Immerse Yourself in Letter Carving with Paul Rolfe

Letter carving is seldom taught but has many useful applications and is becoming an increasingly popular form of woodcarving. Letter carving is an ornamental technique that is often used to add a special touch to your relief carvings. At the Folk School, we have an upcoming ornamental letter carving class taught by Instructor, Paul Rolfe, where you can learn the traditional approach to carving letters in wood. 

His class, ” The ABC’s of Ornamental Letter Carving,” from March 10-15, explore both incised and raised letters as you carve a message on a keepsake, a piece of furniture, or a sign for your home or business. Enjoy our interview with Paul below to learn more about the class and his experience as a carver. You can easily register for Pauls’s upcoming class today on our website!

JCCFS: Tell us more about your upcoming Woodcarving class, “The ABC’s of Ornamental Letter Carving” happening in March. What will folks learn and what can they expect to leave this class with?

PR: In this class, we will discuss the many useful applications of letter carving. We’ll spend time going over sign layout and drawing letters. The goal of the class is mostly to become familiar with how to carve letters in wood through practice. Students can then carve a project to take home that can be a gift, a sign, or even house number. If a student wishes to add some relief carving to their project, there will be a opportunity to do that as well. Students can also pair this class with my Weekend Relief, March 15-17, to further their relief carving skills. My class will be beginner-friendly and all levels of woodcarvers are welcome to attend.

JCCFS: We love when you teach here at the Folk School! What do you most look forward to when coming back to our campus? 

PR: The atmosphere at the Folk School is so inspiring for both students and instructors. There is something for everyone to try out and learn without the pressure of achieving greatness!

Paul’s amazing relief carving and spoons.

Paul in front of Keith House with his handcarved Bellamy Eagle .

JCCFS: Tell us a little more about yourself for those who are unfamiliar. How did you get started?

PR: I started wood carving 45 years ago. I am trained in traditional techniques in wood carving as well as furniture design and construction. For a number of years, I operated my own business doing mostly commission work for individuals, churches and businesses. I’ve carved models for casting of commercial figures, built ecclesiastical furnishings and sculptures, and reproductions with emphasis on carved details. I have carved many signs for individuals, churches and businesses. (This is where I got extensive practice in letter carving.) After studying human anatomy, I have carved many portraits of people, both in the round and in relief. In 2010, I published a book titled, “How to Carve Bellamy Eagles”. (Like the one that I carved on the Keith House.) I enjoy teaching classes and have been teaching for years at the Folk School, Klingspor’s Woodworking Shop locations and other venues in NC. I also demonstrate my work every year in the Village of Yesteryear exhibit at the NC State Fair in Raleigh.

JCCFS: What’s one piece or craft object you’ve made recently that you are proud of, and why?

PR: The artwork that I have done for churches gives me great satisfaction because of the much appreciated message in the carved images that I have created. I’m also fond of the portraits of people that I have done.

JCCFS: Thinking about your extensive experience in Woodcarving, what tips would you give an aspiring craftsperson?

PR: Seek good quality tools and materials to start off with. Beginners often get discouraged with their first attempts and think that they’ll never be good at the art or craft, but it’s possible that their struggles are from using poorly chosen tools and/or materials.

JCCFS: Where can folks find you if they want to stay up to date on your work?

PR: My website is and I’m on Facebook at @paul.rolfe

One of Paul’s students work.

Upcoming Classes with Paul

The ABC’s of Ornamental Letter Carving

March 10-15, 2024

Learn the traditional approach to carving letters in wood. Explore both incised and raised letters as you carve a message on a keepsake, a piece of furniture, or a sign for your home or business. Bring your own project(s) or get suggestions from the instructor. (Pair with Weekend Relief, March 15-17, to further your relief carving skills.)

Weekend Relief

March 15-17, 2024

Learn the century-proven techniques of carving wood in relief, or carving ornamentation out of a (usually) flat surface. Develop a deeper understanding of wood as an art medium and explore the many applications of this unique art form. Bring your own simple design to carve or choose from provided patterns. Return home with at least one finished piece to display and admire.

About Paul Rolfe

Paul Rolfe started woodcarving in 1974. By 1982, he was known professionally under his company name, Raleigh Carving Company. During his career, Paul has carved originals for commercially-cast reproductions, signs, portraits, statues, ecclesiastical furnishings for churches, awards, and antique furniture reproductions. He has taught traditional woodcarving techniques at City of Raleigh art centers, North Carolina State University Craft Center, and at Klingspor’s Woodworking Shop locations across North Carolina. He is the author of the book, “Carving Bellamy Style Eagles.”

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