Monabat Kari is a branch of the wood industry that is considered an artistic technique. It involves carving on wood and a woodcarver is someone who does the carving on the wood. This is a Persian Handicraft dating back to a time where humans were acquainted with sharp tools and started to cut wood.
In Iran, it has a long history and is a reminder of the past. It can be argued that the Iranian wood carving art history goes back to the first time Iranians got to know wood, making the history of wood inseparable from the history of Monabat Kari, therefore, wood carving has come a long way in reaching the present state. Currently, this art is a prevalent activity all over Iran with cities like Golpayegan, Esfahan, Shiraz, Abade, Malayer, Shahrod, etc, being the leaders.
History of Wood Use in Iran
According to the research and findings of historians, using wood in Iran dates back to the stone age. Using wood to build houses by the indigenous people of Iran before the Aryan migration is considered to be 4200 BC. The ancient Iranians used wood to make various tools and the pieces of wood obtained in one of the tombs of Fasa city in Fars province 5000 years is a testament to this fact.
In the Timurid era, the wood carving style of the Mongols continued and of the good examples of this era, one can refer to the two-door belonging to the second half of the fifteenth century, which are preserved in the Metropolitan Museum. During the Zandiyyah and Qajar period, Monabat Kari declined and smaller pieces like mirror frames replaced the construction of huge inlaid doors and pieces.
The Wood Used for Iranian wood carving art
The most important basic material in Iranian Monabat Kari is wood. Choosing the right wood is one of the most essential steps in this art. Wood is a product of trees. The kind of wood appropriate has a fine and firm texture, which is usually obtained from trees with broad leaves. Of course, not every tree with broad and wide leaves is not suitable for this art as they might have a coarse and heterogeneous texture. In the following we explain the woods used in Iranian Monabat Kari that are prevalent in Iranian markets:
Walnut tree wood:
walnut, cultivated in the majority of Iran, is native to Iran and China and is found in northern Iran up to 1500m above sea level. The outer wood is gray tinged with light brown and the inner wood is light-to-dark brown. The wood is relatively heavy and can absorb paint to a good degree. It has regular and irregular fibers with beautiful motifs. This wood is one of the best woods for Iranian wood carving and has high strength.
Beech grows in Europe, West Asia, Iran, and Turkey. In Iran, it is distributed from 650 to 2000 meters above sea level. The red outer wood and the reddish-brown inner wood have parallel and uniform fibers with no odor, relatively stiff, heavy, and relatively resistant to impact. It absorbs color to a good degree. After walnut, it is the best wood for Persian wood carving art and has high popularity in Iran.
Plane tree’s wood:
In Iran, Tehran in particular is one of the most abundant trees. The outer wood is light to reddish-brown. Its old wood resembles beech. Its wood is from broad-leaved families and is used in Iranian wood carving art.
The Essential Tools for Monabat Kari
The cave is one of the most important tools in Persian wood craving that, despite the long passage of time, it hasn’t changed much, which is also the case for other tools of this craft. Caves are sharp tools usually comprised of three parts. Caves have a plastic or wooden handle. They are the most important tool for peeling and cutting. Overall, there are 4 types of caves used in Iranian wood carving art, with the rest being variations of these.
Parts of a piece that has an arc or cannot be smoothed with other tools are finished by file. The file has treads all over it. Files have different shapes and are generally classified into round, rectangular, triangular, semicircular, and flat categories.
It is used to hit the cave. The hammer used to be made of wood and now it is made of compressed plastic and/or wood. Of course, some woodcarvers make their own hammers and stick a thin rubber head on them. They use a wooden or plastic hammer for four reasons.
- To reduce the noise when hitting a cave
- To not damage the handle
- Because it has a lighter weight than a metal hammer, making woodcarvers less tired.
- Because the head of the wooden hammer is larger, hence it’s easier to work with.
How to transfer a pattern on wood for wood carving art
The following are ways by which a pattern can be transferred on wood.
Transferring a pattern by carbon paper: In this method, first, we place the carbon paper on wood and then place the pattern on it, now, we gently draw the lines. After that, we remove the carbon paper and the pattern to see the final result on the wood. This pattern has numerous applications in Persian Monabat Kari.
Transferring a pattern directly: This method requires a skillful woodcarver with a total mastery of design to pull off the pattern directly on the wood.
The woodcarver should draw the pattern with complete symmetry. This is the simplest way to get the job done only if the woodcarver is well-versed in design.
Transferring a pattern by photocopy method: In this method, we photocopy a pattern and glue it on the wood. Then, we begin carving off the glued pattern. This method is good in terms of time-saving but the end result is not satisfactory.
Transferring a pattern by the needle method: In this way, the pattern is drawn on paper and then the lines are dotted by a needle.
Afterward, some soot is poured into a thin sock and the pattern is laid on the wood and the sock is dotted, drawing an outline of the pattern. This method is too time-consuming to be used often by woodcarvers.
Transferring a pattern by paper greasing: In this method, the pattern is drawn on sewing paper and then submerged in oil. Afterward, the pattern is laid on a wood and a pencil is used to draw the lines, transferring the pattern on the wood. This is the most common method.
The Wood Craving Steps
- The woodcarver should first choose a pattern
- Then the woodcarver should transfer the pattern on a wood
- The workpiece should be attached to a clamp and if necessary, the wood surface should be oiled to be smooth
- After a while, the pattern should be separated from the background by a cave.
- Then, the background should be flattened and smoothed by a cave.
- Finally, the pattern should be shaped by various caves and be decorated.
Source: Tuji H. Wood carving. Tehran: Armaghan; 2001