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Wood carving, contour carving: description with photo, work technology and necessary materials
Wood carving, contour carving: description with photo, work technology and necessary materials

Artistic woodcarving is one of the oldest techniques of decorative art. During the history of the existence of the craft, several of its varieties have appeared. The most diverse is the flat-relief carving, classified into geometric, embossed, oval with a matched and pillow background and contour.

What is contour thread?

drawings for planimetric carving on wood

Woodcarving in contour technique is often found on wooden products from different peoples of the country. The ornament in it is applied to the surface with in-depth lines. Throughout the drawing, the depth and width of the slots remain unchanged, but may vary depending on the master's intention and the pattern for planimetric woodcarving. The difference in the depth and width of the slotted contours gives the pattern plasticity and sophistication. Carving in the contour technique seems at first glance simple and easy, however, it is possible to achieve a high-quality and aesthetic drawing only after obtaining the necessary skills and studying the techniques of Kudrinskayaand geometric techniques.


How did contour carving come about? Wood carving in contour technique is practically not tracked in time as an independent craft. She was part of other art forms. Masters of Kudrinsk carving, for example, trying to achieve a contrast with rounded plant elements, introduced in-depth contour strokes, cross veins on leaves, parts of flowers and fruits, cut through small details of animals, birds and fish. As a pure wood carving, contour carving is extremely difficult to meet. It is often combined with other techniques.

At the same time, there are a large number of works of folk art with skillfully executed floral and geometric patterns for planimetric woodcarving. Masters of carpentry, who made Yaroslavl spinning wheels in the 19th century, combined decorative nail cuts on wood and everyday, genre scenes in contour technique. To increase the expressiveness of such a carving, wooden products have recently begun to be tinted in dark and black tones, on which the recesses look brighter and more contrasting.

Compositions on a black background

Exhibitions of art rarely do without contrast contour carving, or woodcarving on a black background. In such products, first of all, the visibility of the final result attracts: white lines are cut out on a black surface.

Masters in this technique most often perform plots that do not correspond to the style of contour woodcarving sketches. Often there are graphic landscapes made on a dark background, whichdue to the frequent adoption of this method of carving for linocut.

In reality, contour carving on a light or black background is an independent technique of artistic wood processing with decorative means of expression characteristic only of it. In order to avoid imitation of linocut, special illustrated editions offer outline woodcarving sketches for beginners with detailed descriptions.

stencils for planimetric woodcarving

Work order

Contour carving is based on recessed lines cut with a chisel, chisel, oblique knife or profile cutters. The technique made with semicircular chisels and a slanting knife is the most simple and expressive.

Unlike Kudrinskaya or geometric carving, specific decorative figures are uncharacteristic for contour carving. For this reason, beginners in carpentry are taught basic cuts.

Wood carving consists of several stages: preparing the base, choosing an ornament, transferring a sketch to wood, cutting a picture, finishing processes.

Preparing the foundation

wood carving contour carving

Hardwoods - alder, linden, birch, aspen are best suited for contour carving. Softwoods are practically not used due to the different hardness of the layers and pronounced texture.

A homogeneous piece of wood is being prepared for carving. If a light background is required, then the tree is processed with a planer. The dark background is achieved by tinting the workpiece.To obtain a shiny surface, the wood is coated with black varnish and treated with polish. When using simple and widespread dyes - gouache, ink, watercolors, tempera, aniline paints, mordants and stains - the wood is either left matte or covered with a light varnish and polished.

When creating traditional Yavoriv carving, carpentry craftsmen from the Carpathians tint the wooden base in different colors - not only in classic black, but also in green, red, brown and blue. This method can also be found in the photo of contour woodcarving.

For further work, the wood blank is mounted in holders or workbench clamps. Holders - planed boards fixed on a workbench and holding the workpiece.

Song selection

planimetric woodcarving sketches

The composition is compiled on the basis of drawings and sketches of planimetric woodcarving, the features of a particular technique and the material on which it will be applied. The contours of the drawing must be extremely clear and precise. They are performed in one continuous line, while the knife moves from the right and left sides. The drawing is also made with a double line marking the trail of the knife.

Stencils for planimetric wood carving for the first experiments in carpentry are presented in the article. As they gain skills, masters can create their own compositions.

