How to Make Korean Wooden Masks

Written by carl hose
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How to Make Korean Wooden Masks

The Korean wooden mask, also called the bangsangssi, is made of wood, straw, paper, and bearskin. Typically, a Korean wooden mask has two or four golden eyes. Wooden masks are traditionally used for funerals of government officials or others who, if life, held positions of power. Paper was used for those of the noble class, and masks made of straw were used for the funerals of common people. Find out how you can make an authentic Korean wooden mask to display in your home.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 3-foot by 3-foot by 12-inch wood, such as alder
  • Band saw
  • Small rubber mallet
  • Lead pencil
  • 3mm straight chisel
  • 3mm spoon chisel
  • Carving knife
  • 100 grit (fine) Sandpaper
  • Staple gun
  • Small screws (2)
  • Metal picture frame rings (2)
  • Wig hair
  • Clear coat gloss
  • Acrylic paint

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  1. 1

    Choose the wood you'll use for your mask. Traditionally, alder is used for Korean masks. Alder is easy to carve and durable. You can purchase alder from lumber suppliers. The mask should be sized to fit your face, so you won't need a large piece of wood.

  2. 2

    Work from a reference photo depicting the Korean mask you'd like to replicate. Draw the design on your wood blank using a thick lead pencil, then cut the rough shape of your mask using a band saw.

  3. 3

    Use a 3mm straight chisel to carve your design and a 3mm spoon chisel for creating depressions around the eyes and other scooped designs. Sand the chiselled edges with 100 grit sandpaper, which is recommended for preparing wood for a finish. Follow your reference photo and recreate the traditional laughing design of the Korean face mask.

  4. 4

    Go over the carved face with 100 grit sandpaper and smooth the edges. Use a small-bladed knife to perfect the features and continue to sand until you achieve the finished look. The size of the knife isn't important, so long as it is small enough to allow you to enhance the details of your mask. A very large knife will be harder to work with and most likely remove to much of your design.

  5. 5

    Paint the face mask a single colour using acrylic paint, then add bright colours around the eyes and mouth. Red, yellow, or blue is often found on the Korean masks. You can add a clear coat of protective gloss if you like.

  6. 6

    Use a 0.014 to 0.343mm drill bit to place a hole in each side of the mask, about even with the eyes. These are the holes you will use to hang the mask or prepare the mask to be worn. If you intend to wear the mask, you will attach a leather strip to the mask by pushing one end of the leather through each of the holes and fixing the ends in place with a staple gun. If you intend to hang the mask, you need two metal picture frame rings, which you will screw to the back of the mask at eye-level.

  7. 7

    Enhance your mask with bits of hair in a Korean style beard or by adding strands of hair on the head. You can purchase wig hair from a craft and hobby shop.

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