Carving a Donut – Beginner Lesson #6

2017-05-23T16:51:41-04:00 June 28th, 2012|

This Beginner Lesson is available to FREE Members.

Although this lesson seems easy, nothing can prepare you for the world of woodcarving better. This high-fiber donut is an essential lesson for understanding how to read wood grain and adjust your position and cuts accordingly.

  • Lesson Contents: template and tool list in single episode
  • Type of Wood: Butternut
  • Dimensions: 3-3/4" Diameter
  • Tool List: 6mm v-chisel; #1, 14mm; #3, 6mm; #3, 14mm; #5, 14mm; #7, 14mm
  • Skill Level: Beginner
= More Lessons at the Basic Skill Level =


  1. Rob Drown September 5, 2014 at 2:44 am - Reply

    I’m carving a double ring donut just for more practice. The wood is about 12″ square and 1.75 thick red mahogany. How deep should the carving be? 3/8 inch or 1/2 inch?

    I would like to relieve the entire background. Which video covers taking down the background?

    I am really enjoying these simple projects now that I can actually work in my shop. I am recovering from heart valve surgery (open heart) and it feels great to be doing woodworking again.

    • Mary May September 8, 2014 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      Hi Rob,
      1/2 inch is a lot of work to take the background down, but it will certainly give you some good depth to work with. Either depth will work fine – it really depends on how much time and effort you want to put in. A good video on lowering the background is the Grape and Leaf carving. You could also cut the double donut out on a scroll saw and use whatever thickness of wood you use and make a fully 3-d donut! Please add a photo to our student gallery when you are finished. I’d love to see it, and I’m sure others would love to see what can be done with a donut… other than just the donut.

  2. Randy Wright August 18, 2015 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Hi Mary,

    I am a 61 year old who has been off and on with relief carving for about two years. I have a good supply of Swiss Made tools and I am just trying to get better at this hobby. I noticed you are from Charleston….my wife and I vacation there every year and have for the past 10 years. We stay at Folly Beach at The Turn of River condos. I have signed up for the 7 day trial to your page. I hope I like what I see and join as a monthly member soon. Your videos are very good.

  3. Clifton Cook June 21, 2017 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Hi I’ve carved this out of basswood cut the doughnut totally out . I’m waiting for the local gypsy to place and adequate curse on it then I’m sending it to you Mary : ) . Should have listened to reason why Butternut was used my Bad. How much are curses these days? Anyway redoing in Butternut Thanks Mary this method of close camera work on the carving is great for us with low vision.

    • MaryMay June 21, 2017 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Hi Clifton,
      You can make a fully 3-dimensional donut! Actually basswood will work fine for this project – you just need to make sure the grain is going horizontally so the arrows make sense. Carve a dozen donuts!

  4. Asher Landesman September 19, 2017 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Hey! I just discovered another advantage of fishtail gouges. You can stab yourself twice with only one misstep!
    Almost finished my first donut. I think I truly will need to carve a dozen.

    • MaryMay September 19, 2017 at 11:42 pm - Reply

      Keep a supply of bandaids! And don’t cut towards yourself 🙂

      • Asher Landesman September 20, 2017 at 8:00 am - Reply

        Actually, every time I have cut myself it was because I reached for a tool without proper respect for how sharp they are even when not carving. I just ordered a styptic pencil; I bleed right through the bandaids.
        We’ve got a three day break starting tonight, so on Sunday I’ll “glaze” my donut and turn the wood over and start another.

        P.S. When I turn the gouge upside down to carve the curve it doesn’t shave, but takes a fairly deep bite, even when I hold it horizontal. What’s the trick?

        • MaryMay September 20, 2017 at 10:13 pm - Reply

          Hi Asher,
          Be careful and you may want to buy stock in Band-Aid.

          By “turn the gouge upside down”, I assume you mean bevel side against the wood? Often if the blade does not catch the wood in a slicing motion, you will find that the bevel is rounded and not flat. It forces you to do a scooping motion rather than slicing motion. Make sure when you sharpen the gouge that it is perfectly flat against the stone. New gouges often have a slight bevel at the edge which causes this issue. They are usually sharpened with a machine and they do a final honing along the edge. It’s a beautiful, sharp tool when you purchase it, but this small, secondary bevel on the back-side can cause it to work much differently.

          • Asher Landesman September 23, 2017 at 12:55 pm

            No, actually I meant with bevel up, as when first rounding the donut. Since there is no bevel at all on that side, I’m baffled why it digs so deep. Been thinking about it a lot. Perhaps I need to use more of a slice action? I’ll try that tonight.

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