The pattern for a light background is transferred with dark lines on white paper. If the wood is tinted, then the sketch is done with gouache white on colored paper.

carving stencil

Picture translation

The image is transferred to a wooden blank in two ways. This can be done with carbon paper - black or colored depending on the background of the wood - or a ballpoint pen without paste by squeezing the contours into the surface of the wood.

Carving technique

contour wood carving sketches for beginners

The wood carving process is performed in two stages - notching and trimming. Contour wood carving for beginners begins with leading the knife along the lines of the drawing with the applied force. In relation to the surface of the wood, the knife should not be located vertically, but at a slight angle, which is called notching. After that, they start cutting, changing the position of the knife in the palm of their hand: the hand is tilted in the opposite direction and the already cut contour of the pattern is trimmed with effort. As a result, a wooden triangular strip comes out from under the knife.

The chips should be separated from the wood after the knife - in this case, the carving will be clean, with thin and precise outlines. The straws of wood remaining in the groove are removed with a knife through a repeated, deeper cut.


When cutting a contour groove, the tool is held with two hands: the knife is clamped with the palm of one hand, and its blade is guided by the fingers of the other, adjusting the direction of movement and stop force. In most cases, contour carving is performed with an oblique knife, but for a better and more refined drawing, masters adviseuse semicircular chisels.

If animals or any other ornament made using contour woodcarving technique have a large number of small details with rounded edges, then a semicircular chisel is used to cut them out. The tool is clamped in a fist at a slight angle to the center. The sharp edge is placed at a distance of 1-1.5 mm from the center of the line. The blade goes deep into the wood by a few millimeters and turns around the axis with a smooth turn of the brush. The movement continues until the line closes. Incision is made in the same way.


contour woodcarving for beginners

Cutting is performed with the same tool or with a more sloping chisel, retreating from the center of the ornament line by one and a half millimeters to the outside and deepening the chisel into the wood, cutting off the chips with several movements. With a small radius of rounding, the incision is not made with the entire blade of the chisel, but with only one corner, and the second corner should go out. This technique allows you to perform rounding of different radii with a minimum number of chisels. The technique is indispensable when working in the technique of not only contour, but also much more complex relief carving.

In the absence of semicircular chisels, rounded elements in the contour thread are made with an ordinary oblique knife. However, with such work, it should be borne in mind that the sharpness of the sharpening angle of the blade depends on the diameter of the circle: the smaller it is, the sharper the blade should be. The oblique knife can move in differentdirections for the design of the planned ornament.

To simplify and facilitate the process of planimetric wood carving, the master can turn the workpiece in different directions. To do this, the wood is removed from the holders or the machine, rearranged and clamped again. Over time, the carpenter learns to cut in different directions, without touching the workpiece during work and without rearranging it. For this reason, contour carving is performed while standing - this position gives the carpenter more freedom of action and makes all lines more continuous and smooth, which is considered the key to high-quality execution of an artistic pattern in this technique.

Finishing the finished product

planimetric wood carving photo

Composition in the technique of contour carving can be performed both on a plain, and on a tinted and polished wood surface. In the second case, further processing of the material is not required. If the ornament was carved on light wood, then it is covered with transparent varnish, after polishing the surface with fine sandpaper. Sanding must be done along the wood fibers. Turned products are best sanded and coated with a transparent varnish in a clamped state while rotating in the machine. Accordingly, the turned product is not cut off from a wooden workpiece, but is removed, covered with threads and re-clamped in the machine, after which it is finished, dried and only then cut off.

The type of finish is selected depending on the purpose of the wood product. The surface can be varnished to a gloss or remain matte withapplying diluted varnish to the thread with a hard brush. The ground surface of the contour carving before varnishing with transparent compositions can be tinted in different colors by painting only the background or the background with separate, most in-depth lines. Lacquer is applied only to carefully dried wood surface.

Beginner woodworkers work in the technique of contour carving on flat boards. As you gain experience and improve your skills, you can begin to work with more complex products: furniture, household items and household items. On such elements, contour carving can act both as a separate independent technique, and as an additional artistic decor, paired with other carpentry techniques. Contour carving allows you to make subtle and aesthetic ornaments in various styles.

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