Time Flew — PackRat in my Future!

Packrat — what the heck’s a Packrat you say; well check it out HERE.  Hard to believe that almost a month has gone by since the last post I wrote but oh boy, what a month it’s been! Diane and I left Scottsdale on the 4th. of July before the sun was up to beat the 110+ degree heat.  We figured correctly that this would be the best time to beat the holiday traffic.  Once we got home the packing process began.  We had decided that since we were buying a home in Phoenix there wasn’t any sense in renting a trailer just to bring it to Las Vegas, unload and then re-load it to make the move.  Instead, we rented a storage space and filled that up with about half a dozen pickup truck loads.

It’s amazing how much “stuff” you accumulate in 20 years!  We were absolutely brutal in deciding what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, and what to take to the dumps!  So far, the dumps has seen us 5 times!  All of the solvents, stains, flammable stuff, etc. were taken to the Sin City Woodworkers meeting and up for grabs to the members.  I’ve been active in that group since it’s beginning 7 years ago and gave my last demonstration that night.

I won’t bore you with all of the details but this moving process has been quite trying.  So much paperwork, signatures, requirements and timelines to meet but now it seems as if the finish line is in sight.  At our selling end, all the requirements have been met such as the inspection, appraisal, and loan process.  As for the buying end, all we’re waiting on is the appraisal and that shouldn’t be any problem.  Here are a couple of highlights from the garage sale:

Diane and I had quite a collection of art and woodworking books which are heavy to move.  After brutally going through and only keeping our favorites we ended up with three good sized boxes of them at the sale.  Honestly didn’t feel that there was much market for them but bundled them all for a fair price to an on-line, ebay book seller — nice!  The weekend we chose had the disadvantage of being one of the hottest with temps 110-114!  At our neighbor advice we also bought bottled water and added to our profits selling them at $1.00 each.  Unbeknownst to us, our neighbors a couple of doors down and across the street had also planned a garage sale so there was lots of traffic.  Saturday was the busiest and after closing the doors around 1:00 pm we rested then celebrated with dinner and a movie!  Sunday was a bit slower, well honestly a lot slower!

Anything that didn’t sell was donated so that someone else can benefit from our things.  Really, the attitude you need going into donating and selling your “stuff” is that you’ve bought it and gotten your pleasure and use from it so now let someone else enjoy it.  Anything not used during the last year was pretty much “outtathere!”; had to be brutal.  The next big step is the packing.  The garage/shop alone took me a couple of days.  Again, being brutal I needed to decide whether or not that jig I made 3 years ago and haven’t used since warranted the space and weight to take with — most things lost out and ended up going to the dumps or another woodworker.  Same for the household items, Diane did a phenomenal job weeding out those items we really didn’t need any longer or use very often.  We both feel that part of the adventure of making the move is adding new “stuff” as we find a need for it.

Made Sgt. June 1970 Marble Mountain Vietnam

Made Sgt. June 1970 Marble Mountain Vietnam


For example, I had a couple of albums of faded, out of focus pictures from my Vietnam days in the Marine Corps.  Kept a few like this one when I made E-5 but other than that there was no real value in keeping all of them.  Same with high school pictures that were of poor quality to begin with and now faded and brittle.  Did keep my senior yearbook because I’ve kept in touch with some of my friends via Facebook.  My daughter was the recipient of selected pictures of her parents when we were younger, she got a kick out of those and so did the grandsons!


As for moving and packing, best advice I can give is to get boxes that are similar in size, sturdy, have lids, and are free.  Best place we found for that was Total Wine, those boxes are designed to hold some heavy stuff and the way they open them allows us to close and tape securely.  We also subscribe to a meal service called Blue Apron and their boxes are super strong.  Adam and Kim use them as well so have been saving the boxes for us which is a great help.  At this point, Diane’s once art oriented studio looks more like a warehouse as does the shop and storage shed.

