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Welcome to Power Relief 101

Power relief carving is so much fun, and something that I have enjoyed doing for over 1 1/2 years. Using a high-speed engraving hand piece it is possible to not only etch on glass or simply score the surface of a project, but to complete full relief carving projects. Low relief or bas-relief carving is a style of relief carving where you do not carve very deep into the wood surface.

Video Tutorials Below

You might use Low Relief carving to enhance the back of a chair or other furniture, doors and drawers, trinket boxes, blanket chests, plaques, awards, gifts and collectibles, gun stocks, and more.

The list is almost endless as to what can be relief carved. A high-speed hand piece is perfectly suited for completing any projects in the low relief style of relief carving.

The focus of this page is to show you the basics of relief power carving with a high-speed hand piece. I have created a 12 step process to complete a basic relief carving with power. One of the best ways for me to learn something is to watch a video. With that in mind I have created this free video series to show you the steps involved to complete this project.

Daisy Video Project Image

You Can Follow Along

I am including the clip art I used to complete this carving. You can follow along with me during each step of the carving process. The Daisy Clip Art by clicking on the link. Save it out to your computer and follow along.

You are free to use this clip art as you see fit.

The Daisy Power Relief Carving Video Project

The power relief carving project featured here is carving a simple Daisy. A daisy is a very good beginner level project to help you get comfortable using a high speed engraving hand piece. There are enough design elements to carve that if you make a mistake or do not like one area you have more opportunities to get the result you want.

This is practice, and because it is practice I wanted you to be able to learn without worrying about money. One of the biggest limitations I have found is that money does not grow on trees. That is why I started using MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) for my practice carvings.

MDF takes a light touch, but a light touch is needed on every carving project. Carving with a light touch is a skill that I am grateful I developed, and MDF has helped me develop that.

The 12 Steps to Completing This Daisy Carving Are:

01 – Daisy Carving Introduction

02 – Outlining and Transferring the Design to the Wood

03 – Removing the Background

04 – Establishing the Initial Levels of the Design

05 – Initial Roughing Out of the Design

06 – Refining the Petal Detail

07 – Finalizing the Details of the Petal

08 – Carving the Center of the Daisy

09 – Carving the Leaves

10 – Stippling the Background

11 – Edge Clean-up and Final Quality Check

12 – Sealing and Finishing the Carving

I will add comments at each stage of the carving process. If you have any questions please feel free to ask the in the comment section below, or contact me directly from the contact page.

Lets Get Started

01 – Daisy Carving Introduction

 MDF is inexpensive, and is a perfect material for learning how to carve. This is much better than spending the same amount of money on 1/100 the amount of Walnut or Maple to practice on. Lets get right on to Step 2.

02 – Outlining and Transferring the Design to the Wood

So far so good. Using a high-speed hand piece is a lot of fun, and so far things are not too complicated. The important things to remember here are to:

  • Take your time
  • Let the tool do the work
  • Be careful

03  – Removing the Background

Removing the background can be completed in so many different ways. Everything from using the high-speed engraving hand piece, gouges, a router, or other power carving tools like a flex shaft machine.

In this video I show you how to remove the background with the high-speed engraver because if you are following along with this project you have the tool. If you have other tools you can use them.

If you are looking for a very smooth level background you should consider using a router. Gouges will get you close, but so will using a high-speed hand piece. The use of calipers will help you level any areas that you want to even out.

04 – Establishing the Initial Levels of the Design

Establishing the levels of the design is an important step in any relief carving project. Levels creates depth and interest. In a typical relief carving project 4 – 6 levels is usually sufficient to create the interest you are looking for. More levels can be created if you desire, or if the design warrants it.

The diamond football is the tool of choice to begin to create the levels of the relief carving. A diamond football gives you the ability to trace the lines of the design closely, and still be able to remove the material to define each level.

05 – Initial Roughing Out of the Design

The initial rough out of the design helps to establish the general look and feel of the design. There are more steps involved to refine the design, but the overall flow and look of the design can be seen at this stage.

The use of a carbide burr helps to speed the process along. Carbide burrs are the most aggressive burrs in a power carvers tool kit. They are used for roughing out a design, creating detail quickly, or because the look of the cut matches what the artist is looking for.

