carving an oak panel

Yesterday my intention was to carve this oak panel for a wainscot chair & photograph many of the steps showing some decision-making that happens when tackling a detailed carving…but then I saw that several cameras here had dead batteries all at once. So while the batteries were charging, I began the carving. All I got of the beginning is this Ipad photo, showing some of the initial V-tool work.

It’s a big panel, one I’ve been saving for I think about 4 years. The carving inside the margins is 12 3/4″ wide by 15″ high. That’s a huge piece of riven oak. This one’s perfect – dead straight all the way from one margin to the other. I’m going to miss it when it’s gone. I started with a vertical centerline, and then struck an arc with a compass that defines the arch at the top. From there, I used some chalk to get the gist of the pattern I wanted. The urn at the bottom I outlined by striking two circles left & right of the centerline, then connecting them with an upper & lower tangent line. From there, everything else is freehand. Next I figure where that vine is that comes from the urn and flows outward left & right then splits in half. The top half connects up to the arch; the bottom  half winds down to form a large round flower. All you need is what I call “approximate symmetry.” The points where the vine splits and goes up & down you can find with a square across the board, then measure out from the center – so the left & right agree.

Once one of the batteries charged, I shot a few photos. Here’s most of the V-tool work done.

After the V-tool work comes background removal. I always use a Swiss-made #5 gouge. It’s about 1/2″ wide. Mine has slightly rounded corners, making it easier to get in & out of places. They come from the manufacturer dead-straight across.

The big flowers aren’t V-tool work. I struck circles to locate them, then use a couple different gouges to strike the outlines of the petal.

In this next photo, I’m using a #7 gouge to define some leaf-shapes that blend out from the vine. Just below where I am working (above in the photo, but below on the panel) is a mistake – I beveled the area where these leaves will go on that vine. Better to define the leaves first, then bevel. Less fragile that way.

Now you can see some of these leaves cut out above the vine – and I’m just about to knock out some background on the next batch.

Then using a few gouges to layer the flowers. They’re hollowed in each petal, and have an inner & outer row of petals.

After a bit, all the roughing-out is done. Then it’s just picking at details. This is where I got yesterday. I’ve started to try to track my time for various operations – it’s been years since I’ve done so. From the blank panel to this was just under 3 hours – a long time for one carving.

Today I finished it. Using the gouge bevel up to give the petals a bit of a bevel themselves.

There’s lots of these shapes cut into leaves all over.

As always, the general notion is “no blank space.”

The finished panel. total time was about 3 3/4 hours.

A question I get a lot is “where can I get designs/images to carve from?”

I’m working towards part of the answer to that question being “from me…” – I’ve been drawing patterns a lot for the past year or so, since the book Joiner’s Work has been done. The drawings started as a coloring book. Then that idea got shelved, and now the idea is sets of loose sheets showing patterns for rails, panels, box fronts.

Here’s an example – this is the design I started with for the wainscot chair panel. I drew it full-scale, based on a couple of related panels. I combined bits of this one with bits of that one. But when I got to carving, some things changed. Nothing major, but here & there some details were easier to fit on the drawing than on the oak. The V-tool is wider than a pencil point. The drawing is a place to begin – that’s all. Now that I figured out what urn I wanted in this panel, I can finish the drawing!

 

You can see the cover of the book is a related panel – that one’s part of a bedstead. Narrower, so less detail.

Here’s the link to the book at Lost Art Press https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work

10 thoughts on “carving an oak panel

  1. ” The drawing is a place to begin – that’s all.” That really was the key for me. I sat with your book open on the bench for a while, distraught that I wasn’t able to exactly copy the examples in the book with the tools I had. Then I realized that the original craftsmen didn’t all have your tools either and I just dove in. It immediately became a whole lot more fun!

    I hope you are able to get the patterns out there. I’d certainly buy them.

  2. Do you bevel the back of the panel after carving so as to have a flat surface to work on? Do you do this initial beveling with a broad axe? Regards, Gary Paddock

    On Mon, Feb 24, 2020 at 7:02 AM Peter Follansbee, joiner’s notes wrote:

    > pfollansbee posted: “Yesterday my intention was to carve this oak panel > for a wainscot chair & photograph many of the steps showing some > decision-making that happens when tackling a detailed carving…but then I > saw that several cameras here had dead batteries all at once” >

  3. When is your chair making class?
    (This summer on Cape Cod. Plymouth Craft, I believe.) And when does registration open?
    Thanks (again) for inspiration.
    Bill Hagan

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