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Deep relief viking carving

Hey, I've been away for awhile due to all the things, but I'm back and working on a large carving for my outdoor kitchen.  To pay homage to my Swedish ancestors, I am doing a carving in viking style from two different eras.  I can go into the story more later, but right now I have a technical challenge I need some help with.

This is my deepest relief yet at 5/16" and I'm having trouble with clean walls.  I've been taking it down about 1/16" at a time due to the interior wall size, but my walls show the levels.  Is there a video to watch for getting the walls clean at this depth?  I'm carving in basswood that is an inch thick.

Thanks for replies, and thank you Mary for getting me this far.

Uploaded files:
  • viking_carving1.jpg
  • viking_kitchen.jpg

Here's a picture of my inspiration for this carving, from a church in Norway.

Uploaded files:
  • urnes_carving.jpg


Your piece should look magnificent in your outdoor kitchen.

I think that you are asking about cleaning up the background. I know that Mary will think that this is cheating, but I really like my Proxxon pen sander. The included sanding sheets are bad, but you can easily make your own with double sided tape and your choice of sandpaper. A pad only does a couple of square inches but you can replace them easily. You will need a Proxxon transformer to go with it. It may not work as well on your concave walls.

I just returned from a cruise around Bermuda on Viking Cruise Lines and was inspired by many Viking carvings on the ship. I took lots of photos and am tempted to try something similar. I'll keep an eye on your posts to see if I can get any tips.

Rod Chima

I think Jason is asking how to make clean walls....which is my question also. I struggle with walls deeper than 1/4". any help will be appreciated.

thanks Frank

What I have done in this situation is carve down as you have done but about 2 mm out side the finish line and when you are at the final depth take off the last 2mm in one dowmward thrust


That's going to be a beautiful carving.

This is such a common issue with basswood and the main reason it happens is that each consecutive cut deeper needs to "sheer" the wall completely - starting from the top. There is a tendency to let it skim over the edge and as a result creates steps like tiny cliff edges. It is very difficult to set the gouge at the position of the next level down and try to cut the next depth without this happening.

If it takes 2 or 3 or 4 cuts to get the full depth of the carving, at each level make a cut starting at the top and cut the complete edge from top to bottom. You don't have to take much wood off at all, but as long as it is a complete cut along the edge that rough edge won't happen. If you do tend to take off too much wood each time, compensate for that by leaving a little extra around the outer edge of the design with the intention of slowly sneaking up to the line with each layer.

Also make sure that your cuts are decisive and definite. I notice this a lot with beginners where the cuts are hesitant and timid. Be bold and sheer that wall!

Make sure the tools you are using are razor sharp. With basswood it is easy to crush the wood when making these vertical cuts.

Other than that, sandpaper works 🙂 Use mesh sandpaper that doesn't leave grit so you can carve again without dulling your chisels.