We are working on a beginner level relief wood carving project with a free Celtic knot dragon pattern by Lora S. Irish. Yesterday’s post worked through the basic tool kit, preparing your basswood board, tracing your pattern, and rough cutting the background area using a bench knife stop cut and the round gouge.
Today we will work on the general shaping steps, how to smoothly contour the dragon body, and using the bench knife to cut detail lines into the relief wood carving.
5. Any celtic knot pattern is created with a line that is knotted in an up-then-down pattern. The line crosses over itself multiple times. In our Celtic Knot Dragon pattern, by Lora Irish, the body of the dragon goes from the head under the tail, behind the front leg, under the tail again, behind the back leg, under the tail a third time, then it becomes the tail section that crosses over the body at the neck.
6. On your pattern, with a pencil, mark each of the cross-over areas of the dragon body.
7. Using either the bench knife or v-gouge cut a v-trough in the area of the dragon along the cross-over lines, in the background or under-tucked area of the body. Example, where the tail crosses over the neck, the neck area is cut with the v-trough.
8. With a straight chisel or skew chisel, cut along the outer edge of each body area of the dragon. You are carving away the sharp edge of the wall to begin giving your dragon body a curved contour.
Work with the grain of your wood as you shape the outer edges of each area. Begin the cutting stroke so that the tool runs parallel with the grain and cuts away from the open ends of the grain line. Turn your board as necessary. More about Working with the grain of your wood.
Work the eyes, tongue, and teeth in the same manner.
9. To smooth the dragon’s body use your straight chisel or skew chisel held at a very low angle to the wood. Dropping the chisel as close to the wood as possible allows you to shave extremely thin slices of wood. Work this step until all of the wood in the dragon has been shaved, do not leave any area uncut or at the original wood plaque surface.
The original wood surface has a different texture and feel than those areas that we have cut. This difference will visually show after the work is complete and can create a problem during the painting and staining steps as each area will accept coloring in a different way. Make it a habit to cut the entire wood surface during the smoothing steps.
10. Basswood has several outstanding qualities that make it a great beginner carving wood. It is a tight, even grained wood that has a clear, white coloring. Although it is classified as a hardwood it is easy to cut and take the finest detailing well. This means that you, as a beginner, have the opportunity to learn how to use your tools, how to make your relief carving strokes, and how to work through the level changes of a relief carving.
Because basswood is an easy cutting wood it often leaves small fiber of loose wood grain after the cut is complete. I call them Fuzz Bunnies! To remove these left-over wood fibers re-cut where necessary with your bench knife or chip carving knife.
11. Using 320-grit sandpaper lightly sand your carving to give a final, smoothing to the work. You can also use rifflers, small profile-shaped files that fit into the deep edges, sharp angles, and undercuts of a relief wood carving. Wipe any dust from the carving with a clean, dry cloth.
As your hobby grows you will advance into other woods as maple, walnut, and mahogany. Because these woods are harder surfaced they seldom need intense sanding, the shaving steps give a clean finish to the work.
12. With a pencil mark the areas from the pattern onto your dragon carving for the inner detailing. You can cut your pattern into small pieces. Tape those pieces into position on your carving and slide a small piece of graphite paper underneath to make the tracing.
13. Using either the stop cut made with a bench knife or the v-gouge, cut along the traced inner detailing lines. If you chose the v-gouge cut the v-trough detail line in several light, shallow passes. This slowly lowers the line and avoids the corners of the cross hatched areas to chip out.
14. Chip outs happen. If your tool lifts a corner of wood or complete pops the corner off the board, reset that chip by licking up a small amount of yellow wood glue on the end of a toothpick. Place the glue dot onto the wood where the chip came off, and place the chip into position. With a water damp brush clean up any glue that seeps from underneath the chip. Allow the glue to dry for about 15 minutes. You are ready to continue carving.
The woodcarving steps for this Celtic Knot Dragon pattern by Lora Irish are complete. You can leave your carving in the wood finish coloring or join me tomorrow as we work though the painting technique to create a stone-look to this relief carving. Thank you for joining me today, Lora Irish.
While you wait for tomorrow’s post, here is the practice flower pattern that you can use in your free relief wood carving project.