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Hello everyone. I'm new to wood carving but I've done other woodworking most of my life. My interest in the tiki culture started when some of my family went on a trip to Maui Hawaii. They brought me back a hand carved tiki from a Tongan carver named Mani. Several years later I made my first trip to Hawaii and have been slowly building my tiki collection when I go to Hawaii or when my family travels to the islands. I recently decided to try and start tiki carving. My approach to carving was to use basic tools. Just like the carver that I get my tikis from. Instead of buying wood carving mallets I made my own out of lignum vitae. Then I started buying some basic chisels. For my first tiki carving I used a basic set of five flat chisels, and two good Swiss V-parting chisels. A 12/20 and a 12/6. I also have a small five piece set of palm micro chisels that my dad gave me. Here's a picture of the mallets I made. I made three of them to have different weights available. The two larger mallets where made from a solid block of 12X3x3 lignum vitae. I use the medium size mallet and the stick mallet the most.

[ Edited by: Secret Squirrel 2013-11-17 21:02 ]

Then I decided it was time to start carving. I wasn't sure what kind of wood I wanted to carve. I have always liked purple heart wood but have never used it on a wood project. I read that it was difficult to carve and not used much. I had a nice piece of 12X3X3 purple heart laying around. I cut off one of the corners and rounded the front by sanding the blank to make it look like a piece of 1/4 sawn log. Here's the blank and the cut off that I kept to test finishes on. I knew this was going to be a challenge but I wanted a unique tiki.

[ Edited by: Secret Squirrel 2013-10-29 19:09 ]

I didn't take a lot of pictures of the very beginning of the carving process. I started out by figuring out what kind of facial features I wanted to use and drew them on with a pencil. After some more debating I started at the top of the tiki carving the V groove in the forehead. Then I carved the eyes, nose, and the mouth. Purple heart is difficult to work with. It's very hard in places and soft and stringy in other places. You really have to be careful with the softer areas because it wants to tear.

This is where I'm currently at in the carving process. I finished detailing the teeth and took some wood off of the upper cheek area below the eyes. Next I'm going to work on the area just below the mouth and the foot platform area.



I hope he's gettin' a killer head-dress...

Thank you. Adding decorative carving to the head and other areas is something that I've been debating on. Due to this wood having difficult carving qualities I'm afraid that trying to detail carve it would be a bad idea. I tried some decorative carving on that test piece of wood and even with super sharp chisels it wants to tear in softer areas and chip on curves in hard areas. I would really like to put a flower or grass pattern on the forehead but I would hate for the wood to tear out. I have already had that happen in the main carving. To avoid those problems I used shallow cuts and stop cuts along with sanding. I won't be able to fix problems like that in areas that have detail carving.


I have always like purple heart as well. Very cool. Something a little different. Look forward to the updates and other work.

I'll post more pictures when I get some more carving done. I'm still thinking about how I'm going to carve the lower portion and under the mouth. I have some ideas in mind. It's going to be fairly traditional.

You certainly chose a unique wood for your first carve. I've used PH and it is no pleasure to hand carve. If you have woodworking experience, you know that there is the right tool for every job - rotary or power tools work great on PH. Some exotics are known to be toxic or cause allergies, so wear a mask when sanding or grinding (I can't use PH due to allergies). The results are unique and beautiful when you're finished.

Great tools
Great color wood
Great start


Thanks everyone for the compliments. It's nice to have others see your work and give their opinion on it.

Reminded me of the Tiki Bar TV mug

mieko posted on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 1:23 PM

Looks great! super impressive for a first carve with a difficult wood. You'll be ready for palm in no time. :)

Today I carved a channel below the mouth that will flow into the foot or base of the tiki. I think this helped the look of the mouth. Next I'm going to carve the V portion on the base.

[ Edited by: Secret Squirrel 2013-10-31 17:25 ]

I finished carving the lower portion of the tiki and did some finish sanding. I think I'm done carving. I just need to wait a few days for the purple color to even out and then I'll apply the finish. I took this picture with a halogen light and it deepens the color. This is similar to what the tiki will look like with the finish on it. It will be a purplish blood red color. I tried to carve this tiki as correctly as possible. I did run a little short on room at the bottom. I left out the collar and shoulder portion and just put the traditional base on it. I have two double headed tikis that are like that so I guess it's acceptable.


looks killer bro,,,

just my 2 cents, but you know...

you've come this far with it,... some kinda headdress would really set it off... even if it's just a bunch more lines that kinda parallel the brow line...

just a thought. :)

You have a good point. Thanks for the encouragement. Now you've got me thinking. I have a few ideas that I think would work. Let me think about it and see if I can design something that will work. I hope my carving skills are up to it if I decide to carve a headdress. Maybe I'll add something to the bottom to.


Looks Great, Excellent finish. The purple color will fade to brown with uv light exposure so if you use a UV Protecting finish it should prolong the purple color.
How did you like carving that soft wood? :)

Thank you. The area where I keep my tiki collection doesn't get any sunlight. It's actually pretty dark most of the time. I'm hoping this keeps the purple heart from turning brown over time. This wood is very hard. In this particular piece it did have a few softer spots but they weren't anything to look forward to because they where grainy and prone to tearing when carving across the grain. I had to be very careful. This wood is definetly a challenge to carve. I don't think I'll be carving another tiki from purple heart. I'm glad I carved this one because it's very unique and it will look nice in my tiki collection.

