The best thing about wood carving is that you don’t require any special setup or environment to try your creativity. A wood block and some sharp tool to carve it is all that is required.
Immaculately finished wooden trays created by hand by the Nagina artisans
BUT the sad part is even then it’s not that easy to carve a piece of wood.
I personally have talked to wood carvers, experienced and seen them working. My colleague and good friend, Nisha even tried playing with wood and chisels under their guidance but we made one simple conclusion – Wood carvers are cravers for carving. They are simply born with the skill and no matter how hard we try; we kind of embarrass the wood 😉
Nisha trying to carve some shape out of wood using chisel
Although, exceptions are always there! But only .01% maybe!!
But here, I have no intention to discourage any beginner’s efforts. So I would like to share the simplest process of carving the wood (rosewood to be precise) and some essential tips that would surely help the carving cravers. And this information comes all the way from the expert carvers of Nagina- the hub of wood carving in India.
So let’s begin with what you would need for carving:
Select the type of wood: There are a variety of woods available for carving but one of the finest choices would be Rosewood. It’s strong, durable and affordable. And it has the natural pleasant smell that lasts for years. Although it’s a very hard wood, which makes it difficult to carve, still it is one of the best when you look at the finished product.
Type of tools required: Majorly there are gouges, chisels and chip-carving knives used for carving.
Chip carving knife: This is the most basic tool required for carving. A sharp blade that is about an inch and a half long and a long handle is what helps in cutting the wood neatly.
Gouges: These are curved carving tools that can scoop away small and large wood pieces depending on the size and shape of the gouge. Some of the main gouge types are V-gouge, U-gouge and spoon gouge. These gouges can be used for carving, curving and smoothening.
Chisels: Majorly these are used to hammer the wood and shape it into the required pattern. Diverse shapes, styles, sizes are available for every kind of chiseling. And these are considerably the main tools for bringing out intricate designs in the wood.
If you are really serious about carving, then do not mind buying good quality tools. You might have to spend a bit more initially but that’s a good long term investment.
For carving any kind of wooden items, the wood is first left in the open for seasoning. The time of seasoning varies from 1 year to 4 years. But you can try looking for seasoned wood in the market and if you are lucky, you might find some.
To begin with, transfer the preferred design on wood using ink. Ideally draw a simpler design if you are a beginner. Then use a chip carving knife for taking off the extra wood outside the design. You can also scoop away the extra wood using gouges. Now you need to trust your inner guidance to help you choose the tool to use here depending on the design. Once the block takes the desired shape, use chisels to define the design. For the final finish, you can buff the piece with some wax polish to bring out the natural grain and smoothened surface.
An extension to this carving style is jaali work that employs very elegant see-through lattice work in the wood. In this style of carving, highly pointed chisels go as deep as 5 inches to bring out the beautiful jali pattern.
The next popular wood art employs the use of carving along with the inlaying of brass pieces in the wood. Brass Inlay work also known as tarkashi is a highly delicate art which is majorly done on hard and high-quality woods.
To create a wooden piece with brass inlays, again transfer the desired design from a piece of paper onto the wood block using ink. Then carve deep but thin grooves along the trace using small hand tools like chisels. This process is known as etching. Place fine brass wires in the etched grooves and hammer the wires into the grooves. To bring the fineness to the piece buffing can be done multiple times and you will be amazed to see the golden work that would beautifully glow on the wood.
Caution: Do not heat the product during the whole process as that would dislocate the brass wires.
The essential tips:
- Keep your tools razor sharp: This will help in easy carving plus that will avoid white lines which are visible on the wood if the tools are not sharp.
- Work along the grain: This is highly important to know. If you work in the opposite direction, you will feel resistance from the wood. Also that will lead to a jagged and rough surface on the wood.
- Use your wrist and not elbow: For controlling the knife, use your wrist and not elbow. This will allow for more control while carving the details.
- Wear gloves: Make sure you wear gloves while carving. Not on the hand you are holding your knife in, but the hand with which you are holding the wood.
- Draw the design beforehand: Even if you are sure of what design you want on the wood, draw it before you start chiseling. One wrong cut, and the piece will be ruined.
I really hope this process and these tips help you some way in carving. The carvers of Nagina helped me understand this process and the master artisan concluded with these words:
“If you have the passion and right tools for carving just go ahead with the flow of the hand. One… two… three… attempts that leads to failure! Don’t worry!! The fourth attempt would certainly bring out the desired shape, maybe not the perfect one but surely better than the previous ones. Just go with the flow and follow your heart.”
And if you are the one who loves wooden carved products but do not wish to carve, check out some amazingly created artefacts by the artisans of Nagina. They completely love what they do and try to reach the world through their art. But their focus never was to understand the online world, so my attempt is simply to highlight their efforts as well as connect you with their work and lives.
Hand-carved jewelry box with brass inlay highlights
Thanks for reading!