Stone Relief Carving

Learning to Carve Stone

I remember when I first tried my hand at stone relief carving I was full of trepidation. Worried about chipping off the wrong piece. How to make a sculpture that described the forms with only using a few centimeters of depth.


As always preparation is vital. Choosing the right design. Not to complicated to begin with. Details can be added afterwards. I usually begin with a drawing, outlining the important contours. I then transfer this onto the stone.

Depending on the design I might make a template by cutting around the shape. Or by using carbon paper and tracing paper.

I select a good quality of stone. Finding the finest grain. Looking out for any signs of cracks, big shells that might make it difficult to carve.

Celtic knotwork man
Celtic knotwork man


Having a basic set of tools is all you need to begin with. Pointed chisel, flat edged chisel, claw chisel, small hammer. With each chisel, you can carve lots of different textures. ( With softer stones I find old wood carving chisels can be quite good if you’re on a small budget.)

Having transferred my design onto the stone, I then decide what areas will stand out the most. Carving around these shapes with the flat chisel. Then roughing out the depth with either the pointed or claw chisel. This is repeated several times until I’m happy with the depths.

Flower Relief Carvings
Flower Relief Carvings

Next Step

Once the profiles are in place I then begin rounding off the forms with the claw and flat ended chisels. Its quite important to keep turning your stone to see how your relief is shaping up. Depending on your light source this can really change how you see your carving.


I try and use lots of textures to accentuate the design. This helps give the illusion of depth. Some surfaces can be smoothed using sand paper. Others left with the tool-marks.Its really up to you to experiment and see the possibilities.

Stone Cross
Stone Cross

Going Forward

If you become bitten by the stone carving bug? You can always look out for Stone Carving Workshops to help you on your way and perfect your techniques. I’m still learning!

One thought on “Stone Relief Carving

  1. kevin deegan says:

    hi your work remindes me of ken Thompsons work very similar particularly the gaelic look keep the good work up…kev

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