After finding them free on Craigslist we probably have enough picture sized boxes to take Diane’s paintings down and pack away.  For me, that’s like the final nail in the coffin;  those blank walls give this process a sense of finality and although we’re both looking forward to this new adventure, twenty years in one house is a long time.  Wrapping and packing up the furniture I’ve made to fill this house will be the last step in Las Vegas but unpacking them will be our first step in Phoenix.

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Scottsdale Adventure Coming to a Close

Ready to go to storage.

Ready to go to storage.

Our lease is almost up so we’re preparing to return to our home in Las Vegas.  It’s been quite an adventure and great way to celebrate our 20th. Anniversary!  Renting a trailer to haul everything back to Las Vegas and then do it again in less then two months seemed silly.  It was cheaper to rent a storage space then to rent another U-Haul trailer.  This picture shows my workplace of the last 6 months disassembled and ready to go.  Diane is doing the same with her studio and the first load went into storage this morning.  The plan is to have it all there by Sunday, sleep on the floor here, and head for home on the 4th. of July.  Since that’s a holiday we’re hoping that traffic will be light.

I did manage to finish the last two frames so I’ll share those on this, the final Scottsdale Blog.  The one inspired by that old carving book turned out rather nicely, if I do say so myself!  I blogged about it HERE.  Although I said it was the final frame it turned out that I had time to do one more!  Just as I completed the gilding and was preparing to do the toning the weather here turned up the heat, we’re talking 112-119 degrees!  I honestly don’t mind the heat but using the casein to tone was out of the question, even indoors.  Being water based it tends to dry quickly and the effect is one that is streaky.  Since I wanted to experiment with toning with oil based paints (from Diane) thinned with Gamsol this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  It dries much slower which is a plus and a negative.  It means I need to wait longer before the frame is completely done.  It may be hard to tell from these pictures but this was the process:

By experimenting with cheesecloth to remove it a slight textured surface was left on the panel.  After drying for 2 days the last step was waxing with Liberon and a cotton ball.  In addition to that, rottenstone was used to replicate dust in the carved areas.  Even at this stage, areas could be brought back almost to the original gilded finish.  Here is what it looks like now that it’s done:

The size of this one is 12″x 12″ and I personally like how it came out.  There’s enough flow to the design without being busy.  As much as I enjoy creating frames for Diane, marketing and selling them to other artists is going to be a priority once we get settled in the new house in Phoenix.  Speaking of that, there’s a phrase I’m becoming all to familiar with in the real estate world: due diligence meaning check it out carefully or you might get burned!  Every step of this process has a due date, then a response date, and then something else comes up.  It really is out of your hands so thankfully we have faith in both of our agents; selling in Las Vegas and buying here in Phoenix.

The other frame completed is what I referred to as the 9/10 frame because of the size gouge needed to cut the design.  You can refresh your memory on it HERE if you’d like.  Both of these frames were gilded with the same gold leaf but this one had a red undercoat vs. the yellow on the other one.  Also, maybe due to the heat there was more faulting of the leaf and it didn’t seem to grab onto the size as well.  This resulted in a more “rustic look” for this frame.  The oil pigments used on this were in the olive green family, thankfully Diane supervised the mixing of it.  At first it was way to green and I would have never thought that a purple was needed to tone it down.  She gave me a lesson on color wheel theory which hopefully I’ll remember in the future.  Speaking of the future, another thing to explore once we’re settled is water gilding with 22kt. gold leaf.  Having done some in the past I’m familiar with the process but aware of the added expense but mostly the extra time needed to successfully accomplish that.  No comparison to precious gold gilding!

This frame used the same molding (Foster Planing Mill #95) and measures 11″ x 14″.  Both are available for sale but will be left in our storage place here.  Plan to bring them there this Saturday so if you’re interested in either of them let me know before then.  So for now, it’s back to Las Vegas to pack, have a garage sale, and hopefully do something in my shop.  Plan to bring back my portable bench and dovetail tools — it’s been too long since I’ve done that and I’m ready to leave the carving chisels here in storage.

