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.