Altered Art Wood Carving

Altered Art Wood Carving, L S IrishPlease click on any image for a full sized photo.

This project is not meant to teach you relief wood carving. For in-depth instructions, free patterns, and step-by-step photos we have over 600 pages, posted on-line, that focuses on wood carving, pyrography, and craft ideas.

In the nav bar, above, click Wood Carving to discover the free, online wood carving projects offered here at

Instead, the goal of this project is to discover new altered art ideas that can be used in combination with our wood carving. For my two samples I will be using a flat-plane relief wood carving as the structured surface to hold decoupage and pen and ink artwork. This adds the color and detailing to the wood, while the wood adds a three dimensional effect to the altered art.

Most importantly, this project is meant as a starting point for your own imagination on how you can bring multiple crafts and hobbies into one unique work.

Altered Book ArtAltered Art

the process of using a mixture of media, techniques, and art styles in one work – is the ultimate cross-crafting project.

Quoting from
“An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning.
An altered book artist takes a book (old, new, recycled or multiple) and cuts, tears, glues, burns, folds, paints, adds to, collages, rebinds, gold-leafs, creates pop-ups, rubber-stamps, drills, bolts, and/or be-ribbons it. The artist may add pockets and niches to hold tags, rocks, ephemera, or other three-dimensional objects. Some change the shape of the book, or use multiple books in the creation of the finished piece of art.

Altered books may be as simple as adding a drawing or text to a page, or as complex as creating an intricate book sculpture.”

This sample of altered book art, above, is worked on a page taken from a law dictionary that I picked up at my local GoodWill.  A #2 graphite pencil drawing was first worked on the page to establish the outlines of my design. Still using the graphite pencil I shaded the pattern.  An India ink rapidograph pen creates the both, black outlines and small circular background patterns.  Colored pencils finish the design by adding a light blush of color.

For more pattern ideas to use with your Altered Art Wood Carving please visit our pattern website –


Wood Carving:
6” x 8” x 3/4” basswood plaque
beginner’s set of wood carving tools
bench knife
assorted sandpaper, rasps, files
Wood burning tool with a ball tip pen

Sealer or Fixative
Gloss polyurethane spray sealer

graphite paper
#2 – #4 graphite paper
transparent tape or painter’s tape
old, used book with tightly-packed print (1)
acrylic, acid-free paste glue (2)
scissors, bench knife, or craft knife
large, soft-bristle brush for glue application

Color Application –
assorted acrylic craft paints
watercolor paints
soft-bristle brushes
palette paper or glass tile
water pan
paper towels

Zen Doodle Ink  –
India ink rapidograph pens in assorted sizes
permanent fine-point marking pens
assorted gel pens
#2 – #4 graphite pencils for shading

Gold Leaf –
gold leaf glue (3)
cotton gloves or gilding gloves (4)
soft-bristle brush for the glue application
soapy water for brush cleaning
copper-colored leaf (5)
extra-soft bristle brush or foam brushes

Cigar box or pre-made wooden box (6)

Accent Work –
metallic gold nail polish
ball-point stylist
painter’s tape
hot glue and hot glue gun
20-gauge and 18-gauge copper wire
assorted beads from 2mm to 8mm
2 sheets if 12” x 12” scrapbook paper

(1) For my altered art projects I shop my local GoodWill and Thrift shops. I keep an eye open for older books with tightly-packed print and thin, slightly glossy paper pages. Any type of dictionary or encyclopedia works well.

(2) I use Yes! acid free paste. It is acrylic-based and is used directly from the jar without the addition of water. This keeps your decoupage paper from becoming over saturated with water which can cause your paper to swell and wrinkle.

(3) For this project I used Speedball Metal Leaf glue and Yes! acid free paste for my gold leaf applications.

(4) Because I worked my gold leaf on a textured, gouge-cut wood surface I did not use gilding gloves which protect the gold leaf from the oils and residue glue on your hands. However, I am listing them in the supply list as you will have lots of leafing supplies left over from this project that you can use on other art work.

(5) True gold leaf is quite expensive, so I used gold-, silver-, and copper-colored leaf sheets. They are available in packs of 100 sheets and in assorted metallic coloring.

(6) GoodWill is also a great source for pre-made wooden shelves, boxes, file holders, and serving trays that can become the base for our altered art work.


free Lora Irish wood carving project

Step 1

Altered Art Wood Carving

Chose a pattern that can easily be broken into mid-sized sections which will later be worked with decoupage coverings. Work the relief carving into levels to create your dimensional look to the finished board.

With a straight chisel or bull nose chisel smooth the top surface of each section of the pattern in preparation for the decoupage step. This is a flat-plane carving.
With 150- and 220-grit sandpaper, and small files, smooth the background of the design. Be sure to cleanly cut each corner and intersection with your bench knife.

Step 2

Altered Art Wood Carving. L S Irish

Mark a 1” border line around the design, working the measurement from the outer edge of the plaque.

Use a 1/4” to 3/8” round gouge to cut a textured background to the compliment the flat , smooth carving of the design sections in this border area.

When the carving steps are complete you can lightly wash the wood with soapy water and a small kitchen scrub brush, then rinse. This removes any remaining dust and wood fibers from the work.

Blot off the excess water and allow the project to dry.

