A process as old as mankind
Carving is an artistic technique by means of which carved ornaments or reliefs on wooden surfaces are created with the aid of various types of chisels. Master carver Bruno Barbon carves figures and ornamentation for period furniture and also frames, plaques and statues, such as the famous moretti veneziani (Venetian moors). This art is based on design, craftsman’s skill and good taste: the works are carved by hand and this guarantees their uniqueness.
The phases of the process
Selecting the wood. The first phase in the process consists in selecting the most suitable wood. The block must be well seasoned, have few knots and be intact and compact. One of the most commonly used woods for carving is Swiss pine: also known as the Swiss stone pine, Arolla pine or Pinus cembra, it is an evergreen tree with needle-like leaves of the Pinus genus, which occurs in the Alps. It is soft to work with and aromatic, with workable knots and clear grain.
Design study. Before taking up the chisels and gouges, the subject is decided on and the design is defined, tracing the guidelines on paper and transferring them to the piece to be carved: they will serve as a reference for the rough shaping.
Rough shaping. This is the first phase of actual carving and consists in blocking out the design, taking away large quantities of material. This process, which is not very precise and is tiring, used to be assigned to the workshop apprentices. Rough shaping must nevertheless be performed with a great deal of care in order to avoid taking away more wood than necessary. In this phase of the process a mallet is often used, which adds force to the movements of the gouges.
Tools. Chisels and gouges are the fundamental tools of the carver. With their wooden handles they have blades of varying lengths and curves. Given that the cut must be very sharp and precise, they are kept with great care and sharpened continuously.
Sanding. This is a procedure that is not always necessary that aims to eliminate any small imperfections of the chisel work. Dried fish skin is used, usually shark skin, which is preferable to sandpaper because it has the advantage of not leaving glass residue on the wood that would damage the blade of the gouge.
Finishing. Having rough shaped the outline and defined the forms, the details are defined with gouges. As the work is refined, the various levels emerge and the surface becomes more even until achieving the desired finish. The work is ready to be polished, lacquered or gilded.