Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Carving NW Style Panels


Carving and Painting NW Style Panels



This class is taught by Steve Brown one of the most respected carvers and carving teachers in the NW. Steve has taught previous classes for PTSW in mask carving, tool making, steam bent boxes, bowls and ladles, and panel carving. Panel carving has garnered a lot of interest, so this class will focus on the skills used in relief-carving two-dimensional designs with traditional tools in small yellow cedar

In order to better understand the design and iconography of the Northwest Coast with which we will be working, the class will review the basic conventions of formline design as it is expressed in relief carving. In addition to flat panels, this would also apply to the surfaces of bent-corner boxes and chests, bulged bent dishes, carved bowls, and the wings, fins, and tails of sculptural figures as seen on totem poles and houseposts. Those who wish to paint the designs on their panels before carving them, which is the traditional progression, they should bring appropriate small paintbrushes so they will be able to do so.

Class Description

Using the traditional crooked or bent knife to carve your design is one of the greater challenges of this class. The scale and scope of this project will offer you plenty of chances to learn the optimal uses of these knives to create the fine V-cuts and hollowed areas that are typical of the Northwest Coast two-dimensional tradition.

  •  Carving techniques – V-cuts, beveled cuts, hollowed areas; trigons, crescents, ovoids

  • Formline design - understanding the hierarchy of elements: what gets carved away, what

  • stays on the surface; primary, secondary, and tertiary forms and colors

  • How the formline elements combine to create different creatures; composition techniques

  • Developing your own design

  • Paints and painting - which paints and which colors are traditionally applied to which

  • design elements


At a minimum you will need to the following carving tools to participate in this class:

  • Traditional bent carving knives - small-radius knife and shallow curved knife

  • Classic straight carving knife

You can purchase these carving tools from various vendors or you can to make the knives in the Tool Making Class when it is next offered.

Steve suggests these tools from the following vendors:

Kestrel Tools:  

  • Crooked Knives – C-3 and C-5 (3/4 size standard bend, ¾ not-so- crooked)

  • (The smaller sizes will best fit this scale of work)

North Bay Forge:

  • Crooked knives: Mini Tip Bent Knife and Mini Shallow Bent Knife

  • Small or Medium straight knife

If you do not have tools - we may have some loaner tools but please inquire before registration. Carvers who already own tools are encouraged to bring their carving and sharpening kits with them. The discussions and history of various tools can be great fun.

If you are in the Port Townsend area, Edensaw now carries a variety of North Bay Forge tools. 

You can make these tools, and some adzes, in Steve's NW Carving: Toolmaking and Techniques Class.


This is a class for the beginning carver. We do recommend taking Steve's NW Carving: Toolmaking and Techniques Class but it is not required.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $750

Materials Charge: $65

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.