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Last Scottsdale Frame: #9/10 Design

Mostly Gilded --- #9/10 Gouge

Mostly Gilded — #9/10 Gouge

With the remaining, pre-joined frame we brought with us to Scottsdale I wanted a design that bridged Art Nouveau and western style and this seems to fit that requirement.  I’m calling it the #9/10 design because that was the size of gouge needed to evenly divide that convex area.  The picture above shows the gilding in progress; just a portion of it is ungilded.  It was a tricky process between the convex surface, straight cuts, and textured areas!

Designing a carving is the challenge.  I wanted to incorporate some sort of repeating pattern in that tricky, convex area of the molding.  Looking through the various Pinterest boards at Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs helped to come up with this.  If it were in a piece of reclaimed lumber I could see a western, desert type landscape in this frame once completed.  This frame is 11″ x 14″ so the short leg was done first.  To come up with  proportions that were pleasing to my eye, the initial design was drawn on paper.  Keeping both sides of the corner the same seemed correct but the center one design was increased proportionally.  Sometimes you need to use that math you thought you never would!  Turning the two sides into a fraction and dividing;  11/14 gave me about .78 so the center carving was increased by 75% and centered.  I think it worked. Here’s a slideshow of the design process:

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Now it was time to carve this, challenging to carve a convex surface evenly, I suppose a back bent chisel of the correct sweep would have worked but not having one did the best I could.  By texturing the carved out area any discrepancies will be disguised.

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Hold, pivot, and never lose sight of the line!

Hold, pivot, and never lose sight of the line!

A straight cut is needed where these elements joined the background area the will be removed.  A V-tool leaves a valley so that wouldn’t  work, I turned to this “specialty tool” I made from an old skew chisel and a golf ball.  You can see how it’s held to do outlines for the design, works well for me!  When using a knife to make the vertical cuts my hand gets in the way and I can’t see the line, this golf ball handle allows me to hold the tool vertically, pivot easily, and never lose sight of the line.  Maybe something like this would work for you too!

Notice that in picture 3, maintaining a straight line with the long bent parting tool was difficult, probably since that surface is convex.  Once all of the carving was complete, a tadpole sander with a v-shaped profile was used to straighten it out enough to look hand cut rather then mass produced, production work.  After a light sanding the frame was given a coat of red burnisher/sealer prior to the oil gilding process.  We have about a week and a half before the lease is up here in Scottsdale and we return to our home in Las Vegas.  I plan to at least get this frame sealed with shellac before then, can’t guarantee getting it toned but we’ll see!

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Gilding the Final Frame

Well for starters, this may not be the final frame since I have one left and a couple of weeks to go.  There is one more frame with this profile that measures 11″ x 14″.  As far as our move goes we signed a contract to sell the Las Vegas home Saturday (6/18) so now we need to work out close of escrow dates with our, hopefully, home here in Phoenix!  I do enjoy my carving but am very ready to work on furniture again.

Last Wednesday I attended the Arizona Fine Woodworkers meeting (my third) and shared a carved and gilded frame.  There was a lot of interest in it and the process of oil gilding which most knew very little about.  The teacher in me thought that okay, this is an opportunity to share my technique!  So,  for those of you that asked about it at the meeting, here is a short video where I lay one 5″ x 5″ composition gold leaf:

The texture of the leaf looks really “funky”, my thoughts are that the reflections from the shininess of the leaf is the cause.  As always my usual disclaimer that I don’t have hi-tech equipment so the quality may not be up to par — can’t complain about the price though!   Once the entire frame has been gilded it’s time to press the leaf firmly into the size.  The old word for size is “mordant” which I kind of like the sound of!  When laying leaf you want to develop your method and stick to it, mine is to begin at a left corner and then work my way around towards the right.  This way, the overlap of one leaf to the next is consistent.  The reason that’s important is for when you press it down firmly into the mordant.  For my technique, this needs to be done from the right side towards the left to avoid lifting the overlap and possibly ripping the leaf.  A little bit of that is nice in that it shows the lay lines.  See if these pictures help explain that:

Compare what the leaf looks like in the left and right hand pictures.  Notice how it’s smoother on the right?  That’s because the leaf has been pressed firmly into the mordant with a Norton dry dust cloth.  These also have a bit of abrasiveness which begins to tone down the brassiness of the composition gold.  Once the frame has dried for a minimum of 24 hours, 4/0 Liberon, oil-free steel wool is used to eliminate the brassiness and then the frame is protected with several coats of blond shellac.  This is applied with an air brush.

