Wood carving is a form of woodcraft. It's done using a cutting tool to carve out figures or figurines or ornamenting wooden objects. Wood carving may also refer to individual products like sculptures or hand worked moldings. The best examples of ancient wood carvings are from the Middle Ages in Italy and France. The common theme during those times was Christian iconography. Well known examples of wood carving from 16th and 17th century England are still preserved. These are mostly made out of oak. The decoration of wood has been a widely practiced art from the earliest ages. Human nature has an ingrained tendency to ornament every article of use. Native Americans or Red Indians carve their fishing hooks or the stems of their peace pipes. Polynesians carve patterns into their paddles and boating oars. The natives of Guyana decorate their cavassa grater with well conceived schemes of incised scrolls. Figure carving is a widespread activity. Most societies represent their Gods in tangible forms and find expressions in numerous ways. The early carvers as well as modern carvers find that giving expression to eyes is one of the most difficult tasks. At times, some carvers get away from this difficulty by inlaying the eyes with colored materials.
Wood Carving Techniques
There are various techniques of wood carving:
The process of chip carving uses knives to remove small chips of wood from the project surface in a single piece. Chip carvings have two planes. The planes consist of the wood surface and the point below the surface where the cuts intersect. The patterns in chip carving are of a free form style and are based on geometric figures. Special chip carving knives are available for this type of carving.
Relief carving is done by a tedious and lengthy process. The piece of wood to be carved is first fixed on the work bench by means of screws or clamps. The carver sketches the main lines of the proposed idea on paper. Details of the final carving like flowers, foliage or other subjects are detailed. The space between the lines are gouged out by the carver. The carver models and carves out the shapes of his pattern and balances the lights and shadows. Once the desired pattern is obtained, all the cuts are cleaned. Relief carved works are finished at once and not done in stages.
Scandinavian Flat Plane Woodcarving:
The Scandinavian flat plane woodcarving is a kind of figure carving. The figures are carved out in large flat planes. They are created using a carving knife. The tool mark are left in the carved work and very little rounding or sanding is done.
Caricature carvings are humorous wooden renditions of actual persons or things. Caricature carvings exaggerate or distort the basic essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness.
Caricature carvings are also made of inanimate objects, but it is mainly reserved for illustrations of people, especially celebrities and politicians. Caricature carving can either be insulting or complimentary.
Love Spoon Carving:
Love spoon carving is not a particular type or method of carving rather it classifies a special kind of spoon known as love spoons. These are wooden spoons traditionally carved out of a single piece of wood by young men, to give them to their beloved as a love token. The spoons are carved with ornate designs. Certain symbols are carved on the spoons which have specific meanings. Horseshoes are carved for luck, crosses for faith or marriage and hearts for love.
Whittling is the art of crafting out shapes from raw wood using a knife. Whittling is usually done with a light small bladed knife. Generally pocket knives are used. Special whittling knives are also available. They have thick handles which make them easier to grip for long periods of time. Also, these knives allow more control and pressure.