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carving with symetry


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The first couple of suggestions that come to mind: Practice; and, if you have a drawing, to scale of the project, that can be made to reflect the symmetry that you wish to achieve then refer to it until the symmetrical balance has been accomplished.



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I was taught to practice drawing the face/vase illusion. Focus on the symmetry while you draw. "Blind contour drawings" are also a good exercise. With face/vase follow the first line you draw with your eye while the hand follows creating the second. You know, use the Force....





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This is a trick I learned a long time ago: whatever you do to one side, immediately go to the other side and do the same thing. For example, if you are drawing a face, after establishing center lines, if you are drawing an eye you only draw one element at a time. First the top eyelid on one side, then the top eyelid on the other. Never draw one side at a time, you will never be able to get both sides to look alike. Alternate between both sides and it will never look so lopsided. Mercifully, the same technique translates really well to carving.


Debbie K

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To add to what has been said. I find the use of centering line and, outlining the carving helpful. When I start I do a few cuts on the side that is the hardest for me then I work the side that is the easiest for me to carve, and match. I keep working from one side for a few cuts then to the other side , the slowly work both side to the finish.

I have a centering ruler that I use to find the center and lay out the outside lines.

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There have been some good suggestions here. Thanks Debbie for the point of carving alternate sides of the eye features for example - faces are something I'm still learning.

I also use a good set of dividers (like a compass with two metal points) to establish distances from one point of reference to another.


Best wishes,


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Magnus & Ed:


I'm so glad you guys you responded to this topic. I never use dividers or measure anything, and I forget how useful it is for other people to do so. My training in portraiture incorporated measuring in the sense of eyes being an eye apart, ears being the same length as the nose, etc.


One of the best carvers I've ever known measured extensively. He worked from scaled drawings or photographs and measured and transferred every dimension. I just start carving, which admittedly, isn't always the best approach. But I work in gemstones primarily, and the carving is often predicated by the shape of the rock and getting the most out of it.


Another thing which I forgot to mention, if I'm doing something tricky, I might do a clay or wax mock-up first. It gives you something to compare to while carving which can be really helpful.


Magnus, if your jade letter opener or fairy bead are any indication, you don't have any trouble carving faces. I find profiles in low relief one of the most difficult to do of all things.


Debbie K

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your problem with carving symmetry is similar to problems i encounter

in violinmaking.


symmetry involves a reference. Reference either from a center line which you create

usually by measuring three widest points deviding in half and strikeing a line between them.

or you have to gauge the symmetry in reference to a surface that you know is flat, such as granite.


I use a half template made of zinc or brass that's been filed to shape.

This helps in drawing right and left symmetry. i have an additional template for the neck and scroll.



The curve and how it is ultimately carved is artistic interpretation-----i want adherence to symmetry but im not a slave to it.


You have to learn to correct as you carve keep looking at the whole workpiece

as you work, dont get caught looking only a one part of it -----go very slow and make every cut deliberate.


The best technique for spotting symmetry is actually to turn the workpiece upside down

and see if your eye catches a mismatch.


Another interesting technique i found that a blue LED light in a dark room casts a dark black shadow!

The shadow is much crisper than in white light. You can spot mismatched symmetry in the shadow that you

may not catch looking at the object.


This helps establishing outline of a shape.


Laser levels are also fun devices for seeing curved symmetry.

if you have a dark room and a laser line level from hardware store (some as little as $6)

you can use it to cast a line across and curved surface and you can see if its symmetrical or not.


You can also use a straight edge and bright bulb light to check the curve left and right of a centerline

by looking at the shadow the straight edge casts.



The biggest help was from a drawing instructor who said to draw circles freehand. just everyday draw circles.

look at each one and figure out where you went wrong, too elliptical, too wide, too high?

fold it in fouths and look at each segment. sure it can be the symbol of a circle----

but a perfect circle takes time and patience.


-hope this helps.



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  • 1 month later...

Hi Shane,


I have used "Alternating Cuts" that Debbie K and Ed Twilbeck recommend and it worked well for me. The attached image is of a bone bolo tie that I carved for my wife. The tips of the bolo tie are mirror images of each other (though separate, together they form a symmetrical object ) and were done with alternating cuts.


Another technic for checking symmetry is to hold the carving up to a mirror. The mirror image will "enhance" any symmetry problems; however, use of the technics suggested byTCP carvers in this thread will minimize the need for correction.


I like Mibeck's LED light suggestion. I may give it a try sometime. I do bring carvings in progress from my basement studio to another room in the house were the sun light is different. Since shadow is an important part of sculpture, different types of light help me improve a piece even if symmetry is not an issue.


Have fun carving.


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I find it very difficult to carve symmetrically. i normally try to just eye ball it but still no good :lol: . what are some techniques that some people here use.




It is a little difficult to measure for symmetry without marking a centerline. If the carving is something that stands vertically on a base, it helps to mark the centerline(s) on the base. I found an image for that here: http://www.woodworkingtag.com/wp-content/u...d-claw-foot.jpg

When the center line is marked on the base there is less chance of loosing it while carving, because you can always re-establish the vertical by using a free standing type try-square on a flat surface, such as a piece of glass or a ceramic tile.


If you want to be really exact, and the carving is small, you can use a surface plate and and a surface gauge: http://www.micromark.com/RS/SR/Product/60520_R.jpg



Be careful not to over do the symmetry. If it is too exact the results may look a little lifeless.



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  • 2 months later...

I found that use of paper punches could be used to make symmetrical designs.


i found that i could use thin sticky back foil tape and punch leaves and other

forms from it peel the paper off --------- use it for drawing in symmetrical but

reversed shapes left and right.


This method allowed me to have perfect match of veneer and

a shape to layout the hole for the veneer to sit in.


this method could be used to make more complicate designs------

or in combination with several punches to create very complicated designs.

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  • 6 months later...

I find it easier to concentrate on one half then (usually on paper) I trace that and reve rse it to make the second halve just make sure you have a centre line you could also scan it into a computer copy the pic twice and reverse it once (usually by dragging the box from right to left) toget the other side or just use a photocopier

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  • 2 months later...

Another way to keep an eye on the symmetry of a piece is to look at it as an outline. Light the background and throw the piece into shade, turn and look at the overall shape you're getting. Also look at the work in a mirror, it will highlight any errors in the shape. I measure regularly and if I can I'll do a maquette to work from.

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