Wood Chisel Techniques


Wood chiseling is a technique used to carve large wooden sculptures or wooden relief art. Many techniques within the broad realm of woodcarving make use of a variety of carving knives as well as several types of chisels, each with a specific purpose. Wood chiseling is an art form that produces beautiful artistic pieces suitable for personal decoration or even as a sideline business.

Tools of the Trade

Include a variety of chisels in your toolbox. Wood chiseling often involves working on large, extremely hard wood materials. A selection of chisels from 1/4-inch to 2 inches wide are employed to accomplish the many techniques used in larger woodcarving designs. Also keep a couple of different hammers on hand, in various weights. Chip-carving knives and traditional carving knives are useful for detail work.

Roughing Out

Roughing out is the technique used to get the initial shape of your design. Use a wooden or rubber mallet and a large chisel to remove any wood you won't be using for your carving. The trick to roughing out an accurate, useful form is to think about finding the shape beneath the wood. You're goal is to bring that shape out. A large chisel allows you to remove large chunks of wood at a time. Roughed-out carvings will require sanding before you begin the detail work.

Relief Carving

Use chisels to create bas-relief or high-relief designs. Relief carving involves removing wood from a work surface around your design to bring the design out in such a way that it appears to rise from the surface of your wood surface. A larger chisel may be employed to bring the initial shape of the design to the surface, then bring small chisels into play to cut away the details in the relief. Relief carving is a technique popular with beginners. It takes some practice to get good at making designs, but it's a fun way to get into the world of carving.

Inlay Carving

Inlay carving is a technique that works opposite of relief carving. Inlays are typically cut out to make room for a filler material, which can be anything from marble or glass to metal and tile. Use smaller chisels to carve the inlay by removing the wood. Chisel out the inside of the design pattern. The design will sink into the wood as opposed to rising from the surface. A smaller chisel is more effective and will lessen your chance of going too deep. Use a lighter mallet as well. If you're not planning a deep inlay and you're cutting into a softer wood, you may even be able to tap the handle of the chisel with your palm.

Paring and Sidewise Cuts

Paring is a technique used to remove shavings from your wood quickly. Hold the chisel in a two-handed grip with one hand firmly gripping just where the chisel leaves the handle. This gives you more control over the direction and depth of the chisel. When paring, be sure the flat side of the chisel is up. To cut against the grain of the wood, use a sidewise chiseling technique. Use the same hand position for sidewise cutting as for paring.

Keywords: wood chisel tools, relief carving knives, chisels hammers chip carving

About this Author

Carl Hose has been writing since high school. His work appears in the zombie anthology Cold Storage, which he co-edited. His work also appears in Champagne Shivers, DeathGrip: It Came from the Cinema, DeathGrip: Exit Laughing, the horror anthology Loving the Undead, the erotic ghost anthology Beyond Desire, and issues of Lighthouse Digest. Hose's nonfiction appears in Blue Review and Writer's Journal.

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