Carving a Rice Sheaf

2017-04-09T00:08:17-04:00 May 27th, 2015|

This is a brief introduction to "Carving a Rice Sheaf."

This lesson teaches how to carve a sheaf of rice in shallow relief. This particular project was one of two details for a butternut fireplace mantel.

  • Lesson Contents: 2 episodes; template, tool list, and photo in Episode 1
  • Type of Wood: Butternut
  • Size: 3-3/4"w x 6-1/2"h x 3/16"d
  • Tool List: 3mm v-chisel; 6mm v-chisel; #3, 3mm; #3, 6mm; #3, 14mm; #3, 25; #7, 14mm
  • Skill Level: Basic/Intermediate
= More Lessons at the Basic Skill Level =


  1. Jon Millenson May 28, 2015 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Mary May:
    It looks like your dimensions may require a change. If the width is 61/2 ” the height looks as though it should be about 12″-13″, no? Also, I have a nice set of tools but a limited number. I don’t even have #3’s, but I can probably make do with my #4 and #5.
    It’s a beautiful project.


    • Mary May May 28, 2015 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Jon,
      Thanks for noticing the wrong dimensions! That is now changed.
      With the #4 and #5 gouge, it will be difficult to get a smooth background surface, but just make it a feature in the carving – like waves.

  2. Walter Doll October 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Is there a significant difference carving air dried lumber versus kiln dried?
    If you prefer air dried, what is your preferred commercial source.

    Thanks, and my apologies if you’ve already covered this elsewhere.

    • Mary May October 4, 2015 at 5:45 pm - Reply

      Hi Walter,
      I often receive wood from clients that are building furniture, and am rarely aware of whether it is air dried or kiln dried, so I honestly can’t say which one I prefer. The best people to ask are furniture makers who select the wood. My assumption is that air dried is preferred, but am not sure. Sorry I can’t help any more than that.

      Any other ideas out there?

  3. Harry November 16, 2016 at 9:57 am - Reply

    I have made an attempt at carving this Rice Sheaf, i am quite pleased with the result of the carving itself but I just can’t get the background right. I have used Oak, I am unable to find anywhere in the UK that stocks Butternut, I did find a place that could sell me a piece of Basswood, but that was rediculously expensive ( it would work out to $380 per cubic foot) , I can get Lime for a reasonable price but as most of the furniture I make is from Oak it would be difficult to blend the lime in. I have in the past used a background punch to make the background as presentable as possible, is this the way to go with Oak or should I continue to try and smooth it out? It looks OK in some lights but a bit ‘raggy’ in others.

    • Mary May November 16, 2016 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      Hello Harry,
      Oak can be very challenging, and many pieces of antique English furniture do have the “stippled” background. It makes life much easier! With that price of basswood, maybe I’m in the wrong business! Wow! If you are in the UK, English oak is much nicer to carve than American oak. It tends to be softer and more forgiving. Using the background punch will work fine and really make that show up differently than the carving.

      Happy Carving!

    • ronnie marshall January 31, 2019 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      Im in the UK as well Harry and people just laugh at you when you ask for Basswood or Limewood those who do sell it charge ridiculous prices used to get loads of free Oak where my daughter worked at a wood manufacturing business and also Walnut i find Walnut a lovely wood to carve but cant seem to find it now got a bit after daughter was made redundant from the wood place , i find Pine.Meranti, Sapele and Cedar quite good for carving i dont make furniture just carve a bit .great website Thanks Mary

      • MaryMay February 5, 2019 at 10:30 am - Reply

        Hi Ronnie,
        I’m sorry to hear the Limewood is hard to find, even in the UK. Walnut is beautiful to carve, but is much harder (and I think European walnut is different than American black walnut). Pine in the UK is better than the pine here, I believe. So, experiment, play, and above all, have fun!

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