Step 3

Altered Art Wood Carving

Set your wood burning tool on a high temperature setting. Use the hot tip to burn small touch-and-lift spots to the inside rectangle of the background.

This burning pattern creates a dark brown background frame to the flower pattern and a neutral color in contrast to the copper leaf work.

With an old toothbrush remove any carbon or burnt residue from the background work.

Step 4

decoupage book art

Working with a paper copy of your pattern, cut each section of the pattern with scissors or a craft knife to create a template for each carved area.

Remove several pages from your old book by cutting along the inside binding area with a craft knife. Lay the pattern templates, one at a time, onto the cut page and outline around the template with a #2 graphite pencil.

Move the orientation of each template so that the lines of lettering change from one pattern area to the next.

With a large, flat, soft-bristled brush apply a coat of acrylic paste glue to each section of the carving. Use the paste directly from the jar, do not thin with water which will cause the paper to swell.

Lay the cut page piece of the decoupage over the damp paste and lightly press the paper against the wood. Any excess paper that lies beyond the wood area can be trimmed with your bench knife after the glue has thoroughly set.

Allow to the glue to dry overnight.

Step 5

painted altered art wood carving

Place a few drops of acrylic craft paint onto your painting palette. Thin each color with a few drops of water until the color is semi-transparent.

Load a 3/8” to 1/4” flat, soft-bristled shader brush with the color and water mix. Lightly blot the brush on a paper towel to remove the excess color. Paint your decoupage paper areas, mixing several color hues for each pattern area.

For my petals I mixed light blue, deep royal blue, magenta, and dark purple. The leaves are worked in bright yellow, mid-toned green, and dark green.

Paint the un-papered areas of the carving with acrylic craft paint to create solid areas of color to give a contrast to the transparent color work. Allow all the painted areas to dry.

Step 6

India ink doodles

At this point in the project no sealer or fixative has been applied. This allows you to work the India ink, or gel pen work directly onto the decoupaged paper of the project, creating the blackest possible tones to the ink work.

Treat each area of the carving as an individual, stand alone, section by working a different inking pattern into each. Make some line work very thin, other areas extra thick, and include some areas with larger, filled-in sections of black.

Visit for books on Zen Doodles for ideas and instructions on this fun technique.

Step 7

gold leaf wood carving

Seal your piece with several light coats of gloss spray polyurethane. Allow each coat to dry completely. Double check that you have covered all areas of the project with your sealer as you need a smooth, sealed surface for the gold leaf work.

Following the directions on your gold leaf glue, apply a thin coat of glue to a small area of the round gouge cut background. Let the glue dry for about 15 to 20 minutes, until it becomes tacky to the touch.

Lay a sheet of copper-colored leaf to the glued area, then use a dry, soft-bristled brush, foam brush, or your dry fingertip to press the leaf onto the glued area. Repeat until all of the background area has been covered. has several excellent videos on how to apply gold leaf to your project.
Search for: Gold Leaf Application or DIY Gold Leaf.

Note: As I worked the copper-colored leaf into the background I found that I had several small areas that refused to accept the leafing.

So I allowed the first layer of leafing to dry completely, then used my acrylic paste glue on those areas, and allowed the paste to dry to a tacky feeling. This let me apply a second coat of leaf to the areas that I had missed on the first layer.

Step 8

altered art wood carving

After the copper-colored gold leaf has completely dried, apply several light coats of gloss spray sealer over the entire project. This second coating of polyurethane helps to set the leaf into place. Allow the sealer to dry.

Place a small amount -two or three drops – of metallic gold nail polish onto a small piece of tin foil. Using a blunt-tipped pencil paint small dots of gold nail polish throughout the India ink work areas. Allow the polish to dry. The nail polish does not require a sealing coat.

Step 9


Clean your GoodWill cigar box by lightly washing the outer surface with soapy water and a small kitchen scrub brush. Allow to dry completely.

With a dust mask, and 150- and 220-grit sandpaper, remove the varnish from the outer surface. With a dry cloth, remove any remaining dust.

On the top, measuring from the sides, mark a 1/2” border with a pencil. Protect this border with a layer of painter’s tape. Paint the inside rectangle with a complimentary to your altered art carving with acrylic craft paint. Allow to dry.

Seal the entire box with several light coatings of your polyurethane spray. Allow the sealer to dry.

Using hot glue and a hot glue gun, secure your carving to the top of the box, centering it to the lid.

Paint the sides of your box with acrylic craft paint. Add copper wire, beads, coins, rings, or scrap booking accents to your box.

My cigar box had a colored varnish finish of dark mahogany. Sanding the surface revealed a lovely pecan colored wood that nicely complimented the blue and purple tones of my acrylic painting on the carving.

This particular box had two wood inserts inside of the box bottom. The first was a ridged board that held the cigars in place, and the second was a raised frame that runs along the outer edge of the inside box bottom.

Both wood inserts were easy to cut free from the main box and lift out.Next I lightly sanded the inside surfaces of the box.

I cut pieces of scrapbook paper to line the inside bottom and top of my box. Using my acrylic paste glues I set those papers into place, and then re-inserted the bottom border wood frame into the box.

Step 10

altered art

Give your Altered Art Wood Carved Jewelry Box as a gift to someone very special.  Next, go get another basswood blank and have fun making another Altered Art Wood Carving!

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