Flat Carving

This particular style of carving, known as ‘flat carving’, is commonly found decorating furniture from the Jacobean period (1603-1688). The designs are varied and although sometimes of a simplistic appearance, they can enhance oak furniture tremendously, The basis of flat carving is that areas of wood are reduced from the surface to leave a pattern in the remaining timber. You will find a number of other flat carving designs included below.

The appearance of the finished carving will benefit if the top surface of the pattern remains perfectly flat and if the design is crisp without any of the signs of rounding caused by the bevel of the chisels. Make sure your chisels are properly sharpened so that you can make clean and accurate cuts and clear away any splinters as you work. It will also help if the cuts around the outside edge are set in

at 90 degrees to the surface of the timber.

Stage 1 

Photocopy of redraw Fig 16 to scale and make a stencil from stiff card.

The stencil can then be used to produce a repetitive design as shown above. Ensure that the selected piece of timber is planed flat and sanded smooth before marking the design on to the surface. I recommend using oak for this particular project although chestnut, ash or elm would make equaly suitable alternatives.

Note the straight lines which form a box around the design. This box should be centrally located on the surface of the timber surrounded by a border which should be left undecorated.

Stage 2 

Next set in cuts over the pencil lines using the various chisels from your set. Use chisel No. 1 to set in the straight lines. Start the cut with the heel then introduce the tip in a guillotine motion. Make a series of cuts with the length of the chisel’s cutting edge rather than one long one.

Stage 3 

To bring the design to life, carve towards the set in cuts at an angle, making sure of course that you carve on the outside of the pattern. Try to maintain the same angle of cut throughout. Where two defining cuts meet back-to-back a ridge line will form, which will sometimes be below the surface. To carve away the timber in the scroll shape area, first carve towards the tip of the leaf with chisel No. 2, forming a scoop and then work around the rest of the area with chisel No. 1.

Stage 4 

After completing the outer edges of the design, ensuring that the cuts are at right angles to the surface of the timber, you can proceed with the internal detail. With chisel No. 2 set in the four circles, again at 90 degrees and remove a little surrounding timber from each at an angle. Next, concentrate on the crescent-shaped decorations located on the side leaves of each fleur-de-lis. Using chisel No. 3 set in a 90 degree cut on the curved line closest to the scroll shape. Then complete the shape with a second cut sliced towards the first at an angle. On each of the central leaves, make two incisions with chisel No. 4 at angles towards each other so that they meet and form a straight line along the bottom. Form the small holes in the centre of the border decorations between the fleurs-de-lis using a rotating nail in a drill (see Making your own Tools section).

Finally, sand the work gently. Below you can see a similar design but with the background decorated using a textured punch (see Making your own Tools section) to create tiny indentations.