Woodcarving Basics

This is a small primer that might help you get start exploring the delights of wood carving. There are two main divisions in carving projects, first is three dimension work or carving in the round. Second is the flat work that is done as accent panels, box sides, or even pictures to be hung on your wall. Work that is done in the flat is called Relief Carving. Here the design is carved down into the wood blank giving an impression of three dimensional work. These primer pages are devoted to relief style carving.

With relief carving the pattern or design that you wish to carve is traced onto the wood blank. Transferring the Pattern is done with either carbon paper or by blackening the back of the pattern page with pencil lead. The pattern is taped into position of the board and a pencil or ink pen is used to trace over the lines. For multiple pattern use you can create a Pounce Pattern which allows easy repetition of the design.

Once the design is in place, you, of course, begin to remove the excess wood to create the layers of work. The Stop Cut is a basic stroke in relief carving. This cut outlines the edges of one area where it intersects another and prevents splintering of the wood.

Relief carving can be either Low Relief where the carved intersection is visible to the eye and the dimension has a shallow look or it can be High Relief where the design is cut in the round in place on the background of the board. The Background of either of these techniques is removed to create a raised design look.

Where Low and High Relief style carvings used the original surface of the wood to become the design level, there are several techniques that use the carved line to establish the pattern. Incised Carving is the simplest form of wood carving. Here the pattern is traced upon the wood blank and with even careful strokes just the outline of the pattern is carved into the wood. The incised style of carving shows it’s greatest possibilities in the Wood Cut Block. This wonderful carving work allowed for the first time, during the Renaissance, artwork to be printed onto paper. The artist could now create one very detailed work yet be able to make multiple copies.

Intaglio Carving takes this idea one step further by carving the design work down into the wood blank making a negative of the pattern. The design is carved in full dimensional detail but it is carved deep into the wood, as compared to low relief where the pattern looks as if it is above the wood surface. Intaglio has been a favorite of furniture makers over the years as it allow the furniture element to be completely prepared for insertion into the carcass and then can accept Carving Accents without disturbing any joinery work.

Carving Woods
Australian Carving Woods
Glossary to Mail Order Wood

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