Woodcarving Basics

MaryMay'sCarvingLearn techniques for ‘shallow relief’ and ‘applied’ carvings.

by Mary May
page 46

Have you ever been involved in something where you get completely absorbed in it? Where hours go by without realizing it? Those are the moments when you discover something you truly love.

Within a month of taking classes from European Master Carver Konstantinos Papadakis, I knew carving would be my life. I often found myself dreaming of my next project. When speaking with people, I would find myself studying their faces intently and wondering which gouge I would use to achieve those shapes. That’s when I knew I was obsessed.

This article is a walk through the basics of getting started in carving so the idea and possibility of this art form can become a reality – and hopefully prevent injury, tears and frustration. Who knows? It might become an obsession in your life, too.

Carving a shallow design directly into a flat board is the simplest way to start. This is referred to as “shallow relief carving,” where the background is lowered with gouges and the carving appears to be raised off the surface. There’s no sawing necessary, and it’s easy to clamp your wood to a workbench.

There are two ways to carve shallow relief in a flat board. One is to lower the entire background flat and the other is to carve down at an angle close to the design. This technique can be used as a design on the top of a jewelry box, for example.

Another technique, referred to as “appliqué” or “applied carving,” is to cut the outline of the design with a band saw or scroll saw before carving. When the carving is finished, it is glued to your piece of furniture. With this technique, the carving is attached to a temporary backer board.

Video: Follow along with Mary May as she shows you how to carve a leaf
Blog: Mary May shows how she carves a linenfold panel.
In our store: Purchase Mary’s DVD “Carving a Shell & Acanthus Leaf Design”
Web site: See examples of Mary’s carving work
Web site: Visit Mary’s online carving school

From the December 2014 issue, #215
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