This simple flower wood carving is worked from the practice board project in Relief Wood Carving Workshop by Lora S. Irish. This practice board, which includes 22 specific techniques for relief wood carving and 3 small flower designs, allows you to learn and explore the cutting strokes each of your wood carving tools creates.
PRACTICE CARVING ONE This super simple flower pattern will walk you through many of the basic techniques learned in this practice board chapter.
Step 1 Trace your pattern to your practice board using graphite paper.
Step 2 Create a bench knife stop cut along the outer edges of the pattern. Cut triangular chip cuts in the background corners of the petals.
Step 3 Working with the grain of the wood rough cut the background using a medium round gouge.
Step 4 Rough cut the background to a depth of 3/16”, making straight outer walls on your design elements.
Step 5 Create a stop cut using your v-gouge between the leave elements and the flower petals.
Step 6 Using a straight chisel taper the base of the leaf into the flower petals. Taper the outer leaf point away from the flower. This gives the leaves a convex curve.
Step 7 Taper the long sides of the leaves towards the background using your straight chisel.
Step 8 V-gouge stop cut the center circle of the flower.
Step 9 Using a medium round gouge or medium u-gouge create a concave indent inside of each petal.
Step 10 Separate each petal using your v-gouge and a stop cut.
Step 11 Up-end a medium or large round gouge to cut the inner circle of the flower center.
Step 12 Using your straight chisel round over the outer edges of the petals.
Step 13 Smooth the carving by shaving each element – leaves, petals, and flower center. Re-cut the intersection joint lines between the elements and the background.
Step 14 with a few more cleaning cuts and a touch of sanding using 220 grit sandpaper this carving will be completed and ready for either the painting steps or the finishing steps.
With this book any carver can stand beside the workbench of acclaimed artist Lora S. Irish and learn everything she has to teach about creating an expressive wood spirit. Lora clearly explains the relief carving process from start to finish: every cut, every tool change, and every depth check. The entire craft is here, from preparing the wood to roughing out and detailing the wood spirit to applying a long-lasting finish. No step is left out and no technique is left unexplained. The author shares her tips for creating realistic and detailed facial features like eyelids, windswept hair, beards, and the ever-important mustache. Best of all, when the step-by-step project is complete, Relief Carving Wood Spirits, Revised Edition offers 20 more original patterns to keep any carver busy for seasons to come.
In an Amazon review a reader was distressed that I don’t teach spoon carving using a Sloyd knife, a very traditional knife used in this craft. I believe this is a fair and honest question that I could address here.
There are many different styles and shapes for the straight cutting knife that we often group under the name of ‘bench knives’. Some bench knives have long blades that may extend up to 4″ from the handle, others as chip knives may only have a 1″ long blade. Some blades are flat – straight – along the cutting edge from handle to knife tip while others may have a curve at the top 1/3 of the blade. Some are sharpened on one side only while others are sharpened on both sides.
While Sloyd knives are a traditional, Old World technique tool for spoon carving, why don’t I use or recommend them … because they don’t fit my hand! More at the bottom of this page ….
What is important in your choice of bench knives?
There are two specific aspects to your bench knife that determine which is best for you.
1. The quality of steel which determines the quality of the sharpened edge that you can achieve and keep during a carving session.
Cheap steep will never sharpen to a bright, clean edge and if you do achieve a usable sharpened edge that edge will not last very long during any carving session. Be prepared to pay about the same amount for one good bench knife as you would a full 5 to 6 piece beginner’s carving set.
2. The fit of the handle inside of your hand.
No knife, no matter how wonderful the steel, who manufactured it, how sharp an edge it keeps, or how it has been traditionally used in wood carving is worth a tin dime if it doesn’t properly rest inside your hand.
Notice here that I did not mention the piece or project that you are carving or the length of the bench knife blade. A good bench knife, one with high quality steel and a proper fit, will carve about 90% of the straight cuts that you need for any project. While many wood carvers have a variety of bench knives in their kits, most return over and over again to just one or two favorite tools.
