How to transfer patterns wood carving?

How to transfer patterns wood carving?


To carve ornament on wood it is important to know how to transfer patterns wood carving. And in this blog we want to share with you about the methods you can use.

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To carve ornament on wood it is important to know how to transfer patterns wood carving. And in this blog we want to share with you about the methods you can use.

How to transfer patterns wood carving?

When you carve or saw out any design that isn't a straight line you need a pattern. These days we typically draw the pattern on some paper and the trick is transferring the pattern to the wood. Here are some methods.

1. Draw the pattern in reverse, go over it in soft pencil, put the pattern pencil side down on the wood and rub the paper. The pencil pattern will transfer to the paper.

2. Carbon paper is the most common and simple way to transfer a pattern onto wood. It is similar to transfer-paper in the way you apply it but it is probably a little better as carbon paper leaves a darker mark that is very well visible on wood.

This way is best if your pattern has a lot of detail and you are using wood that is not dark, such as butternut or basswood. Darker kinds of wood require transfer-paper instead of carbon paper.

To a pattern onto wood using carbon paper you need to do the following:

  • Print/draw your pattern on paper.
  • Locate the area on the wood where you want to the pattern to be transferred
  • Put carbon paper over the area where you want your design to be seen
  • Put your printed/drawn pattern on top of the carbon paper
  • Tape the paper to the wood to make sure it does not move as you trace it
  • Trace the outline of the pattern, it’s best if you use a ballpoint pen.
  • The carbon should have transferred onto the surface of the wood in the areas where you pressed on it with the pen.
  • This is a very simple method that always works pretty well. As an alternative to carbon paper, you can also use graphite paper, which is exactly the same thing, except you can erase it off wood much easier.
3. Lay the pattern on the wood and go over it with a pricker of some sort. You can use a single pointed awl, a revolving multi-pointed pricker, or even a ball point pen. The latter puts a readable dent in the wood and works pretty well. Just make sure you put a mark at all the important junctions in the design.

4. Attach the pattern to the wood with a low tack spray adhesive. There are two things that are really important to do if you use spray mount. The first is that you have to make sure that the pattern is bonded all over the work. Otherwise when you carve, if you hit a dry spot, the pattern will probably tear and you will lose the design. If the paper is solidly bonded you just carve through it with no worries - as long as your tools are properly sharp. If your tools aren't sharp what happens is that you rip the paper as you carve and ruin the pattern. But to be fair if your tools aren't sharp enough to cleanly carve through a paper pattern, they also aren't sharp enough to cleanly cut wood in many situations. So a torn pattern is a good wake-up call.

5. Another method is to print out the pattern in reverse on a copier or laser printer, and lay it pattern side down on the wood. Then pour some acetone (wear gloves and other safety stuff) over the paper which will release the ink from the paper and transfer to the wood.
6. The method of applying transfer paper is exactly the same as carbon paper:

Place the transfer paper between the pattern and the wood
Tape it so it does not move.

Another benefit of transfer-paper is that you can separate your drawings into two different colors. This is especially useful if you are for example tracing two faces next to each other and you don’t want to get confused.

All you have to do is replace the transfer paper from under your pattern with another color, and then trance the second part of the drawing that you want to be in a different color, just make sure that your pattern is well taped to the surface of the wood and that it does not move.

Transfer-paper comes in all colors. The best colors to use in our opinion are light-blue and white as they stand out really well and are easily visible in all different lightings.

Transfer paper can be found in most art stores, it is not as common as carbon paper in retail stores and office stores but with a bit of luck, you may even find it there.

7. Vellum paper. If you are unsure of what vellum paper is, it is a thick seethrough material that can be bought from art stores, it is usually made out of cotton but older models are made out of animal skin, so if you are vegan you can double-check with the brand if this is suitable for you.

Vellum paper is best if you are working on 3D projects such as sculptures or any other uneven wood projects. This is due to its strong texture but high flexibility which makes it easy to trace around as well as easy to bend on an uneven surface.

Unlike other methods we have discussed above, the idea of vellum paper is not to trace through design, but instead to trace around it with a pencil that’s dark/bright enough to leave a mark on the wood.

Here is how to use vellum paper to transfer a pattern onto wood:

  • Cut out the pattern you want using scissors out of vellum paper
  • Identify the area where you want the pattern to go to, use tape to keep vellum paper in the right place
  • If your surface is uneven, use multiple pieces of tape for the pattern not to move as you are drawing around it, the more uneven areas the more tape you should use
  • With a pencil, draw around the pattern, make sure the pencil is sharp at all times for the most accurate representation of the design.
If the design you are looking to trace also has some areas inside which you need to transfer, this is a little more difficult but also possible. Cut out a few wholes from the inside of the vellum paper and try to draw around it as well, while it may not be as accurate you will get a rough idea when carving the wood.

8. Cardboard templates. Cardboard templates are a cheaper but less advanced alternative to vellum paper.

Create your own cardboard templates when you are on a mostly flat surface and you want to transfer a design onto the wood using a pencil.

The idea is very similar as with vellum paper, to transfer the design onto wood you must:
  • Cut out the cardboard with a paper-knife to form the right pattern
  • Tape/hold it steady
  • Trace around it with a pencil
  • As simple as that, and you can get most patterns onto your wood using this simple but fairly effective way.