tiger head ice luge

ice jargon

Arts and industries gradually build up a library of useful terms or jargon that outsiders may have trouble understanding. Ice sculpting is no different. Some ice terms are defined below and more will be added as time goes on. Most of these terms are widespread among ice carvers, some less so, and there are even a few that you might find only on this site. Email questions or suggestions to icecarvingsecrets@mac.com.
absolute zero
The theoretical temperature point at which it’s so cold that all motion stops. Absolute zero is at about -273° C.

aluminum welding
Using aluminum plate (1/2” to 3/4” thick) to aid the welding process by “perfecting” the weld surfaces (making them almost perfectly flat) See weld.

can ice or block
Block ice made in a slight tapered “can” or block-shaped mold by suspending the can in freezing brine solution. Even when the water is circulated, can ice blocks will have a characteristic “feather” or core of white ice inside the middle of an otherwise clear block. Upright blocks are slightly wider and thicker at the top. This taper helps the block slide out of the “can” after harvesting. Blocks typically weigh 300 lbs. or more.

channel luge
A luge sculpture that has a channel or track cut into the ice for liquid to flow down. The track is a lot like a bobsled or luge track and probably accounts for the name. See luge.

Clinebell ice or block
Block ice made in a machine from Clinebell Equipment Corporation that circulates the water and freezes the ice from only one direction, resulting in very clear ice blocks after any cloudy ice is shaved off the top. Blocks typically weigh around 300 lbs. and measure 40” tall, 20” wide, and 9 3/4” thick and often are packaged in heavy duty cardboard boxes that simplifies handling, insulation, and tempering of the blocks.

CNC machine
Specifically, CNC stands for Computerized Numerical Control. A CNC machine is essentially a programmable computer controlled router that has found use in many industries. Ice carvers use CNCs for snowfill engraved logos, smaller high-volume ice pieces, or really any type of piece where precise control and/or easy duplication is an asset. The machines can be expensive and they have some limitations, but they are becoming more and more common in the ice carving industry.

An absence or lack of heat energy.

cold ice
All ice is cold, but “cold ice” is ice that’s not tempered and wet. Its surface is dry to the touch.

Similar to snowfill, color effects are created by adding colored sand or paint/gelatin mixtures from the back of a piece of ice and then freezing it in place with snow, slush, or ice.

The process of cutting out the outline or silhouette of an ice carving. It’s usually the first step for a hand carved sculpture from a single block of ice. The result is as if someone had used a giant cookie cutter on the block of ice.

If a competition sculpture collapses during an ice carving competition or after the competition but before judging is complete, then it “crashed”.

dry ice
Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and is VERY cold (-109.3° F, -78.5° C). Dry ice has no water content. Some people call it “hot ice” because the surface will “burn” your skin by freezing it.

A feathery looking white ice core in the middle of an otherwise clear ice block.

Another word for a luge.

glass or glassing
Using heat to clear up and smooth the ice, which makes it look like glass or crystal.

With artificial ice blocks, you harvest ready blocks from an ice block machine. For natural ice, harvesting means cutting blocks free from the frozen surface of a lake or river and then transporting them to storage or to be used.

ice bar
  1. A single block of ice
  2. A free-standing bar for serving drinks or food, made completely from ice
  3. A conventional liquor service bar that includes a refrigerated strip of metal that gradually builds up frost.
  4. A bar where the building and furnishings are composed largely or completely of ice. Also referred to as an ice lounge.

ice farmer
Someone who produces ice blocks as part or all of their profession.

ice groupie
Someone who likes ice carvings, particularly ice carving competitions.

ice lounge
A bar where the building and furnishings are composed largely or completely of ice. Also see ice bar.

Something that’s been frozen into an ice block.

Pronounced “loog,” with the “g” pronounced like the second “g” in “garage”; a sculpture that incorporates a channel or plastic tube designed to control the gravity driven flow of liquid from one part of the sculpture to another. Generally, a bartender pours a drink into the entry point of the luge (often a funnel) and a glass catches the drink at the exit point of the luge. Sometimes, the luge is used to pour drinks directly into the mouth, but this isn’t particularly sanitary. Luges that use a channel cut into the ice will cool the beverage, while luges that use a tube will not. Either way, the liquid poured into the luge should be prechilled as warm liquids will degrade a channel luge faster. See channel luge and tube luge.

marble welding
Using marble instead of aluminum to flatten weld surfaces. Marble tends to crack after repeated uses, however, so aluminum is preferred. See weld.

The water resulting from melting ice.

A tool that generally consists of a flat board with handles and many sharp screws protruding from the opposite side. The screw points are all set at the same level, so the nailboard is an effective tool for flattening ice. Steve Brice invented this very useful tool.

The National Ice Carving Association. This organization has been around since the late 1980’s and is based in the Chicago Metro area. Their website is at www.nica.org

Ice-loving. Pagophilic animals include walruses, seals, polar bears, some penguins, and most ice carvers.

perfect surface
An area of ice that has been surfaced so that it is almost perfectly flat and ready for welding. See weld.

A chemical, such as butane or gum-freeze, that makes a surface colder when the chemical is sprayed on it. Refrigerants can be toxic and/or highly inflammable (or flammable, depending on what you’re used to) and therefore should be used with a great deal of caution.


  1. Another word for a luge
  2. A life-sized slide made from ice rather than metal or other substances.

A mixture of snow and ice that’s used in ice hotel construction (from ICEHOTEL)

Packing and freezing white snow into recesses carved into clear ice to create contrast for a specific design such as a logo.

The process by which ice, a solid, converts directly into a gas, becoming water vapor in the air. The dry air in a walk-in freezer speeds this process, so stored sculptures must be covered so that they don’t deteriorate unnecessarily.

Allowing ice to slowly adjust to ambient temperature so that it won’t fracture from thermal shock during carving or display.

A piece of paper with a design printed at actually size. The template is frozen to an ice block and used as a guide to cut the sculpture. A carver cuts through the template, so templates are generally not reusable.

tube luge
A luge that has a plastic tube embedded into it. The liquid poured through the luge travels through the tube. The liquid is generally NOT cooled significantly because it doesn’t spend enough time in the tubing. See luge.

Attaching two pieces of ice by preparing the surfaces to be joined, placing them in contact with each other, and adding water to complete the frozen bond. The ice must be at the right temperature for the process to work, unless a refrigerant is applied to the ice. See aluminum welding and marble welding.

white ice
Ice frozen from uncirculated water, resulting in opaque, white ice due to trapped air and mineral salts. White ice can be used in conjunction with clear ice to create contrast.

World Ice Sculptors’ Alliance. WISA is or was purported to be made up of “10 companies who have pooled resources to take ice sculpting to a new level.” What companies made up the 10 companies is not completely clear. The basic idea of the alliance was that all the companies used similar CNC technology in carving and that by combining their design libraries, they would have ready access to many designs. As CNC machines have become more common, so has design sharing amongst carving companies that use the same CNC software, so the pooled resources of WISA is no longer the advantage that it once might have been.

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