What length of bench knife do you need?
For most carving projects today your bench knife only needs to make a clean slice of wood 1/2″ or less wide. If you need to take larger slices then you most likely need to move to a draw knife. Today’s carvers are working with milled wood that has been kiln dried. The bark has already been removed and the heartwood cut away from the blank. Few of us need to rough cut a split piece of bark wood that needs to be dressed down to a flat, squarish shape before we begin carving either of which could require a longer blade length.
Let’s return for a moment to the discussion about using a Sloyd knife as compared to a standard bench knife or chip carving knife. A Sloyd knife is wonderful if you are de-barking a long walking stick that you have cut from a sapling. The extra long blade does allow you to glide the cutting edge down the sapling, releasing very long strips of bark. This is very important if you are removing the bark after the stick has dried.
You can also debark while the stick is green using a shorter bladed knife by lifting the top edge of the bark and pulling the bark off the stick.
If I am carving details in my work, as shaping the side of a spoon bowl or cutting the facial planes of a wood spirit that long blade on the Sloyd pushes my hand several inches away from where I am cutting. A short blade, as a 1″ chip blade, places my hand, and therefore my control of the cut, right at the point of the cut.
Does it fit your hand?
For me this is as important as the quality of the steel. If a knife does not properly fit your hand I will guarantee that it will spend most of your carving life in the box of your tool kit … quietly rusting away!!
A well-fitting knife handle lays across your palm between the major fold wrinkle of the fingers and the major fold wrinkle of the thumb palm. The fattest part of your thumb rests nicely into this space, which means that the fattest width of your thumb is an excellent gauge for the thickness of your bench knife handle.
In the photo, right, the bottom left knife handle is the most appropriate for the size of my hand. The top right shows a handle that is too wide, and the bottom right one that is too narrow.
When you roll your hand around the handle, the tips of your long and ring finger should just lie about 1/4″ away or just against the side of the thumb palm. This fit lets you have free motion of your fingers, your thumb, and your wrist during any cut – not too tight, and not too open. Your fingers hold the knife handle to the palm without the need of excess pressure.
Too narrow or to thin a handle and your finger tips will need to curve into a clenched shape to hold the knife steady. That clench causes extra tension in the hand which over time becomes tiring.
Too wide a handle and your finger tips will not touch the thumb palm area. With this grip you need extra pressure to steady the knife through the cuts. Again, this can cause fatigue and stress on your hands.
Looking at the first photo on this post.
Upper left shows five different tools and knives that are commonly used in spoon carving. From top to bottom are a FlexCut Carving Hook, a FlexCut hooked skew, a FlexCut bench knife, a wide bent round gouge, and a Moor Chip Carving knife.
1 Upper right – Shows a bull nose chisel with a narrow handle. The handle sets forward in my hand, allowing the fingers to move the tip of the blade through detailing work.
2 Lower left – Shows a Large chip carving knife that fits my hand perfectly. The finger roll completely around the handle without the need for extra tension to secure the handle in my palm.
3 Lower right – Shows a large handled carving hook which is too large for a good fitting grip for my hand. The handle has been pushed into the palm area and my finger need a tighter grip to secure the handle during use.
Old World v. Modern Day
Yes, sloyd knives, carving hooks, and scoops are traditionally used in the Old World style of spoon carving. Traditionally these knives and tools have extra wide handles as shown in the top three tools in the upper left photo above. Those wide handles were made to fit a medium to large man’s hand, because until about 100 years old traditionally woodworking and wood carving was done by men.
Today what is necessary is having and using a bench knife that fits your hand properly. Today it is reasonable to estimate that one half of all carvers are women, with smaller hands and therefore narrower grips than men.
While writing this and talking with my husband, a long time woodworker, we did a small comparison. His hand, a medium-sized man’s hand, measures 7 3/4″ long from the finger tip to the wrist bone of the thumb … mine measures 6 1/2″. His hand measures 3 3/8″ wide across the knuckles, mine measures 2 7/8″. While his hand is large enough to comfortable hold a Sloyd knife, mine simply isn’t.
