Kolrosing, an ancient art form

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Blog entry by stefang posted 06-05-2009 05:30 PM 8910 reads 4 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


608 posts in 3465 days

#1 posted 06-05-2009 05:34 PM

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 4270 days

#2 posted 06-05-2009 06:26 PM

Very interesting history lesson.

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

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3986 days

#3 posted 06-06-2009 02:31 AM

great information, a lot like scrim

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4350 days

#4 posted 06-06-2009 02:37 AM

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


35125 posts in 4424 days

#5 posted 06-06-2009 03:55 AM

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 soon moving to Virginia †

View degoose's profile


7234 posts in 3378 days

#6 posted 06-06-2009 07:07 AM

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

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3357 days

#7 posted 06-06-2009 11:19 AM

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 3646 days

#8 posted 06-07-2009 02:35 PM

These are beautiful! More inspiration, thanks!

View woodchic's profile


841 posts in 3381 days

#9 posted 06-09-2009 09:18 PM

I like your work….......very nice!

Robin Renee’


-- Robin Renee'

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 3131 days

#10 posted 01-11-2010 02:53 AM


-- - 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


15881 posts in 3357 days

#11 posted 01-11-2010 12:25 PM

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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