Architectural Wood Carving

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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There are two major kinds of architectural wood carving. The first of these, dimension carving, focuses on three-dimensional shapes or "carving in the round." This is generally considered a more advanced form of wood carving and is recommended only after you've mastered the second form, relief carving.

Relief carving is done on flat two-dimensional surfaces but is performed in such a way as to give the illusion of three-dimensionality. This has to do with the types of cuts made, the way the wood is layered, and the shadows that form as a result of that layering. You then have the choice of low- and high-relief carving, which produce very different effects.

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Many people incorrectly assume that low-relief carving has less depth than high-relief carving. Rather, low relief gives an impression of shallowness through its uniformity of planes. Differences between carved areas are all easily visible to the eye, and the overall design is anchored to the carving block from which it emerges.

Other wood carving artists prefer high-relief carving, which uses the "undercut" to establish a more dramatic and often realistic effect. This is because the artist uses an undercut to obscure the joint at which any two planes meet. To the human eye, one section seems to hover above the next, giving a richness and depth that you don't readily find in low-relief carving. Whichever style of architectural wood carving you prefer, you can find artists to design pieces in that form. And, of course, you can always learn how to perform both techniques yourself.

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