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Wood carving

Wood carving

Overview

Wood carving is a form of working wood
Woodworking
Woodworking is the process of building, making or carving something using wood.-History:Along with stone, mud, and animal parts, wood was one of the first materials worked by early humans. Microwear analysis of the Mousterian stone tools used by the Neanderthals show that many were used to work wood...

 by means of a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel
Chisel
A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.In use, the chisel is forced into the material...

 by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine
Figurine
A figurine is a statuette that represents a human, deity or animal. Figurines may be realistic or iconic, depending on the skill and intention of the creator. The earliest were made of stone or clay...

, or in the sculptural
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 ornamentation of a wooden object. The phrase may also refer to the finished product, from individual sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

s, to hand-worked mouldings composing part of a tracery
Tracery
In architecture, Tracery is the stonework elements that support the glass in a Gothic window. The term probably derives from the 'tracing floors' on which the complex patterns of late Gothic windows were laid out.-Plate tracery:...

.

Some of the finest extant examples of early wood carving are from the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, where the typical themes of that era were Christian iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

.
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Encyclopedia

Wood carving is a form of working wood
Woodworking
Woodworking is the process of building, making or carving something using wood.-History:Along with stone, mud, and animal parts, wood was one of the first materials worked by early humans. Microwear analysis of the Mousterian stone tools used by the Neanderthals show that many were used to work wood...

 by means of a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel
Chisel
A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.In use, the chisel is forced into the material...

 by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine
Figurine
A figurine is a statuette that represents a human, deity or animal. Figurines may be realistic or iconic, depending on the skill and intention of the creator. The earliest were made of stone or clay...

, or in the sculptural
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 ornamentation of a wooden object. The phrase may also refer to the finished product, from individual sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

s, to hand-worked mouldings composing part of a tracery
Tracery
In architecture, Tracery is the stonework elements that support the glass in a Gothic window. The term probably derives from the 'tracing floors' on which the complex patterns of late Gothic windows were laid out.-Plate tracery:...

.

Some of the finest extant examples of early wood carving are from the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, where the typical themes of that era were Christian iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

. In England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 many complete examples remain from the 16th and 17th century, where oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 was the preferred medium in this case

Figural carving seems to have been widespread. The carving to represent one's god in a tangible form finds expression in numberless ways. The early carver, and, for that matter, the native of the present day, has found a difficulty in giving expression to the eye, and at times has evaded it by inlaying this feature with colored material.

Methods and styles

  • Chip carving
    Chip carving
    Chip carving or chip-carving, kerbschnitt in German, is a style of carving in which knives or chisels are used to remove small chips of the material from a flat surface in a single piece. The style became important in Migration Period metalwork, mainly Animal style jewellery, where the faceted...

  • Relief carving
    Relief carving
    Relief carving as a type of woodcarving is as old as antiquity, yet it is still enjoyed by carvers today. Though it is not as popular as other forms of wood carving, it is gaining in popularity because of its versatility as a medium of artistic expression. There is essentially no limit to this form...

  • Scandinavian flat-plane
    Scandinavian flat-plane style of woodcarving
    The Scandinavian flat-plane style of woodcarving is a style of figure carving. The figures are carved in large flat planes, created primarily using a carving knife. Tool marks are left in the carving and very little rounding or sanding is done...

  • Caricature
    Caricature
    A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.Caricatures can be...

     carving
  • Lovespoon
  • Treen
  • Whittling
    Whittling
    Whittling is the art of carving shapes typically out of raw wood or bone with a knife.Whittling is typically performed with a light, small-bladed knife, usually a pocket knife. Specialised whittling knives are available as well...


Tools


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 coping saw
    Coping saw
    A coping saw is a type of hand saw used to cut intricate external shapes and interior cutouts in woodworking or carpentry. It is widely used to cut moldings to create coped rather than miter joints. It is occasionally used to create fretwork though it is not able to match a fretsaw in intricacy of...

