First Attempt at Relief Carving in an Apartment

Getting back into woodworking has been one of my goals this calendar year. After 6 months of inactivity on that front, I finally decided to jump back in last month. In the past I’ve done woodturning and scroll sawing, but in an apartment those machines are not particularly viable. While I have done some whittling as well, I decided that I wanted to give relief carving a try.

Being completely new to relief carving, but having a nice set of tools that I got at the end of last year (admittedly more to use with whittling than relief carving), the only thing I needed to figure out was what to make and find some basic video tutorial I could watch to make sure I had the basics down. After surfing a bit, I came across, which had just what I needed. I signed up for the one week trial and watched the entry level videos, specifically Simple Leaves and 2 Heart-shaped Leaf. These videos told me the basics of which tools to use and how to apply them each step of the way.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides to living in an apartment is lacking any sort of workspace. All of the videos I found online included people in their woodshops with extravagent bracing tables to hold their wood in place. On the other hand, I had a cheap IKEA desk with my computer on it. Originally, I tried to use one hand to hold the wood while the other attempted to gouge with a V shaped tool. Even using a glove to protect my off hand, I found this inaccurate and unsafe (not to mention really slow). After a while I noticed that my window ledges were about the right size, so I stuck another block of wood up against the window and used the window as something to brace against. Once I had both hands free and some leverage to push against I found working the wood quite easy and was able to complete the heart shaped leaf in an evening.

In terms of the wood I choose, I had picked up some basswood blocks on eBay in the winter (again, for whittling mostly). Bassword is a pretty easy wood to work with for a beginner, and the 1″ x 4″ x 4″ blocks ended up being a good size for practicing relief work that wasn’t too detailed.

While I am pretty happy with how this simple pattern came out, I’m more concerned going forward that I’ll need something more sturdy than a window ledge to work on for stabilizing more intricate patterns that I have in mind. I’ve been eyeing a DIY bracing table that I can use on my desk (or some other surface in the apartment). Unfortunately at this point I haven’t gotten a chance to take a trip out to Home Depot to pick up the materials, though I’ve been looking around online to try to find a small piece of plywood instead of having to buy the entire sheet at the store.