Wood engraving is one of many woodworking art forms. It is a close cousin to woodturning, which is performed on a wood lathe. In years past all wood engraving was done by hand. Today some modern wood engravers use electric rotary tools or chainsaws to complete their work. Wood engraving, also called woodcarving and whittling, is a more advanced style of woodworking that is both tedious and challenging.
Wood Engraving Tools
Engraving tools are divided into three basic groups: chisels, V-parting tools and gouges. The shape of their blades can distinguish the tools. Chisels have a straight cutting edge, V-parting tools have a V-shaped blade and gouges have a spoon-shape cutting blade. There are two measurements engravers use to determine which tool to use.
Basic Engraving Technique
The first wood engraving technique to master is carving with the grain. Similar to petting a dog, when the engraver works with the grain the results are smooth engraving strokes. When the wood engraver works against the grain, the result is rough tear-outs and jagged surfaces.
Incised Engraving Technique
One of the most striking distinctions of European country furniture is the abundance of incised engraving, known as kerbschnitzen in Switzerland and Germany. For the beginner wood engraver, it is an excellent introduction to wood engraving. Beginner wood engravers can master this basic technique with just a few hours of practice. The engraving found in the lids of jewelry boxes and around the edges of cabinet doors are perfect examples of incised engraving.
Relief Engraving Technique
History does not record when relief engraving came into vogue, but it very well may have come into existence when an ancient engraver, instead of engraving a shape into the wood, removed all the wood around the shape to leave it standing proudly above the surface of the wood project. Some of the most popular relief engravings are seashells, the American eagle, military motifs and landscape scenes found in custom furniture.
Using a hot, sharp cutting edge to engrave pictures and writings into wood goes back to the dawn of time. This was one of the earliest forms of creating printed books and documents, long before the printing press came into existence. Today most woodburning engravers use a woodburning iron, which is similar to a soldering iron. The woodburning engraver use different tips to perform the same techniques as traditional wood engraving tools, and can even use custom tips to give the finished project a unique custom flair.