Wood carving or the art of cutting designs in wood has been practiced from the earliest civilizations. Varied techniques have been accomplished using some basic tools such as knives, saw, and gouges, and a host of others. The created works have varied from floral designs to geometrical patterns to abstract design decorative panels. It has been used to make furniture, spoons, bowls, toys, trays, jewel boxes, vases, book stands, masks, idols, frames, beads, chess sets, and whatever else the mind could conceive. From the beginning, wood carving has been taught from generation to generation.
With a bare minimum of tools and an assortment of almost any kind of used wood, anyone can carve hand tools, eating utensils, figurines and much more. As a person's carving knowledge grows, so can their skill and repertoire. And eventually a person could be revered as master wood carvers.
Not only does a good wood carver utilize a good set of carving tools; it is very important to use good carving wood. Softwoods are suggested when beginning this craft. Softwoods are trees known to be gymnosperms. They are generally evergreen trees with the exception of the bald cypress trees. Eighty percent of the timber production in the world is softwood.
The Linden tree is a very good wood to use in carving. It is a soft wood and easy to work with. It has little grain and is low in density. It was plentiful and easy to acquire for the Vikings. They liked to use it for carving shields and other things. Linden wood was easy to carve intricate designs in. Many medieval classic woods for sculptures and elaborate altarpieces were made of this wood. It is also good wood for making guitars and wind instruments having good sound quality. It also has the strength to be used for drum shells for both sound and aesthetics. This wood is also desired for window blinds and shutters.
The opposite of softwood is hardwood. This kind of tree is known as angiosperm. Interestingly, softwood is not necessarily softer than hardwood. Wood hardness varies in density of range so some hardwoods are softer than most softwood. Long leaf pines, Douglas fir, and yew are found to be much harder than some hardwoods. Chestnut, Butternut, Oak, American walnut, Mahogany and teak are also good woods to work with.
The Olive tree is a good hardwood to carve with. The gnarled, twisted trunks of olive trees produce beautiful, aromatic wood and is used in making bowls, the handles of knives and inlays for furniture. Additionally, Olive wood burns hot, produces low-smoke, is aromatic, and is good for cooking. It is good for bread boards in making bread, is good for the grilling foods and is also good for smoking meats.
Olive wood is heavy, dense, and durable. It has a distinct color with a variety red, gray, and browns. It is resilient and has longevity. Wood carvers have desired it for millennia. Once a person has mastered softwood carving they may want the challenge it this beautiful wood.
The art of creating designs in wood by hands using cutting tool is referred to as wood carving. The basic tools used are carving knife, coping saw, V-tool, vainer, gouge, and many more. Wood carvings vary from traditional motifs and floral to geometrical or even abstract patterns. These also vary between cultures. This has been practiced since the earliest civilization by humans. Various techniques of carving are used like chip carving, relief carving, and many more.
Wood chip carving also known as spoon carving involves chipping and cutting a piece of wood till some design appears. This type of carving mostly features geometric patterns, furniture and also dishes. It is not a difficult process although mastering in it might take some time and would involve patience. Similarly, wood relief carving has been known since ancient times. In this type of carving objects or figures are carved into a flat piece of wood. The process in this type of carving involves removing of wood so that carved object emerges to rise out of the wood itself.
In India, wood carving has a renowned history especially in Punjab region. This traditional art has been passed on through the generations by the master craftsmen. Craftsmen in India are well known for wide range of handicrafts in wood like decorative panels, furniture, wooden screens, spoons, bowls, toys, trays, jewel boxes, vases, book stands, masks, idols, frames, photo frames, beads, chess sets, and many more.
Wood Carving in Different Regions of India
Wood carving has been practiced all across India. Let us look into different regions were this art is practiced.
Karnataka: This region of India is focused in sandalwood carving. Various sandalwood idols have been carved here. Now sandalwood boxes are also the specialty of this region. Sandalwood has distinctive aroma that makes it apart from other types of wood. The boxes created are mostly covered with mythological scenes. These are important product of Kumta, Sagar, and Mysore.
Assam: This region of India has wide range of forests and also rich tradition of wood works. The places of worship here include large carvings of mythical figures like hanuman, garuda, half man, and lions with Simhasan.
Kashmir: This region of India is lined with wood. The ceiling here is done with geometrical patterns and lattice. Here various wood carved items are also produced such as screens, furniture, bowls, and boxes. The Kashmir has abundance of walnut wood. The crafters here decorate wood panels. These panels are used for ceilings and pillars.
Tamil Nadu: This region also has well developed tradition of wood carving. This is basically used for decorating houses and temples. The wooden Tanjore dolls and Punki wood dolls are famous in this region.
Kerala: This region has richest traditions in woodcarving. One can see carved pillars and beams in the houses. Wood carvers over here do wonders on rosewood and sandalwood.
Sankheda: Sankheda in Gujarat is one of the important centers of wood carving.
As seen above each region in India has its own style of carving and structures.