Wood carving is a form of woodworking by means of a cutting tool (knife) in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, or in the sculptural 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.
The making of sculpture in wood has been extremely widely practised, but doesn't survive undamaged as well as the other main materials like stone and bronze, as it is vulnerable to decay, insect damage, and fire. Therefore, it forms an important hidden element in the art history of many cultures. [ citation needed ]Outdoor wood sculptures do not last long in most parts of the world, so it is still unknown how the totem pole tradition developed. Many of the most important sculptures of China and Japan, in particular, are in wood, and so are the great majority of African sculpture and that of Oceania and other regions. Wood is light and can take very fine detail so it is highly suitable for masks and other sculpture intended to be worn or carried. It is also much easier to work on than stone.
Some of the finest extant examples of early European wood carving are from the Middle Ages in Germany, Russia, Italy and France, where the typical themes of that era were Christian iconography. In England, many complete examples remain from the 16th and 17th century, where oak was the preferred medium.
The oldest wood carved sculpture, the Shigir Idol carved from larch, is around 12,000 years old.
Pattern, Blocking, Detailing, Surfacing, and Smoothening
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.
|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 knife||A whittling knife having a strong, blade slightly shorter than the handle (around 5 inches), suitable for marking or carving.|
|Chisel||A carving tool with a straight cutting edge (usually termed #1 sweep) at right angles (or square too) 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 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.|
|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|
|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||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.Some old, small detail tools have neither bolster nor ferrule as their light use makes them unnecessary.|
|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.|
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 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.Often, however, a "line of best fit" is instead employed, since a design may have multiple weak points in different directions, or orientation of these along the grain would necessitate carving detail on end grain, (which is considerably more difficult). Carving blanks are also sometimes assembled, as with carousel horses, out of many smaller boards, and in this way, one can orient different areas of a carving in the most logical way, both for the carving process and for durability. Less commonly, this same principle is used in solid pieces of wood, where the fork of two branches is utilized for its divergent grain, or a branch off of a larger log is carved into a beak (this was the technique employed for traditional Welsh shepherd's crooks, and some Native American adze handles). 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 carvingin North America are basswood (aka tilia or lime) and tupelo; both are hardwoods that are relatively easy to work with. Chestnut, butternut, oak, American walnut, mahogany and teak are also very good woods; while for fine work Italian walnut, sycamore maple, apple, pear, box or plum, are usually chosen. Decoration that is to be painted and of not too delicate a nature is often carved in pine, which is relatively soft and inexpensive.
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 more prone 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 a 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 woodcarver 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 woodcarver finishes the surface. The method chosen depends on the required quality of the surface finish. The texture left by shallow gouges gives 'life' to the carving's surface and many carvers prefer 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 & colour 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 lustrous sheen. A wax finish (e.g. shoe polish) is comparatively fragile though and only suitable for indoor carvings.
The making of decoys and fish carving are two of the artistic traditions that use wood carvings.
Woodworking is the skill of making items from wood, and includes cabinet making, wood carving, joinery, carpentry, and woodturning.
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 by hand, struck with a mallet, or mechanical power. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or of wood with a sharp edge in it.
Marble has been the preferred material for stone monumental sculpture since ancient times, with several advantages over its more common geological "parent" limestone, in particular the ability to absorb light a small distance into the surface before refracting it in subsurface scattering. This gives an attractive soft appearance that is especially good for representing human skin, which can also be polished.
Stonemasonry or stonecraft is the creation of buildings, structures, and sculpture using stone as the primary material. It is one of the oldest activities and professions in human history. Many of the long-lasting, ancient shelters, temples, monuments, artifacts, fortifications, roads, bridges, and entire cities were built of stone. Famous works of stonemasonry include the Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Cusco's Incan Wall, Easter Island's statues, Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Tihuanaco, Tenochtitlan, Persepolis, the Parthenon, Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, and Chartres Cathedral.
Stone carving is an activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the permanence of the material, stone work has survived which was created during our prehistory or past time.
A mallet is a tool used for imparting force on another object, often made of rubber or sometimes wood, that is smaller than a maul or beetle, and usually has a relatively large head. The term is descriptive of the overall size and proportions of the tool, and not the materials it may be made of, though most mallets have striking faces that are softer than steel.
This page describe terms and jargon related to sculpture and sculpting.
Woodturning is the craft of using a wood lathe with hand-held tools to cut a shape that is symmetrical around the axis of rotation. Like the potter's wheel, the wood lathe is a simple mechanism that can generate a variety of forms. The operator is known as a turner, and the skills needed to use the tools were traditionally known as turnery. In pre-industrial England, these skills were sufficiently difficult to be known as 'the misterie' of the turners guild. The skills to use the tools by hand, without a fixed point of contact with the wood, distinguish woodturning and the wood lathe from the machinist's lathe, or metal-working lathe.
Leather carving is the process of giving a three-dimensional appearance to leather craft objects or works of art by cutting and stamping the surface.Many different kinds of leathers can be used for these crafts.
Wood carving is one of the oldest arts of humankind. Wooden spears from the Middle Paleolithic, such as the Clacton Spear, reveal how humans have engaged in utilitarian woodwork for millennia. However, given the relatively rapid rate at which wood decays in most environments, there are only isolated ancient artefacts remaining.
Relief carving is a type of wood carving in which figures are carved in a flat panel of wood. The figures project only slightly from the background rather than standing freely. Depending on the degree of projection, reliefs may also be classified as high or medium relief.
Chalk carving is the practice and shaping of chalk via carving. This article covers some methods, types of chalk, tools used and the benefits of this material.
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.
This glossary of woodworking lists a number of specialized terms and concepts used in woodworking, carpentry, and related disciplines.
Leather crafting or simply leathercraft is the practice of making leather into craft objects or works of art, using shaping techniques, coloring techniques or both.
A stone sculpture is an object made of stone which has been shaped, usually by carving, or assembled to form a visually interesting three-dimensional shape. Stone is more durable than most alternative materials, making it especially important in architectural sculpture on the outside of buildings.
A pointing machine is a measuring tool used by stone sculptors and woodcarvers to accurately copy plaster, clay or wax sculpture models into wood or stone. In essence the device is a pointing needle that can be set to any position and then fixed. It further consists of brass or stainless steel rods and joints which can be placed into any position and then tightened. It is not actually a machine; its name is derived from the Italian macchinetta di punta. The invention of the tool has been ascribed to both the French sculptor and medallist Nicolas-Marie Gatteaux (1751–1832) and to the British sculptor John Bacon (1740–1799). It was later perfected by Canova. However, similar devices were used in ancient times, when the copying of Greek sculptures for the Roman market was a large industry.
Kwakwaka'wakw art describes the art of the Kwakwaka'wakw peoples of British Columbia. It encompasses a wide variety of woodcarving, sculpture, painting, weaving and dance. Kwakwaka'wakw arts are exemplified in totem poles, masks, wooden carvings, jewelry and woven blankets. Visual arts are defined by simplicity, realism, and artistic emphasis. Dances are observed in the many rituals and ceremonies in Kwakwaka'wakw culture. Much of what is known about Kwakwaka'wakw art comes from oral history, archeological finds in the 19th century, inherited objects, and devoted artists educated in Kwakwaka'wakw traditions.
Ulysses Davis was an African-American barber and self-taught sculptor. Davis is best known for his carvings of historical figures such as a set of mahogany busts of all the presidents and similar portrait heads of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedys and other leaders from the civil rights era.