What is Mantle Carving?

Have you ever owned, or know someone who owns, a mantle over a fireplace and it has a beautifully carved pattern on it? Fireplace mantles offer artists and sculptors an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in carving decorative elements.

Mantle carving is an art form and most are made from fine yet hardwoods, and are hand crafted after the pattern has been drawn on. Once that’s finished the carving begins, and the wood is gently shaped to bring out the texture of the carving pattern, so for instance if a goldfish is drawn on then the carver will chip away the background and will add in details and shape the scales without ruining the wood.


Types of Mantle carving.

The fireplace is considered to be the heart of the home, usually, since it offers a place of warmth where friends and family can gather. The mantle is the defining characteristic of the fireplace.

Mantles come in a variety of styles and materials, so when you’re thinking of rebuilding or updating the fireplace the mantle, you have a variety of choices and materials.

Though some use stone or wood, it all comes down to the same thing. While wood carving makes a beautiful work of art, stone is a timeless material and it’s often for stately and dramatic fireplaces. But wood carving is a top choice, especially for rustic cabins or houses, or people wanting to give their home a more rustic feel. Wood is easy to work with, it can fit neatly into almost any style, is less expensive than stone and offers your fireplace a traditional, elegant air. Best of all, no matter what kind of wood you decide you want for your fireplace, it can be stained or painted to fit the decor.

People who use wood have a great range of choices for which type of wood to have a beautiful finish. Two types of wood to consider for mantle carving would be Butternut, which polishes quite nicely and Black Walnut.

Black walnut wood is much more expensive than other types of wood, but the ease it can be carved makes it a good choice. It’s quite sturdy and heavy, but not as heavy as Oak wood can be. Walnut can be used in all kinds of things – furniture, gun-stocks, coffins, its just rare which makes it expensive.

Oak is probably the most popular types of wood for carving, and its ideal because it can stand up to most types of rot better than other woods.


How Mantle Carving is done.

Once a fireplace owner has made their choice with the type of wood they wish to install, and decide to have it carved, they usually decide what pattern they wish before giving it to the sculptor who’ll carve the pattern into the wood.

The pattern can be anything – it can be fruit, such as grapes; the sculptor will then draw it on, and once finished, will then use a special hammer and a special chisel, like a V tool which have two straight chisels to get into the edges and the corners of the pattern to chip away the unwanted wood and take it down to depth. The background doesn’t have to be accurate throughout the carving process, in some places it can be deeper in some places than others, and shallow in others, then go deeper. Sculptors usually carve out the depths before they go back and clean up before adding details.

For animals, like pets, or fish like goldfish, even beautiful and exotic Blackmoor goldfish the carving is just as simple, the pattern is drawn into the wood – the shape of the fishes, or the animals like elk, wolves, dogs, even cats, are drawn in. For goldfish carving, the general shape of the fish, the details of the fins and the tail, and the scale pattern is drawn into the wood before the carving starts. A skilled carver will know how to do the carving, and how to bring the design out, how to carve out the details for you.

How to Do Mantle Carving?

When it comes to carving, it’s possible to curve on surfaces such as stone and soap. However, you may want to carve fish, animals, pets, and goldfish on wood, which is the most popular surface to work on. The reason is that it’s a practical and straightforward surface to practice your mantle carving. The best way to start should be by having the right supplies and enough time to work on your project. In this informative guide, we’ll look at 5 steps on how to do mantle carving.


  1. Choose the Right Wood

When carrying out mantle carving, you should make sure that you use wood which is soft. The best way to start should by buying high quality and labeled wood from a wood supplier or craft store. Among the best types of wood to choose are the white pine, butternut, and basswood. They are softwoods, which mean that you’ll find them easy to carve, especially if you’re a beginner. 


  1. Select the Right Type of Carving Knife

Make sure that you choose a knife that’s easy to hold, sharp and rigid. Avoid using retractable blades, the reason being that they can collapse under pressure, making them unsafe for use. Ensure that invest in a chip carving knife for the best outcome. That’s because its handle is long enough, while the blade is around 1.5 inches long. Those made of high (carbon) steel tend to remain intact and sharp for extended periods.


  1. Choose the Right Supplies

When carving out fish, animals, pets, and goldfish, you should identify the four types of wood carving. They are:


Relief carving: It involves carving your art into a wooden panel that’s flat. On the front, the image appears in a three-dimensional manner, while the back is flat. Make sure that you have a variety of tools to complete your relief carving.


Chip carving: It involves you using knives, hammers, and chisels. You carve by chipping away the wood bit by bit, which enables you to come up with three-dimensional patterns on your wood board. However, the back of this piece remains flat.


Carving in the round: To complete this life-like carving, you need to have several tools. The result will be a carved structure which is three dimensional, with natural and softer lines.


Whittling: You do this carving using a whittling knife with stiff handles. It will leave behind angular and sharp strokes, while the finished piece with be three dimensional and small.


  1. Use the Best Chisels

Chisels are flat and sharp tools that you use along with rubber mallets. They are mainly ideal when it comes to carrying out wood chipping. You should use rubber mallets which are less noisy. They also cause less damage to your chisel during repeated impacts.



  1. Get the Best Gouges

Gouges are tools which are curved. You use them to scoop the wood, rather than cutting it. You’ll also use them to carve, shape and smooth surfaces. Spoon and bent gouges are the types that make it easier for you to reach some areas of the wood carving.




The above informative article on how to do mantle carving should make it easier for you to carve fish, animals, pets, and goldfish. Make sure that choose the best wood and use the right supplies.