I made a little progress today. I added some detail carving to the bottom of the tiki. I'm still trying to figure out a design that will look good on the headdress.

amate posted on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 4:36 AM

That headress could definately use some dressing up. Something similar to what you have on the base would work and you already have some experience carving that design. When I fisrt started making these things, I was always afraid I'd ruin it if I tried going too far so just take your time.
When I get stuck, I just stand it up on the shelf where I see it everyday and start a new one. Eventually, the correct design will make itself known to you. Your mallets are better than my carvings! Keep going.

I added some detail carving and a headdress. I'm pretty happy with the results and I've learned a lot. For the headdress I wanted something subtle and something that would flow with the rest of the lines.

[ Edited by: Secret Squirrel 2013-11-09 11:58 ]


That headdress really set that Tiki off.
Good job.

cy posted on Sat, Nov 9, 2013 3:43 PM

Agreed, looks great SS

Thanks guys. I'll post more pictures after I apply the finish.


hell yeah man...

THAT's what I'm talkin' about! :wink:


that head-dress looks great!

Thanks for all the feedback everyone. This piece of purple heart has some really nice grain that runs all the way from the bottom through the headdress. Some of it also looks like marble or granite. It will be more visible and pop out when I apply the finish. I'm going to wait a few more days to allow the most recent carvings to turn purple.


I can't even imagine what that stuff looks like sanded & poly'ed...

I am LOVING your purple tiki carving!!!!!!

Is he for sale?

I'm very flattered and honored that you would consider purchasing my tiki. You made my day. But it's not for sale. I may have some pieces for sale at a later time. I'm not sure if I will ever carve another tiki from purple heart due to its difficulty. You will be the first person I contact if I ever carve another one and I consider selling it. My intent for this tiki is to put it in my tiki collection as an unusual rare tiki. I don't think there are very many purple heart tikis that exist. Thanks again.


I have a piece of purple heart sittin' around for awhile now that I've been wanting to make a tiki with...

you've got me wanting to go dig it up.... :)

It would be interesting to see someone else carving a tiki from purple heart. Give it a try.

Today I applied the first of seven coats of 100% tung oil on the tiki. I thinned the first coat 50/50 with mineral spirits so the oil will soak deep into the wood. I probably wont thin the rest of the coats. I like the way it looks and I think it will look even better as the coats of tung oil are applied. The grain will come out even more after it dries for a month.


I like that a lot!

well played sir!

Thank you. I'm glad you like it. The color should lighten up a little as the tung oil dries. I'll post more pictures as I apply the finish coats. I already have some ideas for my next tiki carving and I have a couple pieces of wood waiting on my work bench. Stay tuned everyone.

amate posted on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 7:53 AM

very nice...well done!

Very nice for a first Tiki. Never tried purple heart but really like the finish you did. Keep it up.

What part of the Midwest are you in?

Thank you. I'm putting on the third coat of tung oil right now. It looks even better then in the picture. I might not need to apply anymore. The wood is getting pretty saturated already. I'll wait and see how it looks tomorrow night. I'm in northwest Indiana.

Now that the purple heart tiki is finished I'm ready to start another tiki carving. I've been wanting to add a draw knife to my small arsonal of wood carving tools. Here's what I got. This is going to be a very helpful and versatile tool for me.

I don't have much experience with a draw knife. So yesterday I spent some time honing my draw knife skills getting a blank ready for my next carving. I was able to round the front of my rectangular blank and the corners. It was work but I was also able to remove all of the saw marks and the coat of wax. As long as I made careful passes little sanding was needed. Before I had to scrape the wood and do a lot of sanding. The wood is called Chakte Viga. This is going to make a very nice tiki carving. It has a beautiful pumpkin orange color and great grain. It looks more stunning in person then in the picture. The meaning of the face on my purple heart tiki is prosperity. On this next carving I want to do the face that means love, good luck and happiness. The mouth on that design has a smile. The color of this wood also reminds me of the great sunsets on Maui. After a little finish sanding on the wood blank I'll start drawing out my design and start carving.

I started carving the channel for the forehead on the new tiki. This Chakte Viga is easier to carve then purple heart. It has a nice tight grain structure and should take detail carving pretty well. I'm going carve the channel a little deeper and then I'll move onto the next step.

[ Edited by: Secret Squirrel 2013-11-24 19:18 ]

I got some more carving done on my tiki. I got the channels for the eyes carved and I started on the nose. The eyes are going to have a lot more wood taken off so they won't look as large as they do now and they'll be rounded in certain areas. I also got a 12/12 chisel to add to my wood carving tools. I really like this chisel. It's going to be very useful.

I got the eyes contoured and the nose done. This triangular look down style of eye isn't used to often. As a matter of fact I haven't seen it before until recently. A few weeks ago I got a new tiki from Maui to add to my tiki collection and it has eyes like this. I still need to carve the apple wedge shapes into the bottom of the eyes but I'll wait to do that when I do the detail decorative carving. Some very nice grain patterns came out when I started rounding the edges of the eyes. I think this is going to be a very nice tiki when it's finished. One thing I'm learning is that carving these harder exotic woods takes a lot of time. I think it's worth it.

Secret Squirrel,

This 2nd tiki carving looks great too! I love the step by step photos. It makes me want to give carving a try. Where do you get your beautiful wood from?

The pepper mill blanks I've been using came from Rockler and Woodcraft wood stores. I've also ordered some wood on the internet. I think you should give tiki carving a try. Wood carving as an art is somewhat a dwindling art form. Tiki carvers are even more rare. The more people learning how to carve the better.

[ Edited by: Secret Squirrel 2013-12-11 07:46 ]

SS your pieces are great! Can't wait to see more. What an amazing start!

Thanks Trader Gino. I'll start carving the mouth in a few days. First I need to take some time to draw some layout lines in pencil.

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