The Troll Cross

I’m sure you all know by now the Troll Cross is NOT an ancient symbol to keep the trolls away from your animals and family 🙂 Folklore tells us that iron, the metal, was what they used to keep the trolls off. The actual Troll Cross was designed by Kari Erlands in the late 1990’s.

So it all starts with a piece of wood, in this case I used juniper which is my favorite material when carving. The fibers are very fine and it’s a pretty soft wood. The smell is wonderful, so it’s pure joy to work with.

Any carving knife will work as long as it’s got a thin point. This is one of my Mora carving knifes.

I usually start with preparing the piece of wood I want to use. Making it level on both sides will help a lot. Also check for cracks in the wood. You really don’t want to find it later.

Take some time to draw your 2-D template.

Take some time to draw your template. Make it 2-D as a 3-D template won’t do anything for you. The 3-D will happen in your head when you, during the carving process, decide what your creation will look like. I want it to be a bit more, and further down I will show you what that means.

A nice rule is to save some material on every side of your drawing.

Transfer your drawing onto the wood, but save some material around. I do this because my experience is that mistakes are easy to make, and you cut too much. Saving material will let you cut a bevel in the most sensitive place, as in the bottom part on this photo. Just keep your knife scary sharp!

Be very careful when you start carving.

Now you will start carving. One thing when carving wood is that raw wood is more brittle than wood that have been planed or sanded. Cut out the shapen and be aware of the fiber structure. NEVER care against the fibers. Always carve along. The easiest mistake is to carve against the fibers and lose material that is needed, and the worst that could happen is that your piece will break. Note that the size of this troll cross is about 4 cm from top to bottom. The thickness will be about 8 mm on the thickest part which is on the top. So this can’t be messed with. Every cut is important. This is the reason your knife needs to be extremely sharp in it’s whole length. Yes, you will use the very tip of the knife too, so sharpening your tool throughout the whole blade is very important.
Sometimes I drill a hole for the circular hole in the top part, and use a jewellers saw to cut out the hole. These saws have very fine teeth and won’t shatter the wood at all. I do the same in the two bottom parts the get the “legs” out. Be careful as the “legs” break easy.

Now start cutting a rough bevel all around the piece, on both sides.

You will now start cutting a rough bevel all around the troll cross, and it will be done on both sides. On the photo you can see the wood chipped on the right leg, but it didn’t matter as I was to cut much deeper to carve the actual shape later. The part where the wood crosses over itself (middle part) will get really special if you already started thinking in 3-D. As you can see, I started to cut down the lower part and left the crossing part stay thicker. Makes sence? If my explanation is too poor, you may comment this post.

Take a look at where the wood crosses itself. Where I let the wood cross OVER itself I obviously let the wood stay thicker to get the 3-D effect. The part crossing UNDER will ce cut down to make it look like it’s running below. Easy, right? Ask questions if it isn’t clear to you. The following photo will make it a bit easier to understand.

Got it?

This makes it easier to understand, doesn’t it? When cutting the material into levels like this, you also need to think about the ends of the “legs” as they will have to taper all the way out to the points.

Now time for LOTS of tiny cuts.

Now you will get the chance to practise your carving skills. This is when you will need that sharp point on your knife. Tiny cuts along the fibers will soon give you a pretty rounded shape. Maybe I should explain more about cutting along the fibers. Maybe cutting along the fiber direction is a better way? Take a look at the outer rounding of the right “leg”. In the middle of the hight you see the fibers going straight up and down, right? From that middle and downwards you will cut DOWN, and the UP above the middle. I hope you can see the reason why 🙂 And you will have to keep your eyes open for these changes all the time. Always cut along the grain.

When you have used tiny cuts all around the piece it’s time for sanding.

This what it should look like when you’re finished making your tiny cuts. Now the sanding starts., and there will be lots of it. I don’t use a too low grit sandpaper as it will leave deep marks in the wood, and then you will have to use finer grit to get the out. And this will make you lose lots of material. I start with about 600 grit to get all the “corners” off, and go to 800 and ends with 1200 to make it all even and nice. I carve a wooden stick smaller than the negative space in the “legs”, glue sand paper on it and use it like a file to get to every part. This is where some of the shape to the “legs” is made, and it’s all up to you. Later on I will show you the shape I made to one of these Troll Crosses.

This is what a finished Troll Cross can look like.

I use a laquer on mine, but you could use oil or leave it as is. You may not see what I did to the “legs”, but I will show you below.

This is how I make them, but they can also be in a straight level with the main plane.
The satisfaction of making these can’t be explained 🙂

When done, there is no better feeling. The more or less intricate shapes on this piece is a pretty high level of carving, but shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to accomplish. Sure, fine wood carving has it’s own hellish parts, but practise makes perfect. As there are no rules to the shape more than the simple original one, you may do this in any way you want. I would tell you to use a soft but sturdy kind of wood if it’s meant to work as a pendant. You could of course use oak, but there is a risk as your knife will get dull very fast, and this might be the reason for your piece to break easier.

Anyway, if you want to try this, have fun! No rush, just enjoy every cut 🙂
And good luck!

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