed it. However it still did not look quite finished to me and it felt like it was just missing something. At that point, I decided to add a dream catcher. The leather was dyed with tea leaves to give it an older look.  Just boil some tea leaves and put the leather in the water, take it out after it gets some color and let it dry.  Then make the dreamcatcher.

You Can Learn How to Make a Dream Catcher Here

I did not enjoy my creation for long because my Mother saw it and really wanted it, so I gave it to her as a gift. She hung it in her dining room where it stayed for over 20 years.

Finding the Right Piece of River Root

River Root for Carving


This piece of driftwood is going to be a birthday gift for my daughter when I carve into it. I saw this and knew it was the right piece to use. After I took this home I got ready to make this into a gift for her birthday knowing that my daughter would love it. When you look at this particular piece, what does it suggest to you. Reflect on the the shape and texture of what you collect when you visit the beach.


Xacto Wood Carving Kit

I use an Xacto for my own carvings and this is a good little set to have and use.      Xacto X5175 Deluxe Woodcarving Set

This particular set comes in a nice little wooden box and includes 6 assorted carving blades, 5 gouges and 4 routers that you can use.  Now that you have the right tools, start experimenting.  You can carve driftwood for gifts or for your own pleasure.  Whatever you do, just have fun!


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