Carving has been used to enhance the appearance of fine furniture for centuries. Low relief carving on surfaces add texture to a piece, and nearly every style of furniture features carving, to some extent. Louis XV and Louis XVI style feature carved and fluted legs on tables and chairs; the Victorian style is distinguished by carved ornaments and decorative scrolls on the front rails of chairs and on headboards of other pieces; Italian Renaissance pieces feature extensively carved seatbacks, legs and stretchers; the Spanish Renaissance style is typified by delicately carved arapbeques; French Renaissance cabinets, cupboards, and tables are delicately carved in low relief, and Chippendale furniture features carved ornaments on cabriole legs and dining tables, and carved moldings on doors and panels.
Hardwoods with fine texture and straight grain provide the best medium for carving. Furniture features two basic types of carving. Carved members such as table and chair legs, which are part of the structure of furniture, are carved in the round. Legs and stretchers often feature fluted columns and carved scrolls. Finials are delicately carved in the shape of birds and classical motifs. Carving begins with a block of wood and is rough cut with a saw to form the basic shape. Next, the features of the leg are carved with a variety of chisels, and finally the piece is refined and molded with even more delicate chiseling and sanding. Relief carving is usually done on the surfaces of furniture, and features a variety of motifs. Relief carving begins with a design drawn on wood. A knife or chisel is then used to form a groove around the outside border. Using a variety of chisels and gouges, the background is carved, and then the layers of the design itself. Finally, delicate features such as the leaves and petals of a flower are modeled and refined. Cabinets and casework are often enriched with low relief carving.
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