Kolrosing is a simple, yet elegant way to embellish any wood carving.
Unlike wood carving, however, you are not cutting and removing any wood.
You are incising the wood. This means you are cutting the wood fibers to create a design.
Items with a smooth surface will be your best bet with kolrosing, and your colorant will pop more if you used light-colored wood.
Kolrosing (sometimes referred to as Kohlrosing) can be traced back to the early Scandinavian Vikings who used the technique to create ornamentation on wood.
Sometimes, designs were also made on bone (a bit like scrimshaw).
In Norway, kolrosing was a tradition of decorating wood pieces that were often used for everyday life, including plates, bowls, or tankards.
Ground bark or ash was often used as the colorant.
In modern days, some carvers combine chip carving with kolrosing.
It is also sometimes referred to as a wood tattoo.
If you break down the word kolrosing, rosing means decorating.
The early Norwegians often used coal dust as their colorant, which is called kol.
Put it all together and kolrosing simply means decorating with coal.
You can pretty much kolrose any item, including:
There are some knives that are specially designed for kolrosing (photo 1).
The key is to hold the knife like a pen, which we admit is easier to do with a kolrosing knife (photo 2).
We’ve had success using the tip of a small detail knife on simple line designs without any curves.
Since most people do not own a kolrosing knife, we used a detail knife for our tutorial to see how it would turn out.
If you want to create a fancier design with curves, and a lot of twists and turns, you may want to consider buying a kolrosing knife. It will set you back about $30 US.
For this tutorial, we used an inexpensive spatula that we purchased at a dollar store.
If you don’t have the time to hand carve an item, you can easily turn a set of plain store-bought wooden spoons into lovely (and inexpensive) utensils that would make a perfect housewarming gift.
Tiny wooden spoons are also nice a nice gift for parents of a new baby.
Of course, you could carve your own utensils, too.
Just remember to always use food-safe oils to finish all eating utensils.
You may want to avoid mineral oil as it has a laxative effect!
Some folks like to sand a wood surface before kolrosing, using very fine sandpaper. Then they:
Another option to smooth wood is to burnish it with a deer antler or another piece of wood. In fact, you can use small wood chips to burnish a wood surface.
Is all this preparation absolutely necessary? On the first piece we kolrosed we didn’t prepare the surface in any way. It ended up looking just fine.
But since we are using a spatula we purchased, we took some fine sandpaper to it for our tutorial.
If you want, you can trace your spoon, or other piece you want to kolrose, onto a piece of paper and sketch your design.
You can also use graphite paper to transfer your design.
We like to keep things simple (code for winging it!), so for this tutorial, simply:
Suggestion: You may want to keep your first kolrosing design fairly simple, such as straight lines and geometric shapes (photo 5).
As your kolrosing skills improve, you can challenge yourself with curved or wavy lines.
Once your design is on the wood, use a knife to make your cuts (photo 6). It helps to hold your knife the same way you hold a pen or pencil.
Use your other hand to secure the wood piece. Or, you can use a vise to keep your piece in place.
Like wood carving, you want to be able to easily see the lines you cut.
This can be aided by using a bright light or working outdoors on a sunny day.
For colorant, you can use:
Bear in mind that coffee and cinnamon are both food safe, making them good choices for kitchen utensils.
Coffee grounds will give you a nice dark effect while cinnamon may have a reddish tint. We’ve always preferred cinnamon because we like the reddish color.
Simply rub your cinnamon (or other colorant), with your finger, into the cuts you made (photo 7).
Wipe off any excess cinnamon with a paper towel.
Finish by rubbing some food-safe oil (we use olive oil) into the cuts (photo 9).
You can also use a food-safe lindseed oil.
This should darken your design.
Let your piece set for a minute and then wipe it down with a paper towel or cloth rag (photo 10).
Throw your towels or rags in the garbage outside your home because they are flammable.
We decided to do a comparison by creating another quick design with an actual kolrosing knife. Here's what we learned:
If you are looking for kolrosing inspiration, the “Queen of kolrosing” is Judy Ritger.
She sells a 90-minute DVD that you can purchase on Amazon (picture contains affiliate link).
Her DVD includes:
Celtic pattern books are another great source for design ideas.
Vesterheim National Norwegian Museum & Heritage Center.Norwegian Woodcarving booklet.
RavenLore Bushcraft and Wilderness skills.
Ritger J. Kolrosing: Norwegian Line Carving.
Vogel, Joshua (10 November 2015). The Artful Wooden Spoon: How to Make Exquisite Keepsakes for the Kitchen.
Basics of kolrosing. Pinewoodforge.com.