simple sailfish

sailfish ice sculpture design


about this sculpture design

This design is somewhat based on a design from renowned Japanese ice sculptor Mitsuo Shimizu. If you’re familiar with his ice sculpting books, the design that inspired this one is in the green book. My copy of the green book is well-worn, as I looked at it all the time when I was first starting out. Shimizu’s design actually includes two sailfish, with the second one in an even more dynamic leaping pose. However, it wouldn’t be very “simple” if there were two of them, now would it? This design is also simple because it needs no welding, unless you want it to. You could, if you like, weld on pectoral fins to give the fish more of a three dimensional presence. Also, you could use a thin slab of ice (about 5 inches thick) to carve the fish, in which case, you’d have to weld on a stabilizing base. This sailfish design is also “simple” in that it resides within the ice block dimensions; another more dynamic sailfish design that I sometimes carve, modified from a design by Ed Tillotson, requires that you weld the head on. That more complicated design also allows for a more realistic sail. In reality, the sailfish’s sail is quite impressive and the fish has remarkably speedy control of its size and shape. The sail comes in handy when sailfish are feeding in packs (see the video below); the fish will use their sails to help corral small fish into bait balls, or tight groups that are easier for the sailfish to take turns feeding on.




sculpting the sailfish

The pelvic fins of the sailfish (the top pair of long fins just below the jaw) are carved a little thick; otherwise they are very easy to break, both during carving and during set up. These delicate fins act as rudders for sailfish as they make quick maneuvers while swimming. The sword of the sailfish is a crucial element and it’s important to find a happy medium between a sword that’s so thick that it looks like a big nose and one that’s so delicate that it won’t last. Consider making it thin in profile, but giving it some front-to-back thickness so that it doesn’t immediately disappear. Regarding the area under the sailfish’s tail, you can either carve some of it away to create some negative space and improve the profile, or you can leave it in place to add structural strength and simply detail like the rest of the wave. Take special care engraving the eye and add a little white snow to the eye to make it really stand out. Consider only engraving an eye on one side of the fish, especially if the sculpture is only going to be seen from one side. Print out the template below or use it to make a projection to create an actual size template of about 19” x 38” (just a tiny bit smaller than your presumed block size of 20” x 40”).

sailfish ice sculpture template


sailfish pack in action

Check out the video below to get a rare glimpse of sailfish hunting in a pack:




alternate design options

Obviously, this sculpture design would work well at a seafood buffet. It also works well in mirrored pairs, with possibly one sailfish on each end of a long buffet table, or series of tables. I’ve attached the mirror design and template below. (It’s also very close to the backside design, if you wanted to use two templates.)



sailfish ice sculpture design, reversed

sailfish ice sculpture template, reversed


other uses for this design

A sailfish is also a great decoration for a Father’s Day buffet. After all, what would many dads love to do on a lazy weekend? Go fishing! And a sailfish would be a very manly fish to catch. Now maybe it would just remind all those dads that they’d rather be out on a boat instead of stuffing their faces with food, but it’s still a dad-appropriate decoration. And there aren’t as many of those as there are for mom, so it will have to do!

If you have any questions about this piece, email me or comment below. If you would like to use this ice sculpture design or any other design on this site, please check the design usage guidelines. The design collection page lists designs on the site.

more sea-life ice

While you’re here, here are some more sea-life sculpture designs that you might find useful:

manta ray ice carving    sea turtle ice carving    seahorse ice carving

yellowfin tuna ice carving    reef shark ice carving    angelfish ice carving


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