How to Carve With Stencils


Carving with stencils is a favorite method for woodworkers who enjoy carving but lack the skills to create detailed images without a guide. Stencil designs and images can be purchased in hobby shops or created from just about any drawing or photo. Using stencils, anyone with a little patience can create professional, detailed wood carvings suitable for gift giving or selling at flea markets and craft fairs. Learn how to turn your love of carving into finely crafted wooden art.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood
  • Carving knife or Dremel
  • Small chisel
  • Stencils
  • Tape
  • Clamp
  • Wood stain
  • Stain brush
  • Casting resin
  • Select a block of wood for your stencil. Start with a 12-by-12 piece of ash or pine until you get used to working with stencils. A simple wall plaque is a good first project. Place your block of wood on a flat surface and tape your stencil design onto the wood. Use a clamp to hold the wood block in place, then use the very tip of your carving knife to etch the outline of your stencil design into the wood. All you want to do is create a light outline, so don't do any serious cutting at this point. Purchase your stencils at a hobby shop or use one of the many stencils available online at no charge (see resources).

  • Remove your stencil from the wood and decide whether you want to create a bas relief or an inlay design. Bas relief will leave your design raised, while inlay prepares the carving for the addition of a casting resin to finish your inlay. Choose the bas relief method if you want to finished project to be strictly wood. To get bas relief, carve the excess wood material away from the outside of the stencil design. You can do this with a carving knife, a small, sharp-edged chisel, or a Dremel power cutter with a cutting attachment. The depth you cut depends upon how far from the background you want your stencil design to rise.

  • Cut inside the design to make an inlay. A small chisel or a Dremel is ideal for removing the design. Start in the middle of your design and work toward the design outline. When you begin removing wood close to the outline, use a very small chisel and chip the excess wood away gradually, making sure you don't remove too much at one time. The final result of this will be an indented version of your design. You can purchase casting resin at a hobby store and mix it with any type of paint or coloring materials to create simulated pearl, ivory or any other look you want to use for your inlay.

  • Finish your bas relief carving with a coat of wood stain. You can paint it with acrylic paint first, if you want to add color, but these types of wood carvings tend to look better with a natural wood appearance.

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