Canadian Woodworking

Ladybug Fridge Magnet

Author: David Bruce Johnson
Published: June July 2007

Carving this ladybug is simply a matter of rounding a carefully selected piece of butternut.


This piece’s simplicity is complimented by its unusual but effective detailing. If you choose to use a 4″ by 6″ block as I have done for this article, you will produce one extremely large and functional refrigerator magnet.

Draw pattern on block

Select horizontal grain

Drill holes for magnets

Holes match holding device 

Round block lengthwise

Use #2 gouge face down

Carve off-round profile

Attain symmetrical corners

Start layers with V-gouge

Round to create steps

Undercut approximately 1"

Split back with V-gouge

Blacken with torch

Use a heat shield

Burn dots carefully

Club of superglue and baking soda

Shape antennae with sandpaper

Finish with glossy varathane

Preparatory Steps

By anticipating the final product, two preparatory steps become obvious. First, to obtain a pattern of rings on the ladybug, select a piece of wood with grain running as close as possible to horizontal. Then draw on the pattern and cut it out with your bandsaw. Second, use a ¾” Forstner bit to drill holes where ¾” rare-earth magnets can be inserted later. The depth of the holes should equal the thickness of the magnets. I located the holes where I would attach my carving vice, thus permitting the holes to be hidden under the magnets when the carving was done.

Carve the Ladybug

Given the infestation of ladybugs in Ontario this year, it was easy to find a reference model. Begin by rounding the block lengthwise using a #2 gouge face down. Then, contour the ‘off-round’ side profile of the ladybug. It is important to resist the urge to round the corners immediately. Instead, the block should have four ridges where the two curved surfaces intersect. Achieving this intermediate shape will enable you to achieve much better symmetry in this ‘dome-shaped’ ladybug.

The thorax and the head are created using a parting tool (V-gouge) and a #2 gouge. Outline each section then round to create steps. Define the bottom of the oval head and undercut the thorax and body approximately 1″. Finally, make the split down the middle of the back with a parting tool. Your carving work is complete when you have thoroughly sanded the entire ladybug.

Add Details

When I want part of a carving to be black, I usually use my torch. To practice the burning technique, begin with the head and thorax. Here’s a hint – use the torch like an airbrush, i.e. point the flame in toward the burnt area, not out toward the edge of the burn. To protect the areas I didn’t want to burn, I shaped a scrap of soapstone to use as a shield. Using the technique developed when burning the head and thorax, carefully burn the spots on the back. Other than the desire for symmetry, there is no rule for this step; burn as many spots as you like.

The antennae are made with copper wire, super glue, and baking soda. To begin, dip the end of the wire in superglue. Allow the glue to form a drop then dip it into some baking soda. Once the club on the end of the antenna is started this way, don’t dip directly into the superglue. Doing so will initiate a chemical reaction that will ruin the remaining superglue. Instead, use a second clean piece of wire to drip superglue onto the club and then dip into the baking soda. When a sufficiently large teardrop has been created, refine the shape with sandpaper. Attach the antennae to the ladybug by inserting the wire into a pre-drilled hole and secure it with a drop of superglue.

Finishing Touches

The final details are small but very important. Paint the spots with white gesso. Paint the antennae with black gesso. Cover the entire ladybug with a medium or high gloss varnish or varathane. The surface finish, especially over the burnt spots, may require a few coats.

When the finish has dried, insert the ¾” rare earth magnets into the pre-drilled holes and fix them in place with a drop of superglue. I found three magnets sufficient to hold the ladybug firmly on the fridge. With four magnets, I could open the fridge door before the ladybug would let go.

It might come as a bit of a surprise but this large ladybug has proven itself to be much more useful than a mere decoration. Since I completed my first ladybug and located it on my refrigerator, the infestation of ladybugs in my home has ceased. Perhaps the carving is a deterrent. Perhaps ladybugs are territorial.

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