Carving in the Round

A project from the book CARVING IN THE ROUND by Andrew Thomas.

Wave is a very simple form for the beginner to carve, and one that was fun to work through and extremely rewarding to create. It is a representation of a wave, depicting its motion in relation to gravity, enhanced by the negative space in the hollow center.

The design is simplicity itself, as it is purely a circle within a circle but with gentle flowing lines on the edges. It helped me to understand how to approach the grain in these areas, working the contour of the mass evenly to great effect. It was aslo a subtle introduction to design in carving.

This is the first project I took thru the sanding and finishing steps.


The sanding procedure is particularly labor intensive and can be quite tedious, especially around fine detail.

One of the most important qualities required from abrasives for carving purposes is a flexible composition, so that they can be folded or curved to get into awkward areas to smooth the details. They need to be able to take a fold without the material splitting or fracturing along the crease. Cloth-backed abrasives as opposed to paper-backed ones are best in this regard.

I started with 100-grit Abranet to remove all the tool marks and uneven surfaces completely and adchieve the final shaping of the form. Then swithed to the cloth-backed abrasives, starting with 150-grit, then 220-grit and finally 400-grit. Then finished with a 1,200-grit polishing disc to remove all the minute scratches and produce a perfectly polished surface.

The hot-water technique was used while sanding, applying hot water to the sculpture in between each sanding grit. The hot-water technique may seem a rather bizarre thing to do to a carving, but it is extremely effective in its objective, as it naturally raises the fibers of the wood, allowing the subsequent grit to be worked more easily and effectively. It also exposes any deeper scratches, gouge marks or areas that may need to be worked a little further before progressing onto the next grit.


For the sculpture, a couple of applications of clear paste wax was applied straight onto the surface of the wood.

The base had a fine coat of boiled linseed oil applied, making it darker and enhancing the figure of the grain and left to dry for one week. Finally applying a dark paste wax.

What I learned

  • How to cut a design from one profile view
  • How to create a piercing through the sculpture
  • The benifits of a flexable rule
  • How to approach the grain and create a curved contour
  • How to protect vulnerable areas of the sculpture
  • The benefits of skimming the surface before sanding
  • How to polish the sculpture using waxes
  • How to make an appropriate base
  • The effect of boiled linseed oil on walnut

Basswood, 8-1/2"h x 8-1/2"w x 4-3/8"d. Base, Walnut.