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Exploring The Art Of Wood Carving

Carving goes way back from the remotest era and has been regarded as the primary form of art. No matter what inspiration the people of a certain age may have, ornamental carvings, more often than not, are a good indication of a certain period and they frequently function as a means to identify and date such eras. Native carvers from the past up to the present have constantly found it difficult to give expression specially to the eye. This has beed avoided by designing the eyes with colored substances.

There are a number of styles and methods in wood carving. Chip carving, relief carving, flat plane wood carving, caricature carving, fretwork and whittling.

Chip carving is one of the oldest and plainest techniques which makes use of short-bladed knives to remove wood chips in making intricate designs. The patterns for chip carving are either free-form style or grounded on geometric shapes or figures.

Relief carving is the process where the wood has to be clamped on to the work table. This variety comes with two styles namely the high relief, which makes use of deep cuts, and low relief, which makes use of shallower cuts to pieces with outlines or sketches.

One approach of figure carving is the flat plane wood carving. The forms are carved in large, level surfaces created generally with the use of a carving knife.

Caricature carving exaggerates or warps a persons' or an objects' image to create a likeness which can be humorous in nature. Caricatures are often used to portray stars and government officials which can be both insulting or flattering.

Fretwork is a carving style which creates interlacing designs which can be done as either a background for a relief carving or to create a pattern with open spaces.

Whittling is an art which makes use of a light pocket knife. It is the art of carving forms from raw wood. Whittling knives have stubby handles for an easier grip to allow precise control and pressure.

Selection of the wood type should also be considered. A wood's grain or texture is the number one rule when selecting wood. There are three types of grains, namely the straight, interlocked or fiddleback. Arranging the more fragile parts of the design along the grain is a wise option, because of the density and strength, Oak is the first choice for wood carving. Chestnut wood is very similar to Oak. Painted decorations and aren't fragile in nature and are engraved in pine wood.

Tools that are basic for carving are the carving knife, which is used to shave, cut and smooth the wood; gouge, used for carving hollows, rounds and sweeping curves; large and small chisels, used for making lines and to clean flat surfaces; a V-tool, used to part and emphasize lines; and the veiner, which is a specific type of gouge used to drill holes and, of course, veining.

A few pointers on carving would be the wearing of a thumb guard on the carving hand as well as on the hand that clutches the wood. This way, beginners, or carvers that take precaution, won't have any trouble with accidents. Working with wood entails discipline and hard work. It is natural to work at your own pace when creating a work of art. Feeling the wood from time to time, developing a comfortable way of holding the knife, carving tools, are good tips. Carving is an art and is shouldn't be rushed. Since this would mean dipping long hours and maybe days into finishing an artwork, resting after every 30 minutes is advisable to prevent cramping. Working on a single wood piece also can bring about frustration and depression. It is better to carve within your ability. With that given, the outcome may be better than what has been hoped for. Making sure that tools are sharp at all times should also be noted to prevent any mishaps.


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