Norbulingka Institute's Centre for Arts
The woodcarving students, like their counterparts in the thangka painting section, begin their training by drawing on paper. When their skills are sufficient they begin to draw simple designs on wood panels or beams prepared for carving.
Once a design has been drawn onto the wood, the artist drills holes to allow use of a fret saw. This special saw, made of a scored wire held taut on a bamboo frame, enables the craftsman to saw in any direction to remove pieces of wood less than one square centimetre in size.
During training, each student makes his own set of tools that will remain with him for a lifetime. Whether working on soft pine or a much harder wood such as walnut, the artist must always keep his tools sharp so the finished carving is both precise and smooth.
The woodcarvers make traditional and ceremonial carved furniture such as altars of all sizes, elaborate thrones, folding tables, and incense burners. When they are complete, wood carved pieces are polished in the old-fashioned method, or painted in the rich colours of the Tibetan tradition. Some are also embellished with gold leaf.
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