Black Forest Wood Carving


Wood Carving Origins in The Black Forest 


History of the iconic alpine wood carving industry

The craftsmanship of wood carving is a traditional skill which put the Black Forest area famously on the world map. 

The early 1800’s saw the beginning of the wood carving industry in southern Germany and Switzerland. The kick start to the wood carving industry was believed to be brought on my a severe drought and famine which caused a desperate need to find new areas of revenue for the region. The Switzerland government supported and encouraged the timer industry to liaise with the traditional wood carvers of the area. Fast forward to the late 1800’s and wood carving schools were founded in southern Germany and Switzerland. By this time there were Black Forest wood carvings being exhibited in major exhibitions around the world.

Wood Carving is no easy feat and often only the wealthy would adore these exquisite carvings of black forest animals, furniture and eventually clocks in their homes. 

What wood do German and Swiss wood cavers use?

Linden trees (Tiliae lignum)

Lindent trees are commonly found throughout southern Germany and Switzerland. They are part of the lime tree family. The lime tree typically is a light coloured, soft wood with very little grain. The wood has an appropriate density for many types of carving techniques. They are usually big trees so are a popular choice for larger pieces. This wood is typically used for Cuckoo Clock carvings:

See our exquisite Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks featuring the traditional wood carving craftsmanship!

Pear (Pyrus Cummunis)

Also known as the European pear tree, this tree is smaller then the linden tree but has similar density and lack of grain. Because the trees are smaller their wood is more sparse and would be resolved for more finer carvings. 

Maple (Acer Pseudoplantus)

The maple tree is another light coloured wood however the pattern of grain is more pronounced. The pattern and texture of the wood allows it to be the perfect material for achieving a more realistic finish for the illusion of fur or movement in a piece. Carvers would often use particular chisel strokes and techniques to enhance this natural feature of the wood.

Walnut (Juglans regia)

Walnut is the most expensive type of wood types used for Black Forest carvings. It is easily identified by it characteristic grains and wood inclusions. 



How did wood carvers select the right trees?

The wood choice is very important. It was said that German wood carvers would go ‘tree hunting’ in the Black Forest. They would harvest trees in the winter so they were in a dormant state when cut down, reducing the amount of excess moisture content in the branches and leaves. The wood carvers would also look for trees which are growing in the shade of other larger trees. These linden trees would be smaller and would have suffered stunted growth from lack of sunlight, this meant that the tree rings would be closer together and the wood be more denser and stable for carving.

What are the types of Black Forest wood carvings?

Black Forest carvers are typically of forest or alpine animals. You can find animals with a humours twist such s bears smoking pipes or reading books!

Birds, deer, bears and Saint Bernard dogs are common carvings. Cuckoo Clocks usually contain animals common to the Black Forest farm chalet such as pine trees, deer, foxes, dogs, roosters etc. They also commonly carve daily alpine scenes from the 1800’s like hunters and clock peddler. 


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