How to dry brush paint a relief wood carving

Mule Deer Relief Carving Free Project by Lora Irish

Mule Deer Relief Carving by Lora IrishThis Mule Deer Buck Relief Carving Project, by Lora Irish, is an in-depth, step-by-step tutorial for the first time carver.  As we work through each step to this relief wood carving we will explore the basic techniques, tools, and process to create the Mule Deer portrait, feather border, and arrow-head design.  Includes two free Lora S. Irish patterns.


Click on the patterns below, which will open the pattern in a new window. You can Click and Save these patterns to your desktop.  These free wood carving relief patterns are sized to print on 8 1/2″ by 11″ computer paper.  Print at three copies of the pattern that you will use in this project.


Free Lora Irish Mule Deer Carving PatternFree Lora Irish Mule Deer Carving Pattern

This project is posted here on my blog at Mule Deer Relief Carving. If you would like to interact with this project and me, please visit and This project is being posted on these two great carving message boards where you can sign-up, post questions, add photos of your own carvings, and share your joy of wood carving with other hobbyists.

Relief wood carving toolsSupply List:

10 ½” x 14” basswood Walnut Hollow plaques
Walnut Hollow graphite paper
Walnut Hollow bench knife
Walnut Hollow carving tools set –
large round gouge
small round gouge
straight chisel
Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool wood burner
transparent tape
220-grit sandpaper
dusting brush, lint-free dusting cloth
sharpening stones
leather strop and rouge

This posting is made courtesy of and with their written permission.  Please, take a moment and visit their website!


How to trace your pattern onto the wood.Preparation Steps – Mule Deer Relief Wood Carving Project:

1 Walnut Hollow basswood blanks, tool sets, bench knives, and graphite paper are available at your local large craft supply store or online at Pencils, rulers, scissors and the dusting brush are common household items.

2 Using 220-grit sandpaper lightly sand the entire surface of the basswood plaque including the pre-routed edges. Remove the sanding dust using a lint-free cloth. Center the paper pattern over the basswood and secure using tape. Slide a sheet of graphite paper under the pattern and with an ink pen or pencil trace along the outer boundary lines of each area.

Stop Cuts in Relief Wood CarvingSafety Precautions:

Because working with carving wood, carving tools, knives, and other materials inherently includes the risk of injury and damage, this project cannot guarantee that creating this project is safe for everyone and is distributed without warranties or guarantees of any kind. The publisher and author disclaim any liability for any injury.

Keep your tools and knife sharp. Dull tools will grab or dig into the wood causing you to apply extra pressure to complete the cutting stroke. That pressure can make the tool unexpectedly slip out of the wood.

Secure your wood blank or plaque to your working table with a bench hook or wood clamps. If the wood slides while you are making a cut the tool can slip out of the cutting stroke.

If you are working from your lap using a leather apron or folded thick towel both to secure your wood as well as protect yourself.

Use a two-handed grip on your tool wherever possible. Your dominate hand holds the tool to the wood while your non-dominate hand guides the cut.

Place the tools that you are not currently using in plain sight. It is easy to cut your hand or finger rooting through a tool kit.

Getting cut by a tool tip or knife tip is part of this craft. Flush any cut immediately with cool water, dry, and then apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Small cuts, of course, can be closed with a simple bandage. If the cut is large or does not stop bleeding in a reasonable time please seek professional assistance.

Stop Cuts and Rough Cuts – Mule Deer Relief Wood Carving Project:

The stop cut is a two-stroke bench knife cut that frees a v-shaped trough along a pattern line. A round, flat, or bull nose chisel is then used to cut the wood in the lower level of the design, sliding the chisel into the stop cut. When the chisel edge meets the stop cut a clean sliver of wood is released without damaging the higher level. Today we are going to look at the steps used to create a stop cut and to do basic rough out work in your relief wood carvings.

Stop Cut:

The two strokes of a stop cut in relief wood carving1 The stop cut is a two-step stroke. Begin by laying your bench knife vertically along the outside edge of your pattern line. Pull a shallow cut following the pattern line.

2  Move the tip of your bench knife a small amount of space away from your first cut. Angle the knife tip towards the first cut. Pull a shallow cut, maintaining that small space between the knife tip and the first cut.

The two cuts will release a thin, shallow v-shaped chip of wood. The chip will leave a straight wall along the pattern line and an angled wall in the background area of the pattern.


Stop cuts in relief wood carving4  You can deepen a stop cut by re-cutting, using the same steps, several times. This ‘walks’ the v-shaped trough deeper into the wood.

5  Stop cuts may also be created using a v-gouge. The v-gouge makes both the straight wall cut and the slanted side cut in one stroke. The g-gouge works exceptionally well when you are creating stop cuts that flow with the grain of the wood. For tight areas in a pattern, as the small openings in the feathers in the pattern shown, you may find that the bench knife will provide more control.



Rough Cutting into a Stop Cut:

Wide Sweep Gouge in Rugh Cutting a Wood Carving You can use a round gouge, straight chisel, or bull nose chisel to rough cut a background area that has been stop cut at the pattern line. I prefer a large, wide-sweep round gouge for my first rough-out cuts. The wide-sweep takes a shallow but wide chip of wood with each cut. That allows me to slowly drop the depth of an area while taking a large chip of wood with each cut.

2  Start you cut about 3/8″ to 3/4″ from the stop cut in the background area. Move the chisel or gouge edge towards the stop cut, slowly deepening the cut as you work. Stop when your gouge reaches the stop cut. I usually cut a series of gouge cuts, that slightly overlap.


Releasing a rough cut gouge stroke with a bench knife. Make a shallow, vertical cut, using your bench knife along the pattern line to release any gouge chips that are still connected to the wood.

Alternate your stop cuts with your gouge rough-out cuts to slowly drop the background area to your desired depth in the wood.

The background area that has been gouge rough cut will at this stage will slowly taper from the original level of the wood at its most distant point in the cut from the pattern line to the your desired depth at the stop cut. Later in any relief carving you can work the remaining background areas down to the same depth.

Practice Board Exercise:

Relief wood carving knife cuts Practice boards allow you to try, learn, and experiment with new cuts before you use them in your latest projects. In this sample the reverse side on an older basswood plaque was used as my practice board. I marked the board into 1 1/2″ squares, creating small spaces to experiment with different relief carving cuts.

2 For the stop cut and rough out practice I used a medicine jar cap to draw a half-circle as my pattern line. Begin your practice square by making the two-stroke stop cut using a bench knife or a large chip carving knife.

Stop cut made with a bench knife3 You can see in the sample photo how this two-stroke cut releases a long v-shaped wood chip.





Freeing a rough cut chip from a stop cut.4 Use your round gouge, straight chisel, or bull nose chisel to begin removing the wood in the background area of the design, working from the outer edges of the wood blank into the stop cut line. With your bench knife cut along the stop cut, holding the knife in a vertical position, to free any rough cut chips.

Alternate making stop cuts and working rough out cuts to slowly drop the depth of the background elements in the design.


practice pattern for stop cuts in relief wood carving5 Here is the stop cut and rough out cuts used in a small practice pattern.





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