Time to begin the bark carving. This requires the use of micro carving gouges. You may have noticed a few splinters at the edge of a carving stroke. The gouges must be kept razor sharp to keep this type of tear-out to a minimum. A leather strop is kept handy at all times during this phase and the gouges are honed about every twenty strokes. This makes a world of difference in whether the tool is cutting through the wood or just ripping it apart.
Here’s a picture of the micro carving tools I use. The pencil will give you an idea of the small size.