If flat plane carving has caught your interest, you're in the right place.
Not only will you learn about this distinctive style of cutting wood with our essential guide, but you can also try your hand at it with our free, flat plane wood carving tutorial.
Spirited wood carvers like to emphasize that flat plane carving is a "style" and not a "type" of wood carving. In our book, it's just a really cool way to carve, once you get the hang of it.
The hallmarks of flat plane wood carving include:
Some refer to flat plane carving as a minimalist style of wood carving. Less is definitely more, however, when it comes to flat plane carving.
Flat plane carving is said to have originated in Scandinavian countries. Modern-day wood carvers, including Harley Refsal, have been credited with bringing this distinctive, old-world style back to life.
Refsal includes a historical overview of Scandinavian-style flat plane carving in Norway and Sweden in his books on the subject. He attributes the growth of flat plane carving to the fact that knives went from being hand made by blacksmiths to large-scale manufacturing, which made them more affordable for more people.
In a recent International Association of Woodcarvers podcast, modern-day flat plane carver James Ray Miller attributes the popularity of this style to the rise of the potato. He says that people no longer had to work the fields all the time, giving them more free time to enjoy this wonderful hobby.
As a result of other manufacturing processes, it seems likely that early flat plane carvers transitioned from making practical items (such as spoons and knives) to more creative endeavors, such as characters and toys.
In a word, no. The early Scandinavian carvers often created flat plane trolls, nisses, tompte (or tompten) and brownies, which look a bit like the wood-carved gnomes we see today. They also featured working village folk.
We cannot post pictures owned by others, but if you click on the names of the master flat plane carvers below, you will see how each has made the style his own over a hundred years or so:
If you think flat plane carving is simple, it is. But simple doesn't always equate with easy.
The goal is to create a carving using a minimum of large cuts that are super clean. That is a real challenge!
Unless you are already an accomplished carver, you will probably have to make more shorter cuts when you start flat plane carving.
Over time, and with practice, you will learn how to get the results you want with fewer cuts.
If you stick with it, flat plane carving is a wonderful journey with unlimited possibilities. We're excited to use our imagination to create more modern flat plane carvings and will be learning and practicing along with you.
We recommend using a fixed blade, straight-edged knife for flat plane carving.
When we were first learning how to wood carve, we ruined a good OCC Tools straight-edged knife because it is not meant to have any flex or bend.
We thought it was a crummy knife, but it's actually fabulous when you use it correctly. Duh.
As a side note, we have found the OCC Tools straight-edge knife also results in less wood crumbling on the small basswood blocks we like to use for designing our tutorials.
While we love our Mora knives for bushcrafting, you will find them to be too thick for easy flat plane carving.
What about a pocket knife? If you are an advanced carver, we believe you can probably make any good knife work for you.
But we think you will have greater control, and be able to make cleaner cuts, with a fixed blade.
Personally, we love the simplicity—and the challenge—of only using a knife. However, there are no flat plane police that will arrest you if you use other tools.
Refsal writes that he uses gouges (and his patterns often require a band saw or a scroll saw).
Again, we love keeping things simple, and the creative journey when you start with the blank slate of a basswood block.
It is more work for sure, but there is something meditative and relaxing about removing excess wood with a knife.
Since not everyone owns a band saw, we have designed our tutorials to be inclusive for all carvers.
Go for it! Just bear in mind that basswood is generally soft to carve, holds detail well, and is easy to paint.
Yes! First and foremost, enjoy the flat plane carving process. You will also want to:
We often like to save the face until the body takes shape, but that's our process. Take what you like from our tutorials and leave the rest.
The joy of flat plane carving is discovering what works best for you.
Sometimes the best plans for a flat plane carving pattern get turned upside down, due to a mistake, or perhaps a change in your perspective.
Our philosophy is:
Our flat plane carving tutorial evolved from an idea that was completely different. That happens a lot in our house.
We find that flat plane wood carving requires a little more deliberation to determine how to get the desired result with the least amount of cuts.
The old adage for general woodworking also applies here: measure twice and cut once.
No. You can use the same painting techniques we use for other styles of wood carving with flat plane carving. You can also experiment with different finishes, too.
We just tried applying Minwax natural wood stain prior to painting, and are really happy with the results. It gives you a nice, natural flesh tone color for faces and hands.