The craft of carving has decorated furniture and homes for thousands of years. Whether carved singly or as a bouquet, flowers' wide range of forms and styles provide excellent subjects for carvers. By portraying flowers in low relief, a woodworker can produce a carving with a variety of options and final uses, such as embellishing a piece of furniture, enhancing a mantle or creating a focal point for a wall.
Select wood desired for project based on carver's skill level.
Lay out pattern on paper. If design includes more than one flower, use square, compass and protractor as needed to ensure proper proportions and perspective. Transfer pattern to wood with carbon paper.
Sharpen all tools. Lay tools in a rack or on work table with edges facing workspace. Use vise clamp, if necessary, to hold wood firmly on table.
Outline flower and leaves with knife or skew firmer. Make outline at a slant, sloping bottom of cut outward. This creates a protective edge for upstanding design.
Use veiner or parting tool to line in flower. Follow outline cut with one side of cutting edge, removing a V from waste wood with other edge. If using veiner, avoid starting or ending at corners to prevent marring design or going too far with cutting edge. Opt instead to use firmer to make second outline cut outside first cut, meeting in a V at the bottom.
Set in flower with square firmer and gouges, using firmer along straight lines of stem and gouges for petal and leaf curves. Make sure to cut into waste wood, not design. Pay attention to grain. More force will be necessary to hammer the firmer across grain than with it. Use mallet if necessary to push firmer into wood about 1/8 inch. Connect each setting-in cut to prevent saw-tooth edges when grounding out piece. Plan for two or more setting-in steps if ground is to be sunk more than 1/8 inch, each step to gradually remove more wood outside flower. Always hold tool vertically to prevent undercutting design.
Use quick gouges to waste away material. Remove wood from background across grain when possible to help control the cut. Use larger gouges in large areas and smaller and flatter ones as work progresses. When working in corners, use lower tip of gouge as pivot then lift and swing gouge to remove small bits of wood without splitting piece.
Smooth out background with firmer or flat gouge. Take care when working next to flower and leaves. If setting-in cuts are not deep enough, reset them deeper. If desired, decorate or stain background to provide contrast with raised flower.
Give flower, stem and leaves final shape and smooth any rough areas. Round up flower center edges and square up flower outlines. Round stems and shape leaves. If piece is to be displayed at eye level, slightly thin curling elements of design such as leaves and petals at edges to avoid looking too heavy. If carving is to be displayed below eye level, thin upper edges of curling elements; if above eye level, thin lower edges. Make final cut on leaves with wide firmer or flat gouge to create a smooth surface. Avoid sandpapering design, which destroys details. Instead, use sweep cut and long, continuous strokes to shine design.