This art form in Thailand originated from the temples where religious objects such as Buddha images and pulpits were finely carved. Royal regalia for the court and household objects used by the nobility were also decorated with carving in temple buildings, the doors, shutters, gables and triangular brackets supporting the overhanging roofs were often intricately carved with animal and plant motifs.
Nowadays craftsmen specialize in just one type of carving used in the decoration of a viharn . The modern woodcarving industry itself is a development of only the last few decades.
Traditionally only a few artifacts were commissioned, and the wooden elephant was the most common everyday carved object. The popularity of temple carvings imported from Burma as souvenirs encouraged dealers to get local craftsmen to reproduce them. The reproduction processes, which include aging methods such as burning and soaking in urine, have become so good that even experts have difficulty deciding whether an object is genuinely old.
The scarcity of teak has forced modern carvers to use other woods like that of the rain tree. These woods carve well and are inexpensive. Staining to hide the light colors of the woods has become more common. The carving itself is usually done in the rough in outlying villages near Mae Tha , before the pieces are sent for detailed work in the woodcarving center of Ban Tawai .