Mayan High Priest Relief Carving eProject


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by Lora S. Irish
33 Page eProject (.pdf Format)


Lora S. Irish’s  eProject is a beginner’s level relief wood carving project with wonderful carving ideas for the most advanced wood carver.

Follow along with the highly-detailed, well-photographed, step-by-step instruction. This project contains information about the different styles of relief carving, a quick look at the different carving tools and supplies needed, clear tips on working with your pattern, creating layers, as well as complete carving, shaping, and finishing (painting and antiquing) instruction.This Mayan High Priest, Lord Bird Jaguar I, is worked in a low relief style of carving. The side walls of each area or element is round over with little or no shaping steps to the main body of the element. Elements within a design are any identifiable area of the pattern. 

The original Mayan carving of this pattern was worked in stone with minimal changes in the depth of an element. Yet the completed work gives a strong feeling of dimension which is accented by fine, tightly packed detail work. This design has eight hair elements – eight areas where the hair can be grouped into one large cluster of hair strands.

As you explore the finished sample you can identify many of these individual elements by their changing color. Any relief carving project goes through several stages.  The pattern is worked to reduce the design to layers or grouping of elements. The pattern is also adjusted in size at this stage to fit your board.  The pattern is traced to the wood with any borders, margins, or added hardware areas noted in pencil. The background area is rough cut to drop it to the lowest level of carving in the wood. For your High Priest the background area in the sample photo has no coloring but shows the round gouge cut strokes.

Next the rough cut or rough out of each level is worked. By carving a large grouping of elements at one time you can drop all of those elements down into the wood easily. Each layer can later be carved into different depths in the wood. The layers of the carving are next put through a smoothing process. This allows you to re-trace the smaller elements into their perspective layers. Each smaller layer unit or element unit can now be carved to add even more dimension to the work. A second re-tracing will establish the detail lines for this project. Those lines are cut using either a v-gouge or a two step stop cut using the bench knife. The project is now ready for its final smoothing and the painting and finishing steps

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