Introduction: How to Make Tiny Wood Figurines

I love to make little wooden figurines as handmade gifts for family and friends, usually of pop culture characters.

This is a tiny figure design that is especially simple and can be made with just a few basic tools.

They can be painted to be any person or character you want, but I made these to be Dwight and Jim from the US version of the show The Office.

To go along with the figures I made a miniature set of the famous birthday scene in the office conference room. If you're a fan of the show, you know . The party decorations feature half-blown-up grey, black and brown balloons, and the often-copied "IT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY" banner. It's hilarious and sad at the same time which, to me, describes the show in general.

These little figures are relatively quick and easy to make; I'll show you how in the following steps!

Supplies

To make this project I used:

  • 3/4" wood dowel
  • 1/4" wood dowel
  • jumbo craft stick, like a big popsicle stick
  • tiny bit of 14 gauge copper wire
  • razor pull-saw (I got mine on amazon for about $10)
  • small craft vise
  • flush-cut wire snips
  • drill and 1/16" drill bit
  • a few other common supplies like super glue, sandpaper, craft paint
  • small wooden beads, masking tape, cardstock, thin white ribbon

Step 1: Body and Head

If you have a bandsaw you could use that with a thin blade, and these will go really quickly. But I just used the small hand saw shown in the previous step along with a vise.

Start with a piece of 3/4" diameter wooden dowel. From one end make a mark 1/2" in, and another at 1 1/4" in.

To make the next step easier, I wrapped a piece of 3/4" masking tape evenly around the dowel in between these two marks.

Note that you can easily make these figures using whatever size of materials you have. It's all based on proportions:

The head section is exactly as tall as the head/body dowel's diameter. The body section is 2/3 as tall as the head. The legs and arms use a dowel with a diameter that is half the height of the body section, cut to the same length as the body section is tall. That may sound like a lot, but it's pretty simple once you lay it out.

Step 2: Initial Cuts

I clamped the 3/4" dowel into the vise and used the razor saw to carefully cut along the masking tape all the way around, but only about 1/8" into the wood.

Then I repositioned the dowel, and made two parallel cuts downward to remove the material as shown.

Step 3: Next Cuts

Two additional cuts were made using the razor saw at a slight angle as shown. This produces a body section below a big blocky head.

Now I cut all around the opposite side of the masking tape all the way through the dowel to remove the head/body section from the rest of the stick.

Step 4: Sand

The head and body piece was now sanded by hand with some fine grit sandpaper to knock off all the sharp edges.

Step 5: Legs

The legs are made from 1/2" long pieces of 1/4" diameter dowel, and are fastened to the body with super glue, and some tiny bits of copper wire for additional support.

To make these I first drilled a 1/16" hole in the end of the dowel, just about 1/4" deep. You'll want to make a tiny dimple in the end of the dowel first with an awl or similar tool, to keep your drill bit from wandering when you start to drill. Go slow and make a nice clean hole.

Now I cut a small piece of 14ga copper wire and super glued it into the hole. The dowel is then held in the vise and a 1/2" section is cut free. Repeat for the 2nd leg.

Step 6: Glue in Legs

Holes are drilled in the bottom of the body section now, and the legs are super glued into them.

Step 7: Arms

The arms are made from 1/2" pieces of 1/4" dowel. They are first marked at 1/2" and then sanded by hand by running the dowel across some fine grit sandpaper to make the flat bevel as shown.

Then the pieces are cut free at the mark and lightly sanded by hand to remove any splintery edges. Then they are super glued to the sides of the body. You only need a small drop to make them stick long enough to reinforce them in the next step.

Step 8: Reinforce Arms

The arms are reinforced with some small bits of coper wire. Drill two small holes going through the arms into the body section, and then super glue in some copper wire. When the glue is dried the excess wire can be trimmed off with some flush-cut snips.

Step 9: Make a Base

A small base is made so the figures can stand on their own using a jumbo craft popsicle stick. A piece was cut from the stick and sanded so both ends were rounded.

I drilled a small hole in one of the figure's legs and glued in a tiny piece of copper wire. A matching hole was drilled into the base, and then the figure's legs were super glued to the base. The bit of wire helps make this more secure and I figure it's only really needed on one of the legs.

Step 10: Completed Figure

Here is the completed figure, which stands about 1 3/4" tall.

Now I made another one. Initially the heads were more blocky, but I decided to sand them more until they had a more rounded top and bottom, which I think looks better.

Step 11: Painting

I used common craft paints to paint Dwight and Jim, and had to custom mix various colors to get the shades I wanted.

I started with a base coat of their skin tone on both figures, followed by some grey pants for Jim and a grey-brown shirt and cuffs for Dwight.

Jim got a light blue shirt and dark blue tie; Dwight got a brown suit and tie.

Next I penciled in some guide lines to help make their hair, and then carefully painted their unique hair styles as best I could. Some minor touch-ups and cover-ups were done with a toothpick to dab on tiny bits of paint here or there as needed.

Some black paint was dotted on to make their eyes, followed with a light spot dotted on with a toothpick using white paint.

A toothpick was used to paint a black squiggly mouth on each of them.

When the paint was dry I used a fine-tipped pen to draw Dwigt's glasses and to outline the details on each of their clothes.

I'm proud of this step the most, so be sure check out all of the photos!

Step 12: Conference Room

I drew up a very crude conference room and conference table using google slides. The image is included here, and you'll want to print it out on cardstock.

I kept the "IT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY" banner separate so you can feel the joy as you cut it out and tape it to the wall yourself using tiny strips of masking tape.

The conference room table is made by cutting out the oval top and grey base portion, and folding the base piece along the dotted lines. Then you can set the oval section on top of the base.

A bunch of small wooden beads were painted grey, brown, and black to represent the half-blown-up balloons that decorate the room.

Some thin white ribbon and masking tape can be used to assemble the room to match how it looked in the show.

Step 13: It Is a Party.

That's it! Now you can make your very own tiny Dwight and Jim along with the conference room birthday party scene.

Or you can use this guide to make tiny figures of any person or character you want.

Thanks for reading. Comments and feedback are always welcome!

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