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How to carve sculptures?

Creating sculptures can be one of the most stimulating, fulfilling and fun activities around. Not only can it be an intellectual pursuit, but it is also a very physical one. There are, of course, many ways of going about creating sculptures, from using old bits of wire twisted together to form simple shapes to carving a life-like statue from stone or bronze. However, one of the best ways to start is wood sculpting. Below is a guide to carving wood sculptures.

Choosing the wood

The first step of course is to choose the wood. While hardwoods are harder to carve, they are longer lasting than the more pliable but less resistant softwoods. Ultimately the choice will come down to the particular use. For example, a fine grained wood with little figure is more suitable for greater detail.

Size and shape

Once you have decided on the type of wood you are going to use, next you will have to pick a hunk of wood which roughly matches the size and shape of the figure you want to carve. Incidentally, if you plan on doing very large-scale pieces, several blocks can be joined together to produce the required size.

The modelling process

Once you have chosen your wood, you can then begin the overall modeling process. This is usually done with the aid of carving gouges that can be found in various sizes. These wood gouges are basically simple curved blades that can effectively and smoothly take away relatively large portions of woodcarvings. The important point here is that whatever type of wood you are using, always ensure you carve either across or with the grain and never against it.

Finer details

Once you have created the basic outline, you can proceed with the creation of the details. For this, a variety of tools can be used. While gouge chisels are sufficient, special wooden tools known as veiners or fluters are better for the deeper gouges while a v-tool is best reserved for fine lines or intricate patterns.

The finished surface

Then, it's time to decide upon the kind of finish that you prefer. Many people actually prefer to leave the sculpture with the natural texture that has been created by the gouges, believing that this method gives more life to the piece. However, if you feel you would prefer a smooth wood finish, this process can be achieved using a tool that is known as a rasp and then finished off with abrasive paper.


Finally, you can seal or tint the wood with a diversity of natural oils, such as walnut or linseed oil. This not only gives a smooth gloss to the sculpture but also serves to protect the wood from grime and damp.

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