Using texture in your relief carving
To smooth or sand you work does not mean that every carving stroke needs to be removed. Allowing the gouge strokes in the background areas of your design show creates a wonderful textured effect that can be contrasted to the smooth areas of the high relief. Here, you will only wish to smooth the body of the stroke and not remove the individual cutting look.
In the photo to the right I am working to remove the harsh, sharp edges left from the wide sweep background work. By laying the wide sweep gouge or bull nose chisel as parrallel to the background only the highest ridges are removed, the scooped curves of the round gouge remain to create a textured background.
Doing a wet check
An easy was to check your smoothing steps is by pushing a coatings of clean water over the area that you are inspecting. The water soaks into the wood at different rates allowing the deepest cuts and v-gouge troughs to look darker than the surrounding wood.
In the photo sample to the right you can see the different colorings of a wet check. Notice the extra v-gouge line inside of the lower eye lid, the double v-gouge line along the joint of the nose and cheek, and the double v-gouge line in the brow wrinkle.
Allow the wood to dry for about 10 minutes then re-cut and smooth any areas that need extra attention.