Humans are a dimorphic species – males tend to be about 10% larger than females. Therefore in general what was used for centuries by a male population of woodworkers and wood carvers may not be appropriate for today’s mix of hobby carvers.
It’s not what knife you use, it’s not about a particular manufacturer’ or Old World style … it’s all about whether that knife fits YOUR hand.
PS … And that is why I never recommend ergonomic grip tool handles as they only fit one person’s hand, he who made the handle mold in the first place.
I am grateful for the privileged that BobD has granted me, that of “super moderator” status, which allowed me to go over the normal posting levels so that you could have the entire thread back together at one time, ready for you to begin carving.
It was originally posted in 2006 and during the forum crash lost the photo content of the project.
On 12/26/2017 I was able to re-upload the project in its entirety – 262 steps, 351 photos, and lots of great ideas and comments from the forum members that worked along with me.
If you have any questions, please post them to this thread. Please include the number of the post, which is in the upper right hand corner of each post, and if appropriate the photo number so that I can know exactly where you are in the project.
Over the next few weeks I will be working on re-posting the photos to some of the other in-depth projects that Fox has allowed me to share here with you.
Please be patient as I think there are more than a dozen large tutorials and quite a few small step-by-step to redo.
Go to: https://forum.woodcarvingillustrated.com/ Log In: Create an account so that you can view the images and post comments. Scroll down to: Wood Carving tutorials Click on: Relief Carving Wood Spirit Grape Man WIP
Introducing Two New Free Online Series of Free Carving, Pyrography, and Craft Projects ….. Great Book of Free Carving Projects & Patterns by Lora S. Irish Great Book of Free Pyrography Projects & Patterns by Lora S. Irish …..
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Great Book of Free Carving Projects and Patterns by Lora S. Irish Online Series
The first release in my new, free online series is an in-depth tutorial on how to carve the wood spirit face using the planes of the human face as our guidelines. Join me as we work through the detailed steps and 199 photographs to learn how easy the Wood Spirit is to carve.
So, Gang, pull up your chair to your computer screen seat at my class table, and let’s have some FREE FREE FREE wood carving, and pyrography fun.
Lora S. Irish, June 01, 2015
Copyright, Lora S. Irish, 1997 – 2015 Art Designs Studio.com, 1997 – 2015 All International Rights Reserved Use of any information, images, or text in digital or printed format or in any magazine, book, or booklet is strictly prohibited without the written, hardcopy permission of the author, Lora Irish.
This is new work, created after May 2013, by Lora S. Irish. Use in part or whole by any publishing company is strictly prohibited without a written, signed, and dated contract for this new work with the author. June 01, 2015
As a new wood carver you would think that the classic wood spirit face would be difficult to create. Yet, it is one of the simplest, method-technique topics that wood carvers and whittlers can work.
Face carvings, as the wood spirit, or as shown above as a Mushroom Wood Spirit, begins with a series of simple angled cuts to establish the planes in the face. These planes create the depth, width, and feature areas as the rise of the eyebrow ridge, the deep set of the nose bridge, and the angle and slant of the mouth.
Where you create the planes and angles determines the finished look of the face. In this sample the nose plane is exaggerated and the eye depth plane is minimized. When the shaping steps are done, this Mushroom spirit has an extra long nose that fills up the needed space to create the mushroom stem.
To learn more about Wood Spirit Facial Plane carvings, check out our E-Project – Wood Spirit Mushroom Carving E-Project – which takes you through all of the steps to create the facial planes, plus gives you eight full sized 3D patterns. If you want to focus on the Wood Spirit face, check out Wood Spirit Carving E-Project, which takes you through the face carving as well as how to paint your wood spirit walking stick.
And, if you stop by our new Facebook page you will discover a discount code for ArtDesignsStudio.com for $5 off that can be used for each of the Pattern Packs or E-Projects above. Save up to $20 on your next wood spirit carving project!