What is Ornamental Woodcarving?

Ornamental woodcarving is the art of shaping ornaments, furniture, statues, and utensils from wood, by the use of drills, abrasives and cutting tools. Wood is a light and soft medium that can be shaped into different styles and looks. Wood has tensile strength and enables a craftsman to join separate pieces with ease.  The beauty of its versatile textures and grain allows the carving to have both an antique and a modern contemporary look. 

Thehistory of ornamental wood sculptures has been distorted by the arbitrary survival of wooden carved pieces that were vulnerable to fire, dampness and vermin. Ornamental wood carved pieces today are given a strong finishing with files, sandpaper and rasps, that help in preserving it’s look. They can also be gilded directly or with plaster and painted/polished to make them last forever. Contemporary wood carving utilizes tools like Veiners and sharpened knives, as well as laser cutting tools. 

History of Ornamental Woodcarving:

Decorative wood carving has always beena medium of artistic expression, compelling different forms as per the sharpness of tools used and the hardness of wood. In Asia, wood has been used as a vigorous sculpture material, specifically in China, India and Japan. 

Rich ornamental wood carvings were originally discovered in the regions of Indonesia. The Islamic culture used this form of ornamentation for the depiction of beauty, strength and culture. The native pacific culture - Melanesian, Maori, and New Guinean - is regarded for its native wood carving presented mostly in ceremonial furniture and domestic architecture. The totem poles found at northwestern coast serve as clan and family emblems, sometimes used to relate to the hierarchies of animals and gods. The African ornamentation of wood wereused for idol worshiping and ceremonial masks.


Ornamental carving encompasses several techniques; some of them are presented below:

Chip Carving

Chip carving is the oldest decorative carving method. The technique involves removal of wooden chips to develop patterns. Chip carving patterns are mostly repetitive, such as geometrical shapes or curves. 


In intaglio carving the desired pattern or design is carved in recess. The surrounding wood surface is either left untouched or is painted/polished for beautification. Intaglio carving is mostly seen on furniture and decorative wooden items. 

Relief Carving

In relief carving the object, pattern or design is formed by extracting the outer surfaces. The desired object is raised whereas the surrounding is in recess. High relief wood carvings are mostly seen in architectural ornamentation. Ancient buildings, cathedrals and castles havewooden high relief ornamentation. 

Pierced Relief

In pierced relief there is no surrounding or plain surface area except the desired design. Carved areas are removed completely. The tool used in pierced relief carving is the sharpest and are known as V tools. 

Addition of Stones and Glass

In the olden days, wooden carving mostly involved wood as the only medium. Over the last century, however, wood carving has evolved and embellished with iron, glass and stones. Such carvings were mostly found in Indian temples. Contemporary furniture and wooden mosaics also use glass and stones in relief wood carvings for enhanced adornment.