Step 5: How low can you go?
That is the eternal question of all relief carvers, ‘how low into the wood is each level’. The answer is, ‘It depends on how thick your wood blank is!’The rule of thumb is that the carving work is done in the top one half thickness of the wood during the rough out stage. So if your board, as mine, is 3/4″ thick the first rough out carving cuts will be no deeper that 3/8″. That may not sound like much wood but it is more than enough to create a well defined high relief work.Once you know the one-half depth measurement you can divide that number by one less than your number of levels. Since this pattern uses 5 levels I divide 3/8″ by 4 = so each level will be a little less than 1/16″ deep.Some elements can cross levels as our background cattail leaves.That extra one-half thickness left behind the carving is used for later shaping and detailing steps and to stabilize the plaque. Carving places a great deal of stress on your wood, the deeper you carve the more likely your board is to warp. The more background wood you leave the less warping or cupping will occur.
Step 6: Tracing the levels pattern
Lightly sand your plaque using 220-grit sandpaper, wipe the dust with a dry, clean cloth. This removes any ridges or imperfections in the surface and makes tracing much easier.Cut the extra margin away from your printed pattern. Center the design. On the vertical I used the top of the highest cattail leaf and the curved tip of the bottom cattail leaf for my reference points. On the horizontal I used the tip of the beak and the tip of the tail.
Tape the pattern to the board in a few places. Slide a sheet of graphite paper under your pattern paper. Using an ink pen trace along the outer lines of each level of the design.You do not need to trace every pattern line at this stage. Since every area will be rough carved you will simply carve away all of the detail lines in the tracing – so outlines only.