Carving can be done by hand, power tools and even chainsaws. I don’t use a chainsaw for carving, just for cutting wood for turning. The types of carving that I do are chip carving, relief carving and carvings in the round. Most of my carving is done with hand tools, but I do use power tools sometimes.
Chip carving has been around for a long time. There are some artifacts from the Vikings that are chip carved. Basically all chips are either triangular or rectangular in basic form whether they are straight-sided or curved. There are books and videos that explain the fundamentals and show you how to carve the chips. There are many ways to accomplish the end result, but each has it’s advocates.
Personally I use a special knife that is designed for making chips How you hold the knife is essential. The sides of the chip should be between 45 and 65 degrees. Most books suggest the best angle should be 60 to 65 degrees, but some people advocate the 45 degree chip.The 65 degree is deeper so it gives more shadow for better effect.
To do relief carving you lower the background to leave the design proud of the surface. This is accomplished by the use of gouges and chisels. If small amounts are being removed, palm tools can be used. But if deep relief is needed, larger tools and sometimes a mallet are used. If removing the wood requires more force than can be safely done by hand, a mallet is used on the end of the tool. Mallets are also used to help speed up the carving.
Not only is the design higher than the background, but many times the design is undercut. This helps give more realism to the carving. The undercut can be minor or go under the design more than a 1/4″.
Carving in the round
Carving in the round has two major branches, real-life and character carving. Real-life tries to copy the subject so the carving looks just like the original model. Busts and statues are part of real-life as are wildlife carvings. A lot of wildlife carvers also use pyrography for decoration. Feathers and fur are easier to put in with a wood-burning pen then a small gouge.
Character carving doesn’t have to be proportional like real-life. As a matter of fact accentuating certain parts of the carving helps to give it the needed character. The old folk art carving is the basis for this style. One style is called flat-plane because of the large flat areas. Flat-plane carving is thought to have originated in Scandinavia when the men carved during the long winters. A knife is used in flat-plane carving instead of gouges and chisels. That’s what gives it character.
More to come
There will be more posts on the tools and the different forms of carving, so check back.