Relief Wood Carving Canada Goose Project, Part One

LSIrish-2Step 1: Setting up the work area.

Let’s begin this project by preparing the workspace that you will be using. A clean, well lit work space is a priority as you w

ill need room to rotate your plaque easily to reach each new area of work, and have plenty of space to lay out your tools. This does not need to a large table area, my work space is about 3′ square, which is more than enough room.A relief board needs to be well braced during the cutting steps to keep the plaque from sliding across the table in the direction of the push of the cut. You can use c-clamps or furniture clamps, but each require you to reposition those clamps each time you need to turn the work.

I prefer a simple bracing board, also called a bench hook. This brace has one leg that drops over the edge of the table to hold the brace in place, and it has a raised corner that braces the work in the bench hook. My corner brace is set on the right side of the bench hook since I am left handed. When the basswood is dropped into the brace and a cutting stroke is made the basswood is pushed into the raised corner, keeping the basswood from sliding.Please note that my brace is slightly narrow. For plaques wider than my brace I will place a small scrap piece of plywood or a small basswood plaque to the left of my board that supports the overhang area of the carving wood.


Step 2: Sharpening your tools

Well sharpened tools are a must for safe carving whether you do 3-D work, whittling, or relief. Dull edged tools grab the wood as you make your cuts. Naturally you will add more pressure to force the tool through the stroke and this extra, aggressive pressure is what will slip your tool off the wood.So before any carving session I will work all of my tool edges across my strop using a rouging compound to insure a bright edge. For my flat tools I use my flat leather strop and for the curved gouges and v-gouge I use a slip strop. The slip strop is created to match the profiles of your gouges and makes sharpening a v-gouge a breeze.

During any carving session I do stop about every half hour and re-strop those tools that I am currently using. It only takes a few passes over the strop to refresh a cutting edge.


Step 3: Safety First!
As you watch the photos through this tutorial you will see a clean, pristine backdrop for the camera. That is not what my working table looks like. Mine, just like yours, gets filled with wood chips, randomly dropped tools, a pile of odd supplies, and pattern papers. Mess is part of our hobby but mess should never overpower safety.

* Remove any jewelry before you begin work, even your wedding ring. Tools can catch on a long necklace or on the edge of a ring while you are making a cut.* Make an area on your work table just for your tools, away from the flying wood chips. Hidden tool edges are dangerous.

* Clean up your area often to keep the mess under control. Count your tools to make sure that you have all of them on the table. It is easy to drop a tool without knowing it and then step on that tool later
lsirish-supplies-1207* Clean up and organize your work area at the end of each session. As a habit I have a cardboard box under my work table. At the finish of the day all of my tools and supplies go into that box. If you have small children or pets it is easy to store your kit out of reach for the night.

* Every carver eventually will get cut, its part of our hobby. My worst carving cut came not from a wood stroke but from reaching across my work table for another tool. The sharp edge of a half-hidden tool caught my hand during the reach. If you do cut yourself apply pressure to the cut with a clean, dry cloth until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding is excessive, can not be controlled, or it the cut is long please see a doctor!always wear shoes while carving.


Step 4: Pattern Work

I use levels in my pattern work for relief carving. By breaking the design into the levels in which each area will fall into depth of the wood rough out carving is quick and easy.The goose pattern has three primary elements – the Cana
The advantage of using levels shows in the rough out stage of this relief carving. Since I have already determined that all of the goose’s body and head fall behind the front wing I can drop that area of the carving as one unit to a predetermined depth.da goose – the highest area so the foreground, the cattail cluster – the midground area, and the background behind the pattern. So I know already that I have at least three levels.The goose can be further divided. The front wing of the goose lies in front of the body so it can become an individual level, the body and head fall in the same place in depth and therefore becomes a mid-ground level in the goose. The back wing is behind both the front wing and body and so becomes a third level.When I work a relief pattern I use colored pencils to note each area and where it lies in depth. I do try to keep the total levels to around three to five. If I need more levels on a more intrigue pattern I can subdivide those early levels into layers within each level.On the levels pattern I have already marked the five levels we will be using.


Birds of Prey, Eagles, Hawk Patterns by Lora S IrishBirds of Prey
Includes 12 detailed line art patterns of various birds of prey that range from close-up facial portraits to full-bodied birds in landscape settings and feature the California Condor, hawks, falcons, and more from Lora S. Irish.


Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top