incised w/gouges versus V-tool

Richard Francis, one of the readers of this blog, was kind enough to send me some photographs he shot at the V&A in London, of the paneling I had been studying from published photos & drawings. Thanks, Richard. (well, I got this one sideways…) (here’s the previous discussion of this material: )

panel, Bromley-by-Bow, early 17th c
panel, Bromley-by-Bow, early 17th c

My first version was outlined with a V-tool, which leaves a characteristic beveled edge to the lines. 

PF half-pattern, V-tool outline
PF half-pattern, V-tool outline
I decided that was not what I was seeing in Richard’s photo. So today I tried another version, in which the curves were marked out by incising the oak with various carving gouges to define the shapes.
incised version
incised version

So I think the way I will approach it will be to layout with a compass, and then use the gouges & chisels to incise the pattern, then cut down the background, followed by shaping the surface. Next time I get to London I plan on spending a good amount of time studying this same pattern repeated umpteen times throughout the room…I’ll bring a flashlight/torch…

3 thoughts on “incised w/gouges versus V-tool

  1. Peter-

    In the v-tool carving you have a wonderful v grove down the middle of the riddenwork. That in my opinion lights up the carving. In the incised carving the grove is missing. My question is if you where going to add the grove down the middle of the incised version when would be the best time to add the v-tool work?

  2. Hi Nathaniel. I never finished the carvings, (either one) – but you’re right, that central V-tool incised line really livens the thing up a bit. I usually cut any centerline like that after cutting both outside lines. That way the 3rd line in the center can be made lighter or heavier as the case may be. Usually lighter, to lessen the risk of breaking out the “positive” section of the bands.

  3. Peter and Nathaniel: First off, let me say that my bench instruction in carving consists only of a Follansbee wonderful 3-hour short course. However, Hasluck, Manual of Traditional Wood Carving, a 1911 English book, may be helpful. It was reprinted by Dover in 1971. It can also be read for free as a Google book on the web. Pages 60-78 discuss incised and relief carving. For Hasluck incised carving is simple V-tool work on a surface without any ground. Relief carving is set into a surface with gouges and chisels and grounded. (Peter’s second version of the V&A carving) Relief carving may be modeled after this, though the flat surface of strap work is not. Much carving is a mixture of incised and relief carving where the edge of the pattern is incised with the V-tool but the ground removed. (Peter’s first V&A version.) The text suggests that when setting in a relief carving with gouge and chisel breaking out thin patterns such as veins can be avoided by first incising with a V-tool 1/8 inch outside the pattern. Hey, I know it is another step but I suspect that the very thin strip outside the pattern will break away before the vein. Your call.

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