First Attempt at Relief Carving

  • Posted on: 30 September 2011
  • By: Jay Oyster

I've been meaning to try relief carving for a couple years now. I used Mike Henderson's vastly useful tutorials over at Mike's Woodwork. I decided to try to do the five petal flower, for a couple reasons. It seems easy enough for a first try, and the design has some personal significance to me.  Given the amazing work that's been posted here lately, including lots of fabulous carvings, I'm a bit tentative about posting my humble effort.

Roughing in the shape of the flowerAnyway, this is a five petal flower cut in a piece of old poplar I had lying around. Here it is about half done. All together it took me about 2 1/2 hours. (I was being very careful and deliberate. (Dave Diaman could probably build three lowboys in the same amount of time.) The basic shape took me about an hour to rough in on Wednesday night.
I like this design particularly because I recognize it from my travels. I don't think most woodworkers realize the historical significance of this design. I've visited the small medieval town of Cesky Krumlov in the southwest Czech Republic twice. When visiting southern Bohemia, you will hear endless stories of the Rosenberg family ('Rožmberk' in Czech). They were the real power in eastern Europe for about 300 years, and their castle and town at Cesky Krumlov is just about one of the most beautiful places on earth. And their family crest is the five petal 'rose' in red. You can see it in a mural [url=]here[/url] and it is all over their castles at Krumlov and Ledniçe, and basically everywhere in Bohemia.
Mural showing the Rozmberg knights with the rose emblem
In most places, it's a simpler design, without the interpetal leaves and with a simpler petal edge than the one shown in that mural. It's over every entranceway, on the ceilings, carved into the woodwork, and painted onto the outside of buildings from central Germany, through the Czech Republic, down into central Austria.

The town and river just below Krumlov Castle at Cesky Krumlov
The town and river just below Krumlov Castle at Cesky Krumlov

Adriana along the river in Cesky Krumlov
Adriana along the river in Cesky Krumlov

I finished it last night. (Most of my current woodworking requires me to give up sleep hours. There just isn't any other time to work.)

Closeup of the finished five petal rose

In any case, I'm mostly pleased with how this turned out. I'm hoping I can start adding carved elements to my pieces now. They have been entirely too rectilinear and plain up to this point, and could use the extra points of interest. But I definitely need more practice. I think I'll try a shell next, and then an acanthus leaf pattern.