Contrasting Tonal Values

Contrasting Tonal Values

Old car wood burning by Lora IrishTonal values, the shades of sepia from pale coffee with cream to dark chocolate, create the shading colors in our pyrography work.  By planning in advance areas of your work that place one very pale tone against an extremely dark tone you can give an area dramatic contrast, impact, and added depth.

Let’s use the wood burning, Grandpa’s Old Car, as our example of how contrast adds  depth to your pyrography designs. Please click of the finished burning and pattern for full sized printable images.

In the finished wood burning you see an old, abandoned car near a foreground tree and old fence line.  This is our foreground area of the pattern.  Directly behind the car stands a small clumb of trees and a gently rising hillside, this becomes our mid-ground area of the work. In the backgroud, along the hill ridge is a barn and tree line which falls in the background area of the pattern.

For a moment take a look out your window.  Notice that those items or elements that are nearest to you are also the items that have the strongest color and shadow contrasts to them.  The closer an element is to the viewer the stronger the color hues will appear. Foreground elements have distinct white highlights and crisp dark shadows.

Move you eye to the mid-ground area of you window view.  The elements or items in this visual range still have coloration, but the colors are not longer as bright and bold.  Shadows in the mid-ground area lose their white and black tones and move into the middle range of gray or brown.

Move your eye farther into the window view, try and find some distant point.  Notice tWoodburning Free Pattern by Lora Irishhat the background areas have lost much of their coloration.  Most coloring in the background falls in the gray-brown muted tones.  There are few distinct shadows in the distant background of any view.

Air – atmosphere – is not crystal clear.  Air contains fine water particles that when viewed close up, in the foreground of our designs, are invisible.  But the farther we look into a designs as a landscape the more the water particles whiten or cloud the view.

So the farther back we look the more ‘white’ from the water particles cover the elements of the scene. You can see that used in Grandpa’s Old Car pyrography.  The barn scene that is in the background is worked in a narrow range of pale tonal values to give the effect of looking through water laden air.  The mid-ground trees, just behind the car, have more contrast in the tonal values, but those values all fall in the mid-range of our tonal value scale.  Only the foreground had dramatic tones of white and black.

The tonal value placement matches the actual tonal value ranges of each area of a landscape.

Drama can also be created by placing one white tone directly in contact with one full black tone.  Notice along the bottom edge of the car.  The wheel wells and fender area have solid black tones.  In contract the grass in front of the car, that touches the car are unburned, white areas in the design.  That black and white contrast area directly sets the car on the ground in the grass.    This black and white contrast area is so bold that it pulls your eye, over and over again, to that area of the pyrography.

Weekend Whittler #001

Weekend Whittler #001

Weekend Whittler Wood Carving Newsletter, 2014, Issue #001

Working with Green Wood

Just to add a note of fun to your weekend, Lora Irish will be posting a quick tip of wood carving, chip carving, whitlling, and even pyrography here on our blog every Friday.  So, please bookmark our blog and visit often.

Late winter is the time for trimming your fruit trees and cleaning the saplings along your fence line. Those wonderful cuttings are perfect for walking sticks and canes. Because of the season the branches and trunks have a lower sap content than you find during the growth months.

With this winter’s storms there is a large supply of downed tree branches waiting to be harvested by the weekend wood carver. It is easy to strip the bark from a green wood stick.

Begin by trimming any small branches from the main stick as close as possible. With a bench knife make several small cuts in the bark at one end of the branch. The knife blade can be teased under the nicked area and then used to pull thin strips of bark off the walking stick branch.

If you are not going to carve your stick directly after harvest paint the ends with any latex paint to seal the wood. Hang the sticks using bailing twine in a cool dark space and allow to dry until next year.

Green wood can be carved if you keep the exposed end grain liberally soaked with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine – a half and half mix that is thin enough to soak deeply into the fibers. After each carving session, soak the end grain with oil and loosely cover the stick with a plastic bags to control the moisture content.

When the carving is complete keep it in a loose plastic bag and store the carving in an area where the stick will be out of direct sunlight and that has a consistent temperature, to avoid dramatic changes that will cause rapid drying. Allow your carving to dry completely before adding any finishing products – approximately one year for each inch of wood.