    , a small saw that is used to cut off chunks of wood at once.
  • the chisel
    Chisel
    A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.In use, the chisel is forced into the material...

    , 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.
  • sharpening
    Sharpening
    Sharpening is the process of creating or refining a sharp edge of appropriate shape on a tool or implement designed for cutting. Sharpening is done by grinding away material on the implement with an abrasive substance harder than the material of the implement, followed sometimes by processes to...

     equipment, such as various stones and a strop, necessary for maintaining edges.


A special screw for fixing work to the workbench
Workbench
A workbench is sturdy table at which manual work is done. They range from simple flat surfaces to very complex designs that may be considered tools in themselves. Workbenches vary in size from tiny jewelers benches to the huge benches used by staircase makers...

, and a mallet
Mallet
A mallet is a kind of hammer, usually of rubber,or sometimes wood smaller than a maul or beetle and usually with a relatively large head.-Tools:Tool mallets come in different types, the most common of which are:...

, complete the carvers kit, though other tools, both specialized and adapted, are often used, such as a router
Wood router
A router is a tool used to rout out an area in the face of a relatively hard workpiece, typically of wood or plastic. The main application of routers is in woodworking, especially cabinetry....

 for bringing grounds to a uniform level, bent gouges and bent chisels for cutting hollows too deep for the ordinary tool.
Terminology
Term Definition
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 small deep gouge with a U shaped cutting edge. Usually #11 sweep.
Fluter A larger #11 sweep gouge with a U shaped cutting edge.
Sloyd
Sloyd
Sloyd , also known as Educational Sloyd, was a system of handicraft-based education started by Uno Cygnaeus in Finland in 1865...

 knife
A whittling
Whittling
Whittling is the art of carving shapes typically out of raw wood or bone with a knife.Whittling is typically performed with a light, small-bladed knife, usually a pocket knife. Specialised whittling knives are available as well...

 knife having a strong, blade slightly shorter than the handle (around 5 inches), suitable for marking or carving.
Chisel
Chisel
A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.In use, the chisel is forced into the material...

A carving tool with a straight cutting edge (usually termed #1 sweep) at right angles (or square to) the sides of the blade.
Skew
Skew
Skew may refer to:In mathematics:* Skew lines, lines that are neither parallel nor intersecting* Skew-symmetric matrix, a square matrix whose transpose is also its negative...

 Chisel
A chisel with the edge at a "skew" or angle relative the sides of the blade. Often termed #2 sweep in the Sheffield list or #1s in continental lists.
V-Tool A carving tool with a V shaped cutting edge. Used for outlining and decorative cuts. Referred to as 'the carvers pencil' by old time professional carvers.
Parting Tool
Long Bent A gouge, chisel or V tool where the blade is curved along its entire length. Handy for deep work.
Short Bent 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. Spoon gouges were often referred to as 'tracery tools' which indicates their use in the type of decorative carving found in churches
Spoon
Spoon
A spoon is a utensil consisting of a small shallow bowl, oval or round, at the end of a handle. A type of cutlery , especially as part of a place setting, it is used primarily for serving. Spoons are also used in food preparation to measure, mix, stir and toss ingredients...

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 or a mallet.
Tang
Tang (weaponry)
A tang or shank is the back portion of a tool where it extends into stock material or is connected to a handle as on a knife, sword, spear, arrowhead, chisel, screwdriver, etc...

The tapered part of the blade that is driven into the handle.
Bolster
Bolster
A bolster is a long narrow pillow or cushion filled with cotton, down, or fibre. In western countries, it is usually placed at the head of bed and functions as head or back support...

A flared section of the blade near the tang that keeps the blade from being driven further into the handle.
Ferrule
Ferrule
A ferrule is a name for types of metal objects, generally used for fastening, joining, or reinforcement...

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.Some old, small detail tools have neither bolster nor ferrule as their light use makes them unnecessary.
Rockwell
Rockwell scale
The Rockwell scale is a hardness scale based on the indentation hardness of a material. The Rockwell test determines the hardness by measuring the depth of penetration of an indenter under a large load compared to the penetration made by a preload. There are different scales, denoted by a single...

