Introduction: Fleur De Lis (Basswood)

A fleur-de-lis is a very common design in the European heraldic. The word 'fleur' means in french flower and the word 'lis' means a lily, fleur de lis is literally translated to flower of lily.

In this instructable I will teach you how to carve a fleur-de-lis out of basswood and explain how to handle the grain of wood when woodcarving. So let's get started!


  • Plank of basswood (Other wood can be used like cherry or walnut, but basswood is the most easy and yields the best result. I advise to not use pine wood as it splinters really easily)
  • Fretsaw
  • Chisel (optional)
  • V-chisel
  • U-gouge (#10/#11)
  • #3 gouge

Step 1: Drawing

Starting out with a plank of basswood, it can be sawed to the preferred size. Now we can start drawing our design onto the basswood.

If you find it hard to draw the design, you could start sketching it on paper and then when you got a good design, transfer it on the wood using carbon paper. You place the carbon paper between the wood and your design on paper, you then start tracing your own design using a pen. This transfers your design on to the wood.

Next up is sawing the outline of the design!

Step 2: Saw the Outline

Using a fretsaw, saw your design out of the wood. Follow the outlines which you created in the previous step. This results in a flat piece of wood but already having the outline of the fleur-de-lis.

Using 120-grit sandpaper clean up the rough edges created by your saw .

Step 3: Woodcarving Basics

In the following steps we will use different types of gouges to round over edges, create the mid-section and carve the midrib. Before you start using the gouges, it is important to know how the wood grain affects the way you cut the wood using a gouge.

Wood is built up of wood fibers, these fibers all lie next to each other and stretch out over the length of the plank. You can think of the fibers as minuscule straws. The direction of these straws is what the grain direction is.

So what does this have to do with carving wood? Well, whenever you cut into the wood you want the fiber, the straw you cut in to be supported by other straws. This means that the next straw you reach in your cut has to be longer than the first straw you cut in.

Using words, this seems like a complicated idea but when illustrated it is a lot easier to understand. The last image in the attachments shows the correct direction in which to make a cut. These tubes you see are the wood fibers that we talked about earlier. As you can see the length of the fiber increases in the direction of the cut. This way your fiber is supported. If you cut into the wood in the wrong direction, the wood could split but will most likely results in a jagged cut.

If it is still unclear have a look at the video below from the youtube channel "Stumpy Nubs"

Step 4: Carve Mid Section

First we will use a U-gouge to free the mid section of the surrouding wood. Draw an elongated ellipse in the middle for the mid section. Look at the design in Step 1, if you are unsure about what to draw. Next cut in to the wood surrounding the mid section, and trace around the mid section just not removing your sketch lines.

Now use the inside of a #3 small gouge to round over the edges of the mid section. Keep the grain direction in mind when making the cuts. If you are unsure about the direction of the cut look at the image above.

Finally, remove wood at the green parts as seen in the last image. Gradually remove more wood (depth), till you reach the mid section.

Step 5: Round the Edges

We will now round over all the edges (except for the inside edges) of the 6 leafs, use the inside of a #3 gouge to round over the leaf's edge. Again it is important to keep the grain direction in mind otherwise you will not get smooth cuts. The direction of the cuts will be showns in the images above.

Step 6: Carve the Midrib

Although a fleur-de-lis does not have an actual midrib, I liked how it would look and the extra element it will provide. The midrib normally is the central vein of a leaf and we will only carve it on the middel top leaf.

Start out by drawing two lines starting at the mid section, these lines converge towards each other and they meet at the top of the leaf.

With a V-gouge start tracing the outline of the midrib, after this use the inside of a #3 small gouge to round over the midrib. Using the same gouge round over the area around the midrib, this way the midrib seems to be on top of the leaf.

Step 7: Hollow Inside Edge Leaf

This time we will hollow the edge instead of rounding the edge. The only difference is that this time we will cut with the outside of the gouge instead of the inside, this will result in a hollow edge instead of a round edge. Do this for the inside edge of the four outside leafs.

Look at the image above for the correct direction to cut. For the bottom two leafs, do not make the cut too deep or you won't have a leaf left.

Step 8: Finish

That is it! You succesfully carved your fleur-de-lis!

If your woodcarving has a lot of rough edges or splinters you could try sanding everythingwith sandpaper BUT doing so will result in the wood to lose its shine and look a lot more dull. In case your gouges were not sharp enough or some more practice was needed to make clean cuts, you could still opt for the sandpaper otherwise try to clean up everything using your gouge.

Normally I would treat my woodcarvings with boiled linseed oil, this will result in a warm brown color of the basswood as can be seen in the last image above. This time I chose not to because of the existence of darker spots in the wood that will stick out like a sore thumb when treated with oil.

If there are any questions, let me know in the comments!

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