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Reference Library: Wood carving
'Wood carving' is a form of working wood by means of a cutting tool held in the hand (this may be a power tool), resulting in a wooden figure or figurine (this may be abstract in nature) or in the ornamentation of a wooden object. The phrase may also refer to the finished product, from individual sculptures, to hand-worked mouldings composing part of a tracery.


From the remotest ages the decoration of wood has been a foremost art. The tendency of human nature has always been to ornament every article in use. Just as a child of today instinctively cuts patterns on the bark of his switch freshly taken from the hedgerow, so the primitive man, to say nothing of his more civilized successor, has from the earliest times cut designs on every wooden article he is accustomed to handle. The North American Indian carves his wooden fish-hook or his pipe stem just as the Polynesian works patterns on his paddle. The native of Guyana decorates his cavassa grater with a well-conceived scheme of incised scrolls, while the savage of Loango Bay distorts his spoon with a hopelessly unsuitable design of perhaps figures standing up in full relief carrying a hammock.
Figure-work seems to have been universal. The carving to represent ones god in a tangible form finds expression to in numberless ways. The early carver, and, for that matter, the native of the present day, has always found a difficulty in giving expression to the eye, and at all times has evaded it by inlaying this feature with colored material.

Methods and styles of wood carving

* Chip carving
* Relief carving
* Scandinavian flat-plane
* Caricature carving
* Love spoon
* Treen
* Whittling

Techniques of carving


Basic tool set

*the carving knife: a specialized knife used to pare, cut, and smooth wood.
*the gouge: a tool with a curved cutting edge used in a variety of forms and sizes for carving hollows, rounds and sweeping curves.
*the chisel, large and small, whose straight cutting edge is used for lines and cleaning up flat surfaces.
*the V-tool used for parting, and in certain classes of flat work for emphasizing lines.
*the veiner: a specialized deep gouge with a U shaped cutting edge.
A special screw for fixing work to the workbench, and a mallet, complete the carvers kit, though other tools, both specialized and adapted, are often used, such as a router for bringing grounds to a uniform level, bent gouges and bent chisels for cutting hollows too deep for the ordinary tool.

Tool terminology

* Gouge — Carving tool with a curved cutting edge. The most used category of carving tools.
* Sweep — The curvature of the cutting edge of a carving gouge. A lower number (like #3) indicates a shallow, flat sweep while a high number (like #9) is used for a deeply curved gouge.
* Veiner — A deep gouge with a U shaped cutting edge. Usually #11 sweep.
* Chisel — A carving tool with a straight cutting edge (usually termed #1 sweep) at right angles (or square to) the sides of the blade.
* Skew Chisel — A chisel with the edge at a "skew" or angle relative the sides of the blade. Often termed #2 sweep.
* V-Tool or Parting Tool — A carving tool with a V shaped cutting edge. Used for outlining and decorative cuts.
* Long Bent — A gouge, chisel or V tool where the blade is curved along its entire length. Handy for deep work.
* Short Bent or Spoon — A gouge, chisel or V tool where the blade is straight with a curve at the end, like a spoon. Use for work in deep or inaccessible areas.
* Fishtail — A gouge or chisel with a straight, narrow shank that flares out at the end to form a "fishtail" shaped tool. The narrow shaft of the tool allows for clearance in tight areas.
* Back Bent — A spoon gouge with a reverse bent end. Used for undercuts and reeding work.
* Palm Tools — Short (5"), stubby tools used with one hand while the work is held in the other. Great for detail and small carving.
* Full-size Tools — 10" to 11" tools used with two hands.
* Tang — The tapered part of the blade that is driven into the handle.
* Bolster — A flared section of the blade near the tang that keeps the blade from being driven further into the handle.
* Ferrule — A metal collar on the handle that keeps the wood from splitting when the tool is used with a mallet. Some tools have an external, visible ferrule while others have an internal ferrule.
* Rockwell Hardness — A scale that indicates the hardness of steel. A Rockwell range of 58 to 61 is considered optimum for fine woodworking edge tools.

Selecting a wood

The nature of the wood being carved limits the scope of the carver in that wood is not equally strong in all directions: it is an anisotropic material. The direction is which wood is strongest is called "grain" (grain may be straight, interlocked, wavy or fiddleback, &c.). It is wise to arrange the more delicate parts of a design along the grain instead of across it, and the more slender stalks or leaf-points should not be too much separated from their adjacent surroundings. The failure to appreciate these primary rules may constantly be seen in damaged work, when it will be noticed that, whereas tendrils, tips of birds beaks, &c., arranged across the grain have been broken away, similar details designed more in harmony with the growth of the wood and not too deeply undercut remain intact. Probably the two most common woods used for carving are Basswood(aka Tilia or Lime) and Tupelo, both are hardwoods that are relatively easy to work with. Oak is a lovely wood for carving, on account of its durability and toughness without being too hard. Chestnut (very like oak), American walnut, mahogany and teak are also very good woods; while for fine work Italian walnut, sycamore maple, apple, pear or plum, are generally chosen. Decoration that is to be painted and of not too delicate a nature is as a rule carved in pine.


The actual carving should be done with the grain, not against the grain!


* [ Woodworking & Carving Resource] Discover info, articles, tips, and more on woodworking.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Wood carving".