Woodcarving beginners and students are often concerned about not being artistic or finding difficulty with drawing. Drawing is a skill that with time, experience and patience will most certainly develop. For the carving by numbers system to work to its fullest potential, it is essential that your carvings are exactly the same dimensions as mine.

Each project is purposely designed to fit the profiles of the designated chisel set.

The project plans that accompany each project need to be reconstructed to scale, which is most easily done by enlarging them on a photocopier. The procedure of drawing the design by hand, however, is an important learning process that is as relevant as the carving itself. The reconstruction encourages you to study each area of the design in depth, thus bringing to light important details and requirements that may be overlooked at a glance. As you draw, consider the way in which the high and low areas will be carved.

To start, first draw a grid to the correct scale – in each case one square represents 20mm (25/32in). Then copy the design from the grid in the book into the scale size grid you have produced. Rather than trying to transfer the entire design in in one go, concentrate on each individual grid square at a time, ensuring the details are reproduced in exactly the same position.


Without doubt the acanthus leaf is the most widely used plant motif in the decorative arts.

Its origins lie in the ancient Roman and Greek empires and have been traced back as far as the fith century BC. The Acanthus molls is a Mediterranean plant which is also know as bears breeches or brank-ursine. It wa stylized in different ways for Greek, Roman, Byzantian and Gothic arts but has been in constant use.

During the Renaissance and the revival of classical Roman and Greek decoration, the acanthus leaf returned to its most favoured form and its presence spread wherever European tastes were adopted.

It is good practice to collect pictures of antique furniture and study how the leaf designs have been used. The leaf can often be seen carved in stone to decorate buldings in towns and cities, especialy those of the eighteenth century. A photograph of these decorations can prove a valuable source of inspiration when developing designs of your own. 

Alithough the leaf when drawn may look an extremely impressive piece of artwork, it is constructed in a logical series of stages just by following a few simple rules. It is imperative to have an understanding of these basic principles which, in turn, will be replicated in the carvings.

1. The acanthus leaf must first be drawn as a line which will become the centre stem and represent the path that the leaf will follow. This line forms the most important part of the entire illustration with all other lines flowing towards it in a graceful sweep. The acanthus leaf is formed by a series of divisions, the first of which can be seen in Fig. 5, which iustrates the leaf’s basic form. The familar leaf shape is

broken down into three divisions which form its essence. Notice how they are proportioned, with the larger division in the centre and the two smaller divisions on either side. Also notice how every single line flows towards this centre line which is absolutely critical for the leaf to appear correct.


2. The leaf can be broken into smaller divisions within the confines of the primary shape. Fig 6  shows that the leaf now comprises seven components. The first and largest section is now divided into three while the smaller divisions on either side have been halved forming two components. Note that the top leaf should always be made up of three divisions. Once again observe that all lines drawn flow towards that centre line, and the component with three divisions forms a new primary shape.


3.  In Fig. 7 you can see the leaf divisions have been broken down once more. The top leaf is divided into three and the two smaller ones on either side are split into two. Note how the new details are drawn internally so as not to alter the basic outside shape. This enables the division to appear visually correct, giving the impression of overlapping components, helping with perspective and giving a three-dimensional look.


4.  Fig. 8 demonstrates that to create the leaf with many sections divided into sets of three divisions is an attractive option. The basic outside shape is still exactly the same with each internal line flowing towards the centre stem. Each group of three establishes its own primary shape and can be broken down still further if required.


Fig. 8a shows an incorrectly designed leaf. The top leaf has been divided into three and the two componenets on either side into two. The problem is that the other lower components have also been divided into two, making the leaf appear clumsy. Never draw two sets of two divisions next to each other.

Fig. 8a Incorrect leaf divisions.

Always start your design with the centre line (Fig. 9), adding others for more complex leaves. Then fill in the leaf decoration (Fig. 9a), working with the guidelines and remembering that all lines must flow to their central stems.

Fig. 9



When earving decorations in three dimensions it is often dificult to gauge where the appropriate contours and details should go, especially if you are working from a drawing or photograph. 

If carving the human figure it is helpful to work with a real model. If this is not feasible, you could use an artist’s wooden model. Easily manoeuvrable they help you to achieve the correct proportions and obtain the right appearance for a sitting or standing figure or a figure in action.

Many projects feature leaves or flowers and you may find it helpful to use fresh ones for inspiration and to experiment with different way in which they can be be arranged. Alternatively you could gather together a collection of attractive or interestingly shaped dried plant material such as rose buds of the poppy seedheads shown below.

These can be stored carefully in a box when not in use. To carve fabric as in the linenfold project, it is useful to have the real thing at hand, especially when carving bows. If the design is large and awkward to arrange, you could try concentrating on small sections at a time. The use of plasticine or clay may prove invaluable when experimenting with detailed forms.