My preference is to use slow-set, oil based size which this time I did in the house rather than outside on the balcony.  Here in Phoenix we’re hitting record high temps of around 120 degrees so I was concerned about the size setting up way to quickly.  For this frame, the burnisher sealer chosen was yellow, also from LA GoldLeaf.  Here are a few pictures  of the completed frame:

Now it’s a waiting game, first for the frame to cure completely prior to toning and then for the folks we’re under contract with to purchase their home to accept the time frame we need for close of escrow — good Lord willing that will all come together.

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Final Scottsdale Frame?

1-InitialDesign-June-2016 Frame - 1I’ve been debating over whether or not to publish this blog or actually to even get it started!  I’m in the process of starting a frame but since I’m really unsure of the outcome (as always) and wasn’t sure it would be good for “public consumption”.  You’ve probably guessed my decision is to go ahead and start the blog irregardless of the final outcome — after all,  my tag line is to share my discoveries as I pursue this craft!

Foster Planing Mill No. 95

Foster Planing Mill No. 95

I have two frames left that were brought to Scottsdale already assembled.  This frame is 12″ square and made from Foster Planing Mill molding #95 which has a pronounced Ovolo shape for carving.  Knowing that this convex shape would be challenging to carve added to my “publishing” dilemma!  What the heck; nothing ventured = nothing gained and there is a big dumpster pretty close to my apartment door.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 2.53.02 PMThe inspiration for this design came from an older woodcarving book by Charles Marshall Sayers — still available on Ebay.  The date on my copy is 1942!  You can see in the picture at the top of the post that it is done on a flat frame which would make it much easier.  I’ve mentioned in the past that there doesn’t seem to be much written about carving frames, lots of video’s but not too much in the way of step by step processes.  So, that means I’ll just discover and share along the way what I learn.  To be honest, these blogs help me as much as they hopefully help you, my blog followers.  Much easier than writing hand written notes, sticking them in a notebook, adding pictures, and then trying to find them again.  This way, everything’s as close as my MacBook!  The first step was to draw the design on a piece of graph paper.  After lining out the rectangular area for half of the pattern a compass was used to draw in the major sweeping curves for the center of the design. That can be seen in the first picture.  By guesstimation the spacing of the leaf like elements were plotted using the units on the graph paper and drawn free hand.  Although my drawing skills aren’t the greatest my thought is that even if the lines were all drawn exact the chances of carving them all exact are slim to none, besides; get a CAD program if you want a sterile machine look!  The final step was to copy that design onto a piece of tracing paper.  This can now be used  with a very soft (6B) pencil to transfer the design to the frame.

If you’re unfamiliar with this technique of transferring allow me to explain.  Because the lead is so soft it transfers to the tracing paper on your initial draw.  By flipping the paper over so the side you drew on is on the wood, when you trace the design that soft lead acts like a piece of carbon paper and transfers to the wood.  Flip it over again and now you have even more of the soft lead acting like carbon paper.  Continue to trace, flip, trace, flip all the way around the frame.  You can refine it as needed but this will give you a consistent pattern to follow.

