High Relief Carving
By L. S. Irish
For an online project using undercutting, please see
Adding Drama Through Shadows
High Relief carving creates a more dramatic depth effect than does Low Relief. The basic creation of the carved design is the same as with Low Relief except for the use of the Undercut Stroke. Today’s carving trend toward more realistic and detailed work often is created with High Relief. Dragons literally jump out of the wood surface towards you and floral petals reach above the background to turn and curl in free air.
Here the undercut is used to hide the intersection of individual areas of work. The undercut reaches underneath the adjoining area of work and makes a trough between the two sections. An impression of depth is therefore made because to the eye one area floats above another and because the high area can now cast a shadow on the surface below.
The undercut is accomplished with the bench knife and gouges. The two distinct areas are carved as a Low Relief joint first. Then the bench knife is used is cut under the high area into the lower section at a sharp slant. A gouge, skew or dog-leg can be used now to reach into this cut and create a trough effect. An undercut does not need to be either deep not dramatic. Only enough wood needs to be removed to create a shadowed effect in the carving.