Incised Carving

By L. S. Irish

With incised carving only the outline of the design pattern is carved into the wood surface. Each pattern line is carved either as v-shaped cut using a bench knife or a trench cut using a small u-gouge, v-gouge or a veining tool. The carved lines of the final pattern are uniform in both depth and width. Simple line patterns with large open spaces excel with incising.

incised_carvingThe background of the design remains at the original wood surface level. This creates a two dimension effect, the first dimension being the wood surface and the second is the cut line. With low relief and high relief carving the negative area is the background that is removed during the carving process but with the incised carvings the negative area is the main design.

A depth gauge is an important tool in incised carving. Something as simple as a toothpick that has been marked with a pencil to denote the final depth of the channel can be used. The toothpick can be dropped into the line easily to show the uniformity of your carving. Maintaining evenly deep and evenly wide lines throughout the pattern is critical to creating a fine quality finished piece of artwork.

Highly detailed, intricate designs are also excellent for incised work. Here two different carved line sizes are used. The lines of the pattern that define large areas, as the wing of a duck, are carved with a larger width and depth than the lines of the fine detail. All lines that surround large areas are of equal size and width. Next the detail lines are carved into the work using a fine line width and depth, as the individual lines within one duck feather. This template for defining the pattern are used throughout the entire work.

Do not try to carve to the final depth with the first stroke of your gouge. Repeated carvings of shallow layers gives you more control over the stroke and avoids splintering and strokes that go off the line. With incised carving many of your lines will cut across the grain of the wood and many of the curved lines within the pattern will begin going with the grain then slowly change direction. Be sure to use a well sharpened gouge or bench knife during the working of the wood. If the pattern is fairly large it is advisable to resharpen your tools several times during the work.

If you are using a wood with a coarse grain you can pre-cut the line that you are going to carve. Simple score the pattern line with a bench knife to the depth of your final cut. Use several stokes to reach the final depth. Now lay the chisel point into the score line and begin gouging, again take away the wood in shallow layers.