Even if you aren’t into period details, learning how to carve a simple scallop shell gives you the foundation to carve virtually anything you want. Because a shell is a three-dimensional object, it provides a more in-depth carving lesson than chip or relief carving.
While two-dimensional carving can be helpful in teaching carving basics, it’s not until you begin carving in the third dimension that you truly need to understand grain direction. Sure, you have to deal with it to some degree in relief carving, but it takes on a whole new meaning in three dimensions.
Understanding grain direction is the single most important skill to learn when it comes to woodcarving (followed closely by sharpening). Although most scallop shells are relatively flat in nature, they still provide enough topographical change to drive home the lessons that will take you to new sculptural highs.