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Learning relief carving

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  • Learning relief carving

    Good evening,
    I am just starting out in carving and would like to learn relief carving. Any suggestions for books or youtube channels that would help, thx RJ

  • #2
    Welcome, RJ.

    1. If you have no ready supply of local free wood then you will need to buy some.
    Heineke appears to sell very nice bass wood for carving.

    2. You will need to have a couple of very strong straight knives, later some gouges.

    3. Your tools will need a bit of a tune up every 30-45 minutes to continue to give your easy, glassy cuts in the wood. That means you must learn a method of sharpening. There are several techniques that all lead to the same edges.

    I carve western red cedar with the adzes and crooked knives of the Pacific Northwest First Nations.
    I could teach you some "form-line" carving later on.
    Brian T


    • #3
      My introduction to wood carving was a gifted relief carving course over 2 weekends. Bought some tools, had a very good time with a full-time pro carver instructor. That was it for several years of doing nothing. I can't recall what rekindled my interest. I had to go back and get a free hand sharpening lesson, I had forgotten so much.

      This is the Pfeil tool and accessory list that was recommended:
      D5/3 gouge
      1/8 stop chisel
      1 x 12 oz Shop Fox mallet
      1 leather-surfaced strop
      CrOx/AlOx honing compound
      canvas tool roll

      I have long since lost track of what all I have added to this.
      Brian T


      • #4
        Lora Susan Irish has probably the largest collection of patterns that can be used for relief carving or pyrography. Scroll way down in this: until you get to the Mule Deer Relief. She has a free pattern here and lengthy "how to" instructions from preparing the wood to layers to finishing... She also includes tools lists.

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        My ETSY Shop:


        • Irish
          Irish commented
          Editing a comment
          Ah! Claude, you are always so kind! Thanks for the nice words.

      • #5
        There is probably no "formula" for becoming a good relief carver. Choose a design you really want to carve. Avoid getting focused on tools, wood, or sharpening. Don't be misled by videos of effortless & perfect cutting strokes. Expect your initial relief carvings to take weeks or months, not hours or minutes.

        This is my first relief carving - really! - 72 years ago.

        Last edited by pallin; 07-25-2021, 02:33 PM.


        • #6
          Welcome to a great forum, RJ. I thought I wanted to do relief carving and after learning more about wood carving I wound up doing 3D caricature carving...flat plane style. Early on it is hard to define the path to take. Regardless research relief carving and as mentioned, Lori has great information.
          Living among knives and fire.


          • #7
            Thank you all for the information, it will be a start of my carving, I have been doing a lot of woodworking over the past 12 years, especially scroll sawing, and I needed a change, thx again RJ


            • #8
              I started relief carving a little over a year ago. I have found it to be extremely therapeutic. It's a slow but satisfying process without the noise and dust of big power tools. To me patience is the critical skill to being good at it. Carving helps me slow down and appreciate the process, and this carries over to other parts of life.