Let the carving begin!  After much arguing between me, myself, and I; this was the method I decided to try.  Break up similar elements of the carving and do them on each side one after the other.  My other thought was to do one side completely, rotate the frame, do the next, and so on.  My theory is that if I carve each element on each side in succession there’ll be a better chance of them all looking similar — yep, time will tell!  I began with the divot at the center of each leg:

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Next up were the two round shapes at the top of the center point.  At first they were to be outlined with a v-chisel but decided on this method instead:

It’s become apparent that between the curvature of the molding and the angle I can get with the gouges, sanding will be needed to smooth this out as well.  Now it’s on to the leaf like sections starting with the three from the center point:

Again, sanding will be needed to refine and soften the tool marks.  Notice the pencil hatching marks by the lines?  This was how I marked the lower edges of the leaves, the hatched section is to be the lowest points.  Hopefully when it’s all done the center 3 leaves will taper to the inside of the frame while the outer three will taper to the outside of the frame.  Another day, another challenge.  Now if we can just get the Las Vegas house sold in time to meet the contingency offer on the Scottsdale house I’ll be one happy camper!

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Woodworkers Withdrawal !!

Those of you that have been following my blog (thanks!) know about Diane and my “Scottsdale Adventure”.  Just to re-cap, we decided to leave Las Vegas for 6 months and live in the very art friendly community of Scottsdale, AZ for our 20th. anniversary.  Diane has been coming here for many years to attend the renowned Scottsdale Artists’ School and has really enjoyed all of the workshops and open studio sessions during this time.  I’ve also spent time there selling frames and being a portrait and character model.  All in all, we’ve enjoyed it so much that we’ve decided to sell our home of 20 years in Las Vegas and move to this area.

To explain the title of this post Woodworkers Withdrawal  I’ll remind you that all I have is a carving bench and chisels to work on frames.  Although I enjoy that I really miss the creativeness of building furniture and boxes!  Whenever I read the various blogs I follow that are building tool cabinets, staked furniture, etc. I get a pang of jealousy and realize what a huge part working with wood and being creative is in my life.  I’m now vicariously living woodworking through the blogs I follow!  As we came closer and closer to deciding to move here we began looking at real estate.  A Sunday tradition was finding open houses after church just to get a feel for the market.  At one of those, we met Audrey Tolley from RealtyOne and she was intrigued with our quest for a home near the Artists’ School that also had  shop space.  It wasn’t too long after meeting her that she found a couple of houses that met our needs and showed them to us.  One of them was so appealing that Diane and I put a contingency offer on it.  For Diane’s work, there are two master bedrooms; one of which will become her studio complete with a separate entrance for future students and a walled in courtyard.  For me it had a 580 square foot shop space!

The ceiling is a little “wonky” and it only has a single entry door which will need replacement so I can get my table saw in but it fits our requirements to a T!  We put in a contingency offer which they accepted so, good Lord willing; all the pieces will fall into place and we’ll be leaving Las Vegas!  There’s been a positive home inspection on the house, the previous owners have the majority of their stuff moved out already, and we’re just waiting on the final piece to fall into place which is selling our home in Las Vegas.

First off, we needed to list our home in Las Vegas.  We’re using an agent that Audrey recommended and went back last week to prepare the house for listing.  Also, Adam and Kim got married that same time and Diane and I worked like crazy to get the house ready, here is a LINK to the listing — be sure to pass it on to anyone you know looking for a great home in Las Vegas!  After four trips to the dumps, replacing the bathroom floor in the kids old bathroom, cleaning up the back yard (thanks Adam!), and staging it we’re ready to go.  At this point, there have been several showings of the house and an Open House scheduled for this upcoming weekend.

As any of you that have sold and bought a home, there is a multitude of things that need to come together in a prescribed period of time.  From a woodworkers point of view I’d kicked around the idea of going completely to hand tools and selling off my machinery rather than move it.  After deliberating all of that I’ve decided to stay the course and be the hybrid woodworker that I am.  To cut and join my picture frames for carving you really can’t beat the accuracy of the table saw with a good jig.  Since I like to work with exotic woods, being able to use the bandsaw for re-saw work and the segmented head planer for rough preparation just can’t be beat.  Everything will still be hand joined and planed before it leaves my shop anyway.  A feature of this house that helped make this decision is that there are two, single car garages.  I’ll have the luxury of using one of those for machine work, lumber storage, etc.  I will need to figure out the electrical requirements of the 220 volts needed for them but that’s a bridge to cross later on.

