Pierced relief swag step by step

pierced relief carving step by step

drawing out design

After looking at approx 20 different examples of this type of work, I drew out my original design, directly onto the wood. It will be a floral design, with petaled flowers, buds, leaves and tendrils. In free-handing this design i worked from the center out and mirrored the image on both sides. I tried to keep the tendrils connected as much as possible to the rest of the work to give maximum support to the delicate hanging tendrils. (35 min work)

color coding 

In order to ready it for the scroll saw work, I color coded the design, black was the area of the design that would be cut around and red were the areas to be certain not to cut out. (5 min. work)

  design completedthis is the final design, ready to be cut on the scroll saw.

Drilling guide holes

Using my drill press, I then drilled holes into all places that would require interior cuts. (you can use a hand drill to do this, being careful to keep the bit 90o vertical to the board) interior cuts cannot be accessed from the edge of the board. Holes are drilled so that the scroll saw blade can be inserted and the inside areas cut out. (5 min. work)

cutting away the waste

using a scroll saw, I selected a size 3 spiral blade. Spiral blades must be used for the piercing as the work is too large for the 16″ capacity of my scroll saw. spiral blades allow you to cut in any direction. All interior cuts must be made first to give support to those pieces so they don’t break off. next step is to cut all the exterior waste off. (interior-1.25 hr work, exterior- 1.75 hr work)waste removed

at this point all of the waste, interior and exterior has been removed. The final demensions are 32″ long, with the arch being 6″ wide

close-upclose up of final pattern now ready for carving. from this point on, the carving will be very delicate to work with because there are a lot of unsupported tendrils. I will lay it flat out on top of my workbench for the carving, using an anti-slip mat under it so that it will not require clamping down. using clamps at this point would likely break off some of the unsupported tendrils.

carving tools selected

as this will be a delicate carving I have selected small hand tools to do the job. Left to right: #5 gouge, #7 gouge, #1 bent gouge, sloyd knife, 60o v-tool and a #3 fishtail gouge. After selecting tools 1st step is to hone them so that they will slice thru the wood cleanly. They will be honed repeatedly over the course of the carving stage. this is an important step in this carving as any unneeded pressure will break off the delicate pieces.

 begin carving

first step is to use a v tool to separate all flower petals, leaves, buds and tendrils. I will start carving at the strongest points of the carving, working my way down to the most delicate pieces, allowing those pieces to be supported as long as possible 

carving the pansy 

gouge out the center of each petal 

 make a stop cut around the center mound 

gouge out 1/4 of each petal in towards the center 

round over the outside edge of each petal

round over the center mound

redefine the valley between each petal using a v-tool

using a gouge round over the top of each half of the petals

using a knife, make a v cut between each petal to define the separation

using a knife clean out and define area between the petals

clean up area around center mound 

using a v-tool, put 2 or 3 wrinkle lines into bottom 1/3 of each pedal, working in to center 

Carving The Daisy 

after making a stop cut around the center mound, gouge out about 1/4 of each petal, going down and into the  center

Round over the edges of each petal 

round off the last 1/4 of each petal and then shape the sides of the petal 

round off the top of each petal 

do another stop cut around center mound 

clean up the center mound

round over center mound 

redefine the valley between the petals using the v-tool

using a knife, make a very steep v cut which will separate the petals more 

redefine edges of petals going deeper in the area between each petal 

finished daisy

texturing the button

using a nail, gently tap in many random spots on center mound to create texture. Texture the buttons on all the pansies and daisies

Carving the leaves 

Gouge out a section approx. halfway on the leaf. This will give a wave to each leaf. 

leaf gouged out

after making a stop cut along the edge of the petal, gouge out 1/4 of leaf in towards the flower

using a gouge remove the end of the leaf 

round off and shape each leaf 

after rounding the leaf over use either a knife or small v-tool to make veins. make a curvy line down the center of each leaf and then make veins from the center line out to the edges angled to the tip of the leaf 

pansy and leaves carved 

carving the bud

first shave off 1/2 of the edge from center out to tip of bud, then make a stop cut along base of bud 

gouge out stem into base of bud 

round off base of bud 

round over top of bud

using a v-tool, make curvy line from base to tip of bud

carving the tendrils and bud stems 

Make a stop cut where stem attaches to flower 

gouge out stem in towards flower, remove enough wood so that the level of the stems and tendrils are lower than the flowers and buds

make stop cuts wherever tendrils meet each other and where they meet flowers

round over stem working in towards flower

completed bud stem 

continue rounding over all stems and tendrils 

cleaning up the carving

this is much to delicate a piece to do any hand sanding on. I have cleaned it up using rotary power tool with a fine ceramic pointed stone

tendrils and bud stems completed 

I used a different stain on each part of the design 

carving stained 


I used thinned water colors to tint the carving 

completed caving

carving mounted over archway

    Of all, this is truly my favorite! A lot of work with the scroll saw and hand tools, but the paint job to achieve the colors are what amaze me. Almost like a stain glass look. Really nice job on the whole project.Oct. 26, 2008  By: banjo52us Delete
    A very nicely done carving and an excellent tutorialJun. 8, 2007  By: Charles Hand Delete