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Wooden Dummy Instructions

Wooden Dummy Instructions – How to build a Wooden Dummy

Wooden Dummy Instructions
Why should you consider building your own Wooden Dummy.

Let’s face it: it’s full of great wooden dummies for sale out there: different materials, colors and shapes. But there comes a time where you should consider building your own, though: this happens when:

  • you want your dummy to match your size
  • you are not happy with the quality of a commercial dummy
  • you want to have fun building your dummy yourself.

While only few purists and masters are willing to invest in a wooden dummy that fully matches their height and proportions, the last two reasons are enough for you to prefer a hand-crafted wooden dummy rather than a commercial one.

  1. First, not all wood is the same: can you actually imagine training with a chip-board dummy or a plastic dummy?
  2. Second, commercial dummies – the cheap ones – are most of the times a compromise between the money you invest and the durability of your dummy.

Wooden Dummy Instructions

Wood: what type of timber should I choose?

Our answer is just one: Oak. Period. It’s expensive, everyone knows, but it’s the best wood you can choose if you decide to build your own wooden dummy. Two are the reasons:

  1. Oak is extremely strong.
  2. It’s hard, but not impossible to work. In fact, compared to other hardwoods, Oak is easy to be lathed and worked. This means that, when you start building your dummy, you will be working on a project that will last forever, whilst preserving the life of your tools, supposed that you will be working with DIY tools, that we all know are pretty cheap and are not famous for their longevity.

How much will I spend for my handmade wooden dummy?

In terms of wood, you will spend a lot: Oak is not cheap, but it’s the main investment in this project. Again, you may decide to use a softer/cheaper timber, but that’s totally up to you. In terms of work, be prepared to spend many hours in this project, especially if you are not experienced with woodworking:

I personally consider this project a three on five stars in difficulty.

Of all tasks your new wooden dummy will require you to go though, bear in mind that a second, pretty expensive investment should be also considered: lathing the main log.

Wooden Dummy Instructions – Full project Views

Full Project front view
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The main Log: the heart of your project. You still have two options when it comes to choose whether your dummy will be round-shaped or square-shaped: for the round version – the best one, but the most difficult to work on – you can:

  1. buy a circular log. This option is the cheap option, as you will be buying a log that -first- cannot be larger enough in diameter, -second- it will crack in time: hardware warehouses generally don’t sell logs wider than 15/20 cm, and even if you are lucky to find one, keep in mind that a log, sooner or later, will crack: you will still be able to use it, don’t get me wrong, but it just won’t look nice.
  2. design and work your dummy on a square-base log, and then lathing it. This is the best option, although it’s hard to find someone with a big lathe nowadays. Result is great, as your log won’t crack because it doesn’t come from just a chopped tree, but from a set of glue-bonded pieces of wood, that will be lathed at a later stage.

Wooden Dummy Instructions – 3D views

Dummy 3D view 1
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Wooden Dummy Instructions – The Arms

Of the whole project, Arms are the most stressed part. Now that you are attempting to build three brand new arms for your new wooden dummy, consider investing in hardwood only: these wooden arms will be beaten and continuously hit, so do yourself a big favour: don’t save money on these parts and choose only the highest quality timber you can get.

Arm A view 1
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Wooden Dummy Instructions – The Leg

The Leg: the hardest part of the project. Building your wooden dummy arms was a piece of cake, wasn’t it? You just need to replicate a pretty simple job for three times. When it comes to make your leg, it’s not that simple. For this project you need preferably a 135° log, in just one piece. It’s true: you can build the Leg by merging two different pieces, but if you want to build a quality wooden dummy, keep in mind that you have to go to a bush, search for that perfect branch, and cut it (I am not inviting you to do so, because it might be illegal). For my personal wooden dummy, I went to the bush and chopped one of its branches. Here are the results:

Leg view 1
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Project Completed: Maintenance & Care.

Before you start training, I would like you to point out that your new wooden dummy needs constant care: don’t attempt to use it before you have given him at least two coats of wax or oil: this will preserve the nice wood in almost all conditions. Please consider waxing it at least once every six months, or giving him a new coat of oil every twelve months: it goes without saying that some light sanding is required before and between each coat.

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Everybody will know Pinocchio: a tale by Carlo Collodi, telling the story of Master Geppetto, an Italian wood-artisan who wished a son so bad that his wish was once heard in the night by a holy Fairy: she then took under consideration that deep dream of Geppetto and thought “well, I will give life to one of your best creation” -a wooden marionette called Pinocchio-. This marionette was just like a real kid, with the only difference that he was made of timber.

With this exemplification I personally invite Martial Artists to consider the following when you are about to build your own Wooden Dummy: make it the way you want, make it of the size you want your training companion to be, but above all: make it in a way that looks real.

When I designed my dummy back in 2004 I was just 22 years old and I built my wooden dummy according to the body size and mass of my 22 year old body: I forgot to consider that everything changes, so did my training, and now, when I look at my dummy, it’s still there watching me with the eyes of a 22 year old young man. Please accept my advice: when you design your Wooden Dummy, build it a little bit bigger (while keeping its proportions), as you, as a Martial Artist, know well that there will be always an Opponent bigger and tougher than you, so it’s better to prepare your body accordingly.

Wooden Dummy Training Videos


Fabio Zambelli
Fabio Zambellihttps://www.martialartsexplained.com/master-fabio-zambelli/
Founder of the Shunlian Shenghuo Kungfu Academy - Master Craftsman of Heart of The Orient - Designer of Martial Arts Explained



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