 Hardness
A scale that indicates the hardness of steel. A Rockwell range of 58 to 61 is considered optimum for fine woodworking edge tools.

Selection


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 in which wood is strongest is called "grain
GRAIN
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Our support takes the form of independent research and analysis, networking at local, regional and...

" (grain may be straight, interlocked, wavy or fiddleback, etc.). It is smart 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, etc., 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
Tupelo
The tupelo , black gum, or pepperidge tree, genus Nyssa , is a small genus of about 9 to 11 species of trees with alternate, simple leaves...

, both are hardwoods that are relatively easy to work with. Chestnut
Chestnut
Chestnut , some species called chinkapin or chinquapin, is a genus of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the beech family Fagaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The name also refers to the edible nuts they produce.-Species:The chestnut belongs to the...

, Butternut, Oak, American walnut
Walnut
Juglans is a plant genus of the family Juglandaceae, the seeds of which are known as walnuts. They are deciduous trees, 10–40 meters tall , with pinnate leaves 200–900 millimetres long , with 5–25 leaflets; the shoots have chambered pith, a character shared with the wingnuts , but not the hickories...

, mahogany
Mahogany
The name mahogany is used when referring to numerous varieties of dark-colored hardwood. It is a native American word originally used for the wood of the species Swietenia mahagoni, known as West Indian or Cuban mahogany....

 and teak
Teak
Teak is the common name for the tropical hardwood tree species Tectona grandis and its wood products. Tectona grandis is native to south and southeast Asia, mainly India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Burma, but is naturalized and cultivated in many countries, including those in Africa and the...

 are also very good woods; while for fine work Italian walnut, sycamore maple
Sycamore Maple
Acer pseudoplatanus, the sycamore maple, is a species of maple native to central Europe and southwestern Asia, from France east to Ukraine, and south in mountains to northern Spain, northern Turkey, and the Caucasus. It is not related to other trees called sycamore or plane tree in the Platanus...

, apple
Apple
The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family . It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans. Apple grow on small, deciduous trees that blossom in the spring...

, pear
Pear
The pear is any of several tree species of genus Pyrus and also the name of the pomaceous fruit of these trees. Several species of pear are valued by humans for their edible fruit, but the fruit of other species is small, hard, and astringent....

, box
Buxus
Buxus is a genus of about 70 species in the family Buxaceae. Common names include box or boxwood ....

 or plum
Plum
A plum or gage is a stone fruit tree in the genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus. The subgenus is distinguished from other subgenera in the shoots having a terminal bud and solitary side buds , the flowers in groups of one to five together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one...

, are usually chosen. Decoration that is to be painted and of not too delicate a nature is as a rule carved in pine
Pine
Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

.

Sculpture



A wood carver begins a new carving by selecting a chunk of wood the approximate size and shape of the figure he or she wishes to create or, if the carving is to be large, several pieces of wood may be laminated together to create the required size. The type of wood is important. Hardwoods are more difficult to shape but have greater luster and longevity. Softer woods may be easier to carve, but are less resistant to damage. Any wood can be carved but they all have different qualities and characteristics. The choice will depend on the requirements of carving being done: for example a detailed figure would need a wood with a fine grain and very little figure as strong figure can interfere with 'reading' fine detail.Once the sculptor has selected their wood, he or she begins a general shaping process using gouges of various sizes. The gouge is a curved blade that can remove large portions of wood smoothly. For harder woods, the sculptor may use gouges sharpened with stronger bevels, about 35 degrees,and a mallet similar to a stone carver's. The terms 'gouge' and 'chisel' are open to confusion. Correctly, a gouge is a tool with a curved cross section and a chisel is a tool with a flat cross section. However, professional carvers tend to refer to them all as 'chisels'. Smaller sculptures may require the wood carver to use a knife, and larger pieces might require the use of a saw. No matter what wood is selected or tool used, the wood sculptor must always carve either across or with the grain of the wood, never against the grain.