Must remind myself of Step One —–  Sell Las Vegas!

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You’re Invited — No RSVP required!

Many of you that read my blog are aware that my wife, Diane Eugster is an artist who specializes in figurative work.  For you on the east coast I’d like to invite you to see a showing of her work at the Meyer-Vogl Gallery located in Charleston, South Carolina.  They have been following her work on-line and at various art competition she’s entered and were impressed enough to invite her for a show titled She.  The show opens this Friday, June the third from 5-8 and we would be there but our son is getting married two days prior so travel just isn’t a possibility!

In any case, here is a LINK to the show and if anyone goes I’d love to hear your impression of it.  You’re probably aware that her work is framed by my carved and gilded picture frames I’ve been blogging about.  Thanks, if you can make it let me know!

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Picture Frame Carving Tutorial: Part 2

Now that the general outline of the frame has been carved it’s time to separate and model the leaves to give some life to it.  Although I drew those separating lines in my initial steps it’s better to do them after the general outline is complete.  The reason is to compensate for variations you may get as you define the outer edges.  This has been discussed before but now it’s my definite method to transfer designs.  It starts by gluing half of the pattern on a flexible piece of plastic (salad containers, etc.) so you have a fairly stiff piece that can be registered on the frame and drawn around.  I talked about that in Part 1 of this tutorial but basically, once you find the pattern you like it’s manipulated to the size needed and printed out.  I use spray glue to attach it to the plastic and then cut it out with scissors and gouges to match the curves.  The next step is to use a piece of tracing paper.  After tracing the plastic pattern onto the paper you draw in the leaf separations.

If you cut out the curves on the paper it’s easier to align it with the carving.  To use the tracing paper you place the side you drew on first against the wood, trace over it and the lead will transfer to the frame.  Flip it over and repeat the process — in essence you’re making your own piece of carbon paper.  Soft lead works best for this process.

Separation and Depth

Separation and Depth

You can tell that the design is in a coved section of the frame so I was glad I had some long bent chisels in my tool chest!  First up was the separations, accomplished with a 12L/#3mm V-tool.  Achieving the effect of one leaf going under the other was done with the fishtail.  The trickiest part of this carve was trying to scoop out the leaves to give them a realistic appearance.  The two, small lobes towards the center of the frame could be done with a #9/3mm.  This cut is with the grain so scooping a shallow cut from both sides then meeting in the center took care of that.  The larger leaves were more of a challenge due to the concave profile and working against the grain.  So, what would a tutorial be without adding a YouTube video?  I’ll make the usual excuses for the quality of my video but I’m doing the best I can with the equipment I have.  Hopefully you’ll glean some information from my foray into this world of carving that seems to have a limited presence on the web, guess it’s easier to program a CNC to accomplish these things; sarcasm intended!

Sanding method, not with the grain!

Sanding method, not with the grain!


That’s the method I used and I think it turned out well.  Sanding was another matter.  I tried to make some sort of sanding block by shaping a wine cork but in the end resorted to my fingers and rotating them every which way to smooth out the wood.  Most definitely not a method I’d teach students; you know you should always sand with the grain direction!


Frame Pattern

Frame Pattern


After working with the chisels and then finally sanding I was happy with the results.  It may not pass inspection by a botanist but that’s not the goal!  The purpose of a frame is to isolate the painting and put it in its’ own little world.  The picture at the left is the inspiration I used for this design.  You’ll notice that carving is on the outside perimeter of the frame whereas mine in on the interior panel — a bit trickier!

Here are the last pictures of the frame.  I use a brush on burnisher/sealer for composition gold leaf rather than the traditional multiple coats of gesso and clay.  After applying the slow set size the frame was gilded.  