WORKING WITH GRAIN

Understanding the grain of the wood is an important skill for wood carvers.

WHAT IS WOOD GRAIN?

The annual growth rings formed during a tree's lifecycle create fine lines throughout the wood. When the wood is cut and we begin to work with it, these growth rings are referred to as the wood's grain.

The darker lines running through your wood block is the grain of the wood. Depending on the species of wood and how it grew, grainline patterns might be light, thin and tightly packed together whereas some might be thicker, darker or more spaced apart.

Carving and revealing the grain is the true beauty of working with wood and what makes every carving project so unique.

WHAT DO DOGS AND CARVING WOOD HAVE IN COMMON?

More than you might think!

When you pet a dog's fur in the direction it grew, your hand will glide softly and smoothly through the hairs. Pet against the fur growth direction and the fur will resist your hand requiring much more effort to get through and irritating the animal.

The same is said for carving wood. When you carve in the direction of the wood grain, your knife will glide smoothly through the wood, creating beautifully clean cuts. When carving in the opposite direction, against the grain, your knife will dig into the wood abruptly, unpredictably breaking off chunks of wood.

Don't make the wood angry by carving against the grain.

FINDING THE GRAIN

When carving in the direction of the grain of wood, you will carve in a downward direction (from high to low) through the grain lines.

You will constantly need to rotate your block of wood and reposition your hand grip to ensure you are carving in a downward direction.

You will find situations where you will need to carve across the grain. (ie: when carving out the bowl of a spoon, shaping a knife blade, or carving the end grain of your wood block). Carving across the grain is a highly efficient way to remove wood, just make sure you are still working through the grain in a downward direction to prevent tearing or splintering of the wood.

Important: If you notice your knife starting to dig into and getting stuck in the wood or your wood is tearing or splintering and you are popping large chunks out of your work, then you are most likely carving against the grain. Rotate your wood block and carve it in the opposite direction. 

CARVING THE BOWL

When clearing out the wood of a bowl or a spoon, you will be carving with and across the grain.  You will be constantly rotating the wood block to adjust your carve direction in an effort to maintain a downward motion. 

Important:  Your carves should end at/just past the center point of the bowl. If you carve past the center point, you will begin to carve up the other side of the bowl and that could cause splintering or tearing out of wood.  

THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN STARTING A NEW CARVING PROJECT

Every wood block has it's own unique grain pattern. Take a look, find the grain lines and patterns and note any imperfections in the wood.

Plan how the grain pattern and imperfections will affect your cutting strokes. When you are just learning to carve, you can use a pencil to mark out the cut stroke directions with arrows (we show you how to do this in the step-by-step carving section).