06 – Refining the Petal Detail

With the roughing out of the design done we can see what the basic design looks like. Now it is time to refine the detail on the petals. This will bring us closer to the finished carving. Do not rush this part of the carving process. Using a smaller burr helps us establish the separation between the individual petals, and makes it possible to create texturing that is wanted.

07 – Finalizing the Details of the Petals

Using a very small carbide round burr it is possible to really define the details of the petals. This is especially important on the edges of the petals, and to create separation between the other elements of the carving. Any place that you find that needs more detail, or that detail needs to be better defined is where you will focus.

This is a beginner level carving, so the focus is on getting a strong line of separation between each petal. In intermediate and advanced level carvings additional steps will be added to create what is called a Cast Shadow. A cast shadow is created by undercutting the individual elements of the carving to create a visual shadow.

08 – Carving the Center of the Daisy

Carving the center of the daisy is all about creating an interesting texture that best represents how you, the artist, sees the carving. The center detail can be created in many different ways. Here I am showing you just one why that this can be done.

Each burr has the ability to create different looks and textures. One of the funnest parts about relief carving with power is that you have a lot of options. Experiment with different combinations of burrs. Use the burr in a different manner, and see how it affects the look of the carving.

The sky is the limit when it comes to texturing. Spend time experimenting with different burrs and strokes and see what you can come up with.

09 – Carving the Leaves

Carving the leaves follows the sames steps as we did in carving the petals. Start by roughing in the shape, detail, and flow of the leaves. Then refine the detail until it is what you want. Remember to create separation between elements, and look for ways to add interest to the leaves.

As the artist you have full control over every element of your carving. Explore your options.

10 – Stippling the Background

There are a great many different ways to add interest to the background of the carving. Stippling is one way to do this that creates a lot of interest, and really draws the eye of anyone looking at the carving. Stippling is an effective way to keep the primary focus of the carving in front of the admirer.

When stippling the background remember that there are two keys to creating a uniform background.

First: The depth of each stippling mark has an effect on how the overall patterning looks. Try to keep the depth consistent in order to minimize areas of distraction.

Second: There is a tenancy to get into a rhythm or flow while stippling the background. This can create a noticeable pattern that can distract the viewer from the main focus of the carving. Turning the carving and approaching a section from a couple of different angles can help maintain a randomness to the carving.

11 – Edge Clean-Up and Final Quality Check

This is the perfect time to look at the overall carving and see if there are any areas that you need to work on. Clean up any edges that may have been scuffed or cut into on accident. As the artist you have the final say as to when the carving is done, and how it looks.

You will always be able to see areas that you would like to improve. That is the sign of a good artist. There comes a point, however, that you need to say that the carving is finished.

You may see all of the mistakes and things that you would like to improve, but unless you tell others about the “flaws” they will never know. The important thing here is to do your best. Learn from the experience, and improve the on the next carving.

12 – Sealing and Finishing the Carving

There are just as many different ways to finish a carving as there are ways to do a carving. I like to use Danish Oil on all of my Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF) Practice carvings first before I seal them with a clear coat.

Once the carving has had a couple of days to dry, no more than 2 – 3 days, you are ready to seal the carving with whatever clear/top coat you wish. If you wait any longer to seal the carving the top fibers of the MDF will begin to fuzz. This fuzzing will, over time, become worse, and you will not be able to see all of the great work you put into the piece.

Be sure to sign and date each carving that you complete it so that you can track your project. Seeing how much you have improved is a lot easier than trying to remember how you improved.

You Are The Artist

As the artist you get to make all of the decisions about every aspect of your work. There are certain steps that all carving follow. There are only so many different tools that are needed to complete a carving. But there are endless possibilities available to you.

Do not let the possibilities stop you from carving. The most amazing part about carving for me is that I can do the same carving many times, and each time the carving will reflect the changes and feelings that I had at the time of that carving.

Have fun with the carving process. Learn and explore. There is no wrong way to do it.

You are the ARTIST!

Follow Along With Me

Click on the image to see the full size image. Right click and save the image or drag the image to your desktop.

Beginner Daisy Carving Image

Power Relief 101 Image

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