Once the general shape is made, the carver may use a variety of tools for creating details. For example, a “veiner” or 'fluter' can be used to make deep gouges into the surface, or a “v-tool” for making fine lines or decorative cuts. Once the finer details have been added, the wood carver finishes the surface. The method chosen depends on the required quality of surface finish. The texture left by shallow gouges gives 'life' to the carving's surface and many carvers prefere this 'tooled' finish. If a completely smooth surface is required general smoothing can be done with tools such as “rasps,” which are flat-bladed tools with a surface of pointed teeth. “Rifflers” are similar to rasps, but smaller, usually double ended, and of various shapes for working in folds or crevasses. The finer polishing is done with abrasive paper. Large grained paper with a rougher surface is used first, with the sculptor then using finer grained paper that can make the surface of the sculpture slick to the touch.

After the carving and finishing is completed, the artist may seal & color the wood with a variety of natural oils, such as walnut or linseed oil which protects the wood from dirt and moisture. Oil also imparts a sheen to the wood which, by reflecting light, helps the observer 'read' the form. Carvers seldom use gloss varnish as it creates too shiny a surface, which reflects so much light it can confuse the form; carvers refer to this as 'the toffee apple effect'. Objects made of wood are frequently finished with a layer of wax, which protects the wood and gives a soft lusterous sheen. A wax finish is comparatively fragile though and only suitable for indoor carvings.

Traditions


The making of decoy
Decoy
A decoy is usually a person, device or event meant as a distraction, to conceal what an individual or a group might be looking for. Decoys have been used for centuries most notably in game hunting, but also in wartime and in the committing or resolving of crimes.-Duck decoy:The term duck decoy may...

s and fish carving
Fish carving
Fish sculpture, fish decoys, fish carvings and fish trophies are the names given to a style of painted wood carving practiced by various artisans. The works are kept as decorations and collectible as folk art....

 are two of the artistic traditions that use wood carvings.

See also



List of woodcarvers
  • Chainsaw carving
    Chainsaw Carving
    The art of chainsaw carving is a fast-growing form of art that combines the modern technology of the chainsaw with the ancient art of woodcarving.- The beginning of the art form :...

  • History of wood carving
    History of wood carving
    The History of wood carving has from the remotest ages the decoration of wood as a foremost art. The tendency of human nature has always been to ornament every article in use. The North American Indian carves his wooden fish-hook or his pipe stem just as the Polynesian works patterns on his paddle...

  • Wood as a medium
    Wood as a medium
    As a contemporary artistic medium, wood is used in traditional and modern styles, and is an excellent medium for new art. Wood is used in forms of sculpture, craft, and decoration including chip carving, wood burning, and marquetry. Wood offers a fascination, beauty, and complexity in the grain,...

  • Woodcut
    Woodcut
    Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

  • Woodturning
    Woodturning
    Woodturning is a form of woodworking that is used to create wooden objects on a lathe . Woodturning differs from most other forms of woodworking in that the wood is moving while a stationary tool is used to cut and shape it...

  • Woodworking
    Woodworking
    Woodworking is the process of building, making or carving something using wood.-History:Along with stone, mud, and animal parts, wood was one of the first materials worked by early humans. Microwear analysis of the Mousterian stone tools used by the Neanderthals show that many were used to work wood...

  • Woodcarved catholic saints in the Parish Church of Ortisei
    Parish Church of Ortisei
    The Parish Church of Urtijëi located in the town of Urtijëi in Val Gardena in South Tyrol, Italy is dedicated to the Epiphany and to Saint Ulrich....

  • National Wood Carvers Association
    National Wood Carvers Association
    The National Wood Carvers Association is best known for its publication, the magazine Chip Chats. The organization, originally founded in 1953 by Stephen LePage, is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is the largest national association of woodcarvers, with a magazine membership of over 13,000...


External links