Even with these precautions checks, and splitting can occur. This is just a natural part of green wood carving and can add drama to your carving as it emphasizes the delicate, living nature of the wood. If the checking is sever you can use butterfly splints or a hardwood dowel to secure the two sides of the split.

With any green wood or winter storm harvested wood, please be aware that your branches can bring unexpected visitors into the house. Insect eggs can hatch if the wood is stored in a warm area.

wood carving with Lora Irish

Please join us next Friday, 28th when we take a quick look at
Carving Tool Handle Styles.


If you would like to comment on this issue of the Weekend Whittler Wood Carving Newsletter, please email our studio.
Copyright, Lora S. Irish, Art Designs Studio, 2014, All International Rights Reserved
Relief Carving Mayan High Priest

Mayan Relief Wood Carving PDF e-Project

33 pages with Step-by-Step Instructions, and Pattern

Follow along with the highly-detailed, well-photographed, step-by-step instruction. This project contains information about the different styles of relief carving, a quick look at the different carving tools and supplies needed, clear tips on working with your pattern, creating layers, as well as complete carving, shaping, and finishing (painting and instruction.This Mayan High Priest is worked in a low relief style of carving.

More great e-Projects & e-Books visit

Chip Carving Common Mistakes

Chip Carving Common Mistakes

We have spent the last week looking at the wood carving art of chip carving in this free, online seminar by Lora Irish, which includes free chip carving patterns.  Today I thought we might  take a few minutes and look at some of the common mistakes that can happen in your wood carving.


Chip Carving Seminar by Lora Irish
Chip Carving Seminar
Chip Carving Supplies
Chip Carving Graphed Patterns
Chip Carving Hand Positions and Grips
Chip Carving – Triangles and Square Chips
Chip Carving – Straight-Wall Chips
Chip Caved Game and Chess Board
Chip Carving Sampler Pattern Layout
Chip Carving Common Mistakes
Chip Carved Shortbread Cookies




Let’s look at a few of the common problems and errors that can happen in chip carving.  Please note that if you are working a practice board you may find that the basswood is not the high quality that you might find in a prepared basswood wood carving blank.  Small chip outs are more common when working practice board quality basswood.

common mistakes in chip carving

1.  Ragged walls can be caused by poor quality wood or because of an improperly sharpened knife edge.  A poorly sharpened knife, or an incorrect bevel to the knife edge are the primary causes for cutting problems in chip carving.

The craft basswood boards available at your local hardware store often show some ragged wall cuts.  A dull knife tears through the wood instead of cutting the wood.  When working on a high quality piece of basswood, check your knife edge as soon as you discover a ragged wall.

2.  Each chip should have a sharp, clean point at the center of the chip well.  Correct this problem by re-cutting along one side of the center point piece.

3.  This chip’s wall was cut using several, staggered strokes.  Re-cut the wall using one full stroke that covers the entire wall side.

4. In this sample the knife effect began the wall cut slightly away from the intersecting joint line between the two chips.  You can re-cut one of the chip walls to thin the intersection.

5.  Every chip carver discovers a very wobbly edge chip walls.  I find this problem most often occurs when I am cutting through a spray adhesive paper pattern.  Use the blade’s edge to shave just the curved area of the line, avoiding the two end points.

6. Chip outs happen and are caused by several reasons.  If you are working on a heavy grained wood as sugar pine, the change in the grain pattern can cause a thin point to break free.

On soft carving woods as basswood the point can chip because the stroke is pulled into the point.  The pulling action tears the point away from the plaque. Try cutting your finest points with a push stroke instead of a pull cut.  With a push stroke you literally lay the edge of the blade along the line and push the blade down into the grain.

Over cutting one side of the point, reaching the blade point too deeply into the wood, can cause a point chip to break away when the second cut meets the first.  Try scoring the point lines first by using a light pressure in the blade and cutting an extremely shallow cut.

Chip outs can be repaired by using wood glue and a tooth pick.  Place a small drop of glue on the board at the break out spot.  Place the broken chip back into position.  Allow the glue to dry thoroughly, about one half hour then re-cut the chip.

7.  If your knife feels as though it is cutting through grainy wood – a sandpaper feeling – check your knife’s edge for sharpness.  It bares repeating that the biggest problem in chip carving is either too steep a blade bevel or an edge that has lost its hone.

Chip Carving Basics E-Project by Lora IrishPlease stop by Art Designs Studio, Lora Irish’s wood carving, pyrography, and chip carving pattern website.

Chip Carving Basics E-Project, Everything from this Chip Carving Seminar and more!  Learn how to create a wide variety of chip carving designs using different styles of easy-to-cut chip motifs, by Lora S. Irish.  37 page, PDF file format, easy to print e-project and the full cp015 Chip Carving Pattern package with 110 ready to print chip carving patterns.

June & July 2013 Footnotes

June & July 2013 Footnotes

If you are just discovering our blog,, or our line art craft, carving, and quilting patterns website, or if you have been away on vacation it’s time to get caught up on all of the happenings here on Lora Irish’s blog.

Levels in Relief Wood CarvingFree – Levels in Relief Wood Carving
Learn how to establish the basic levels of background, mid-ground, and foreground for your rough out stages in any relief wood carving pattern.  Free Relief Wood Carving PDF E-Book download by Lora S. Irish.


Your First Carving by LS IrishFree – Your First Carving 
Learn the basics to relief wood carving in this free relief wood carving PDF E-Book by Lora S. Irish.  Includes the terms and techniques used in wood carving, step by step instructions for a beginner’s project, lots of photos, lots of ideas.


Summer 2013 Quilt Project X7Free – Summer Art Quilt Fretwork Butterfly Project
Free PDF E-Book iron-on interfacing applique art quilt project, including a free butterfly pattern by Lora S. Irish.  Includes step by step instructions, plus lots of ideas to alter and embellish your own quilt square.


2013_FP_thumbFree – Craft, Carving, and Quilting Pattern Packages
We have posted new free pattern packages here on and our line art craft and carving patterns website,  Don’t forget to download your copies today.


mushroomFree – Permanent Marker Painted Quilt Squares
Any line art craft,  carving, or quilting pattern can become a brightly colored quilt square for your next sewing project.  Learn how to create your own Mushroom Wood Spirit tote bag with our free online step by step instructions.


Basics to PaintingBasics to Painting your Wood Carvings
Enjoy this in-depth tutorial which focuses on the multiple methods of adding coloring to your next wood carving project.  Includes directions for burnishing, dry brushing, china painting, oil staining, and much more.


irish_tiki_0002Tiki Chess Set Carving
Spend a few fun hours carving our 3-D Tiki Chess set.  This projects takes you step by step through the face carving of the classic Tiki statue and a few of the quick variations that can used to create the King, Queen, Rook, and other pieces.  Includes free patterns to start your own set.


Canada GooseFree – Canada Goose Relief Carving Project
This in-depth, step by step relief wood carving projects takes you through every technique needed to create this Canada Goose Relief carving, including how to transfer your pattern, basic carving cuts, tools, undercuts, wood burning your carvings, and even how to paint your wood carving.  Taught by Lora S. Irish.


LSIrish Whittle FishWhittle Fish Decoy Carving
This fun project grew to become an E-Project on our line art pattern website,  Learn folk art ice fishing decoy carving with this in-depth step-by-step project taught by Lora S. Irish.  This sixty page e-book includes an introduction to the history of ice fishing decoys, the six basic carving cuts needed to create these fun fish, and two complete projects. Complete your decoy with the painting steps and by creating a simple wire hanger. Over 40 decoy patterns, 21 finished painted decoy samples.

new patternsNew Patterns and E-Projects at Art Designs Studio
Six new pattern packages and two new E-Projects have been published to our line art carving, craft, and quilting patterns website.  So much more is coming soon!  So, please stop by and browse through over 130 pattern packages, sorted by topic and theme.

New Line Art Craft Pattern Packages
Retro Owls – 20 new line art patterns

Dragon Medallions – 11 new line art patterns
Mushroom Wood Spirits – 18 new line art patterns
Fretwork Scroll Saw Lamps – 20- new line art patterns
Fretwork Butterfly Wind Chimes – 20 new line art patterns
Heart Shaped Designs – 18 new line art patterns

Two New E-Projects
Whittle Fish E-Project, include over 20 decoy patterns
Flamed Copper Jewelry Earrings E-Project, 38 projects