Russian Birch Bark Carving

Russian Birch Bark Carving

Carving Technique for Birch Bark Carving


Supply List:

  • 9″ x 12″ basswood oval blank
  • Fine Sand Paper
  • Carbon paper or a soft pencil
  • Bench Knife
  • Small Chip Knife
  • V-gouge
  • Gloss Spray Sealer
  • Burnt Umber Oil Paint
  • Assorted brushes
  • Wiping Cloths
  • Turpentine

1. Begin the project by sanding the surface of the oval basswood blank well. Use several progressively finer grades of sandpaper. Since there will be no carving to the actual design area of the work, this is the time to create as smooth a finish as possible. Wipe any dust from the piece with a tack cloth.

2. Trace the design to the oval’s surface. To learn more about how to transfer a pattern to the wood surface please see Transferring the Pattern.

3. Since I will be adding birch coat pegs to my project when the carving is completed I have added markings to the oval to note the placement for the pages. For these steps please see Pattern Layout Work for Birch Bark Carving.

4. This carving style is created using only two tools. First you will need a bench knife or small chip carving knife. Chose the knife that has the thinnest blade. As the work being done can become quite intricate the thinner the blade the tighter the turns you can cut. Your second tool will be a v-gouge. Be sure each knife has a good edge before work begins. For more about sharpening your tools please see Sharpening Bench Knives and Sharpening Round Gouges.

5. Use your bench knife or chip knife to carve a Stop Cut along each pattern line. Please see Stop Cut in Relief. With the v-gouge, working with the grain of the wood carve a v-line in the background into the stop cut. Work each section along the pattern line edges first then v-gouge out the area between the lines. All v-gouge cuts run with the wood grain. This keeps the textured background in a vertical line pattern.

6. Some areas will be too small to v-gouge, these are cut instead with the bench knife or chip knife just as you would a free form chip carving line. Note the semi-circular cuts in the right side of the sample photo. Please see Chip Carving.

That’s it! That’s all the carving expertise you will need for this project!

7. Lightly sand the board’s face to remove the carbon or tracing lines. Since you want the design as crisp as possible wrap your fine sandpaper around a scrap of wood. This keeps the paper extremely flat so that your design edges will not become rounded.

8. This is a beautiful place to stop if you wish. The two contrasting textures, that of the extremely smooth design surface against the deeply gouged background creates a wonderful finish … or you can go on to stain the project to create the two colored look of the Russian Birch Bark carvings.

This free Birch Bark project pattern by Lora Irish features two drummer bears.



You may also enjoy this free Birch Bark project pattern by Lora Irish featuring a framed dancing horse.

1 thought on “Russian Birch Bark Carving”

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