Month: February 2015

Stop Cuts and Rough Out Steps in Relief Wood Carving

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 Cuts in Relief Wood CarvingBegin by tracing your pattern to the wood blank. Because you will be cutting away background wood and dropping areas of the pattern into different levels or depths in the blank you need only trace the outlines of each area. All detail tracing will be lost during the rough out stage.

The pattern shown here, the Mule Deer Buck, is an in-depth tutorial that is posted at and  These are two great, online message boards where wood carvers and woodworkers can share their ideas, experiences, and techniques.


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.

3.  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 Carving1.  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.3.  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.

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

5.  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 cuts1.  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.  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.




Mule Deer Relief Carving Project

Today I am posting the free wood carving relief project patterns for this Mule Deer Buck Relief Carving.

Free Lora Irish Mule Deer Carving PatternFree Lora Irish Mule Deer Carving PatternClick on the patterns above, which will open the pattern in a new window.  You can Click and Save these patterns to your desktop.

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.

Free Carving Patterns by Lora Irish

And … We have a new freebie pattern package posted on our pattern website, Art Designs Studio.  The download link is on our home page!


free carving seminar by Lora Irish

Februray Happenings

February Happenings Around the Studio
Cabin Fever Sale
New Freebie Pattern Package
Free Online Relief Carving Mule Deer Seminar

Complete Pattern Collection on Thumb DriveThe Complete Collection on Thumb Drive
Every pattern package on our website – 136 Packs
Wood Carving – Wood Burning – Arts & Crafts
Free Shipping – US Priority Mail
Plus – Easy Steps to Sharpening E-Project
Plus – Introduction to Pyrography E-Project

Complete Pattern Collection by DownloadThe Complete Collection by Download
Every pattern package on our website – 136 Packs
Wood Carving – Wood Burning – Arts & Crafts
Download Today, Carve and Burn Tonight!
Plus – Easy Steps to Sharpening E-Project
Plus – Introduction to Pyrography E-Project

Free Carving Patterns by Lora IrishIrish Free 2015 Pattern Pack
Download is on our Web Store Home Page

11 Free 100 dpi Lora S. Irish Patterns
Wood Carving – Wood Burning – Arts & Crafts
Discover if our patterns will work for your craft.
Click here for free download zip file.
(Please let your friends know about this new freebie!!!)

free online carving seminar by Lora Lora is teaching this relief Mule Deer Buck carving
Step-by-step instructions, lots of photos,
and two free patterns.

Later today, Monday, Feb. 2nd.
Lora is this seminar at

The supply lists and free pattern have been posted.

Join me in this interactive online, step-by-step
relief carving seminar!

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