Experts Guide on Carving Wooden Panels – 5 Simple Steps

Carved wooden panels can bump up the aesthetics of a home’s interior. Some patterns are easier to carve than others. But if you have no idea how to get started, don’t worry, we got your back. In this expert guide on carving wooden panels, we will tell you how it is done step by step. Let us get right to it then!

Carving wooden panels is not difficult, though it is a time-consuming process. The general things to keep in mind are as follows: the density of the wood, choosing the right tools, finding a suitable design for the panels, and lastly, selecting a finish for completion.

One of the problems in working with paneling is that it splinters easily while cutting. This could lead to pieces of paneling being discarded. Cutting wood paneling without splintering could sound like a herculean task for persons who are trying it for the first time. We have a well written article that provides some tips to avoid splintering while cutting the wood Panel.

There are a few other things that you also need to keep in mind as well when working on wooden panels. Like the kind of wood needed for the job and the dimensions. The technique also plays an important part and will determine the time it requires for the process. In this detailed guide, we will cover everything you need to know to expertly carve a wooden panel.

Steps to Carving Wooden Panels

Step 1: Check the Density of Your Wood

The density of your wood will vary depending on the type you have chosen for this project, it may be harder or softer. High density woods are usually heavy and hard while low density woods are often much softer in comparison.

The density of the wood can be measured when you have an idea of its moisture content. Because the water weight is actually included in the density since it can change its mass and volume. If you know the moisture content of a wood, you can measure its density with ease.

There are charts online that can help you measure the density of your wood. Carving high-density wood is harder than low-density wood. But it has its own significant advantages over low-density softwoods.

It lasts longer, is more resistant to the elements, and is stronger in general. Though it is also expensive and can cost you a pretty hefty sum. When it comes to wooden panels, you usually want them to be strong. So a high-density wood might suit it better.

Step 2: Pick the Right Tools

Making a panel requires various tools. Usually, people use different table saws and planers to prepare their panels. Depending on the type of panel you are making, you will need different planers for the job. But once you get your basic panel shaped out, it is time for carving.

For carving the panel, you will need different chisels of various sizes. Many kinds of chisels are available that can help with your carving needs. Depending on the type of chisels you are using, you will either use a mallet or a hammer.

If you are looking for intricate design work and saving up on time, you can also use the assistance of a Dremel tool. This rotary tool with its vast array of burrs can help you make tons of designs with much more ease.

But it depends on your expertise as a woodcarver. If you are more comfortable with a chisel, then it will give you better results than a Dremel tool would. The same can be said the other way around as well.

Step 3: Pick a Design For Your Panel

With a wide array of wooden panel designs, it might be a tad bit difficult to choose from one. While some designs might feel appealing to look at, they will be equally hard to carve. If you are someone who is new to carving panels in general, then the Celtic knotwork panel is perfect for you.

It is easier to carve and requires bare minimum tools as well. All you need is a square for measuring, a Stanley knife, and a flat head chisel. The only thing you need to make sure about is the measurements. If you measure twice, cut once, you will not have any trouble with that.

Step 4: Carving the Panel

After choosing a design, it is often wise to get a printout of it for reference. With the design right in front of your eyes for reference, you will avoid any mistakes.

Carving is all about being patient with the wood, taking your time, it is a form of art, and art cannot be rushed. So take your time with the carving process of the panel. As we said before, measure twice and cut once to make sure there aren’t any problems.

Tuck your panel between two small wooden blocks that have been nailed into the desk when carving. This gives you a solid grip on the panel so that it does not move when you are applying force during your carving process. 

Another tip is to always use sharp tools for carving. We cannot emphasize enough on this point, because a sharp tool makes carving easier. A dull tool is way more dangerous than a sharper tool. 

Because when your tools are sharp you have more control over their actions. Meanwhile, with a dull tool, you will struggle and might end up making mistakes while using too much force.

Step 5: Apply Finish to your Wooden Panel

Now it is time to apply finish to the wooden panel. Choosing the right one is very important for the integrity of the wood. Depending on the use of the wood, a few different kinds of finishings can be applied to it.

For the interior usually, people use varnish or polyurethane. It protects the surface of the wood from scratches and the elements really well. It also gives it a very glossy and shiny look which makes it perfect for applying on furniture.

You can also use oil for the job, but oil does not stay for long and does not protect well against water or the sun. In comparison to that, Danish oil seems to be a way better choice as it can be reapplied with ease.

Usually, you need to sand down the previous finish to apply a new one. This can be quite a hassle, specifically if you are using paints or varnishes. But with Danish oil, you just need to clean the surface of the wooden panel and just reapply another coating.

How Fine Should You Sand Your Wooden Panels?

Depending on the type of finish you are applying, you have to be careful about the grit of sandpaper you are using. Once you are done with the carving process, you will definitely want to sand the wooden panel. After which you can apply your finish and leave it for curing or drying.

People often make the mistake of using very fine-grit sandpaper to give their wooden panels a polished finish. But if you sand your wood too finely, the pores in it might get blocked off. This makes it harder for oil to penetrate the wood properly, resulting in an uneven finish.

To avoid that, keep the maximum grit of the sandpaper up to 150-200 grit. This makes the wooden panel smooth enough to the touch and allows the oil and stain to be absorbed better since the pores aren’t completely blocked.

Maintenance On Wooden Panels

Maintenance is another aspect of woodwork that cannot be overlooked. Without it, your wooden projects will end up ruined after a while when the finish has worn off of them. 

The maintenance of your wooden panel will be different depending on the finish you are applying. If you have opted for Danish oil, then you just need to properly clean the surface and apply a new coat.

For varnishes, you might need to sand it off properly so the new coat can be applied. If you miss out on any spots while sanding, the new coat of varnish will look uneven. This will ruin the look of the whole panel and you might have to sand it off one more time to apply properly again.

If you feel like your oil finish has worn off, then it is a good idea to apply another coat. This will strengthen the wood, help it resist decay. It also gives the wood a new life-like look as well, like there was nothing wrong with it in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Carving a wood panel is not difficult if you know how to use the tools properly. With practice, you will be able to carve even more challenging designs for your panels than the Celtic Knotwork. Generally, the steps on how to carve a wooden panel will remain the same. But depending on the complexity of the design, you might have to add a few steps and tools.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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