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How to whittle your own elf

Enjoy the simple and mindful craft of whittling while creating your own elf to decorate the mantelpiece at Christmas. This basic elf from The Danish Art of Whittling by Frank Egholm is a perfect project for beginners. Elves like company, so why not make several – after all, practice makes perfect.



• Piece of fresh branch, 5–8cm (2–3 1/8 in) long plus an extra 5cm (2in) to hold while whittling, 1–3cm (3/8 –1 1/8 in) thick (choose one with an attractive but not too thick bark).
• Saw.
• Pencil.
• Beeswax crayon, coloured pencil or watercolour paint and paintbrush.


1. Cut the tip of the branch to a point like a pencil but leave the bark on the rest of the length (it’s a good idea to have another piece of fresh branch ready for a second attempt in case you remove too much bark). Carve the beard and face by removing a little more of the bark (see the illustrations left).

2. Saw off the holding end of the branch so that your elf is the required height. Mark the eyes and mouth with a pencil: two dots and a small curving line.

3. The hat can be coloured with thinned watercolour paint, beeswax crayon or coloured pencil.

This project is taken from The Danish Art of Whittling by Frank Egholm (Batsford), out now.

Photograph by Frank Egholm.