Canadian Woodworking

Polar bear

Author: Garnet Hall
Published: February March 2002

This project is fairly easy and straight forward. 

I used aspen for the bear and spruce for the ice to provide some contrast. Both are easy woods to find and not too expensive.

Transfer the pattern to the wood.

Start by transferring the project to the wood. I like to make a template, but gluing the pattern pieces to the wood will also work.

Cut the pieces out.

Cut carefully and the pieces will fit better. A good blade and the way you hold your mouth are very important. I like a #7 Precision Skip or Double Tooth/Reverse blade.

Assemble and check for fit.

Fitting can be a grief. Use a ‘light box’ to see where the places are that are holding the pieces apart. Mark them and sand or cut these places down. You can also use a piece of carbon paper between the pieces. The high spots will be marked by the carbon paper and you will know where to sand or cut.

Work away until you have all the pieces fitting within 10.000 of an inch, or a saw kerf, whichever comes first.

Raise or lower the pieces as the pattern suggests. I use scrap ⅛” and ¼” plywood for this. Lower pieces by resawing them thinner.

Shaping and Sanding.

Any sanding tools will work, including sand paper. Make sure you wear a dust mask. Take wood dust seriously. All your tools should be hooked up to a dust collector with an air filtration device. I like using a small pneumatic drum sander in a flex shaft. I use a carving style to get the shape I want. I have found this method gives more control over the process.

Try to achieve as much definition with the shaping as possible. You want to make it look realistic, so round over the pieces. It will give the bear a more realistic appearance.

I don’t sand past 220 or even 180. I figure the less dust I create the better.

Glue up and round over.

Trace the project on the backing material. The best backing is baltic birch but any good quality ¼” plywood will work. I usually use oak or birch.

Cut out the back and glue the project on the backing material with ordinary white carpenter’s glue.


The final step is the finish. To keep the wood as white as possible use a water base clear finish, like Flecto’s Diamond finish.

A water base finish raises the grain of the wood, so more sanding will be required between coats.

Three coats on the front and one on the back should be enough.

Attach a hanger and it’s done.

If you enjoy making this project, remember, it’s ideal for selling at craft shows for under $50.

Pattern reduced to 50%.

Can be sized to preference.

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