Kolrosing, an ancient art form

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Blog entry by stefang posted 1777 days ago 4908 reads 2 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Awhile back Elaine had a review on some scandinavian kolrosing knives she bought. There seemed to be some confusion about what it was and where it came from. I know a little of the history about kolrosing and have done a little of it myself.

For those of you not familiar with kolrosing, it isn’t really wood carving as such,but it definitely is a woodworking craft which can rise to the status of art when done by creative hands.

Doing kolrosing consists of making incisions, or etching into wood, but not taking out any waste. The incisions are then rubbed with finely ground or sanded bark mixed with oil. This makes the pattern stand out very well. This art form actually originated in Scandinavia among the Laplanders, a nomadic people in the north who moved with their reindeer herds pretty freely between Norway, Sweden and Finland. The descendants of these people are still living In these areas and still herding reindeer, but are less Nomadic than they were earlier.

Kolrosing actually started with the etching of patterns on horn and bone materials and then rubbing the patterns with a mixture of burned out wood coals from their open pit fires and animal fat. I’m not sure, but I think the Inuit people do something similar. The practice has been extended to include kolrosing in wood. They look three dimensional, but are actually flat. Below are some pictures of old kolrosing on bone and horn done by Laplanders and followed by a current example in wood by Norwegian artist Leif Ottar Flaten. Hope you find them interesting. Sorry the pics aren’t of the best quality.



-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

11 comments so far

View kiwi1969's profile


609 posts in 1942 days

#1 posted 1777 days ago

A bit like scrimshaw then. Wonderful how these crafts have survived so long it,s great to see. Especially like the knives. Thanks for the post.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 2746 days

#2 posted 1777 days ago

Very interesting history lesson.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4433 posts in 2462 days

#3 posted 1777 days ago

great information, a lot like scrim

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 2827 days

#4 posted 1777 days ago

wow, yeah, the lower pic definately looks 3D.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Karson's profile


34796 posts in 2900 days

#5 posted 1777 days ago

Great bit of history. I’ve never read anything about it.


-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware †

View degoose's profile


6883 posts in 1855 days

#6 posted 1777 days ago

I learn something new everyday. thanks Mike. May Santa be nice to you.

-- Drink twice... and don't bother to cut... @ For lovers of all things timber...

View stefang's profile


11817 posts in 1834 days

#7 posted 1777 days ago

Glad you liked it. There are many obscure forms of woodworking around the world. It’s a shame they’re not better known because if they were, someone would surely be inspired to take them up as a hobby.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Elaine's profile


113 posts in 2123 days

#8 posted 1775 days ago

These are beautiful! More inspiration, thanks!

View woodchic's profile


826 posts in 1857 days

#9 posted 1773 days ago

I like your work….......very nice!

Robin Renee’


-- Robin Renee'

View Jei'son's profile


946 posts in 1608 days

#10 posted 1558 days ago


-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

View stefang's profile


11817 posts in 1834 days

#11 posted 1558 days ago

Great idea PrairieFire. I would have thought that with so many members from so many parts of the world that you could get members to contribute info on traditional woodworking in their respective countries. There are always some interest products and techniques. I still have a few interesting things I will be making to show folks things made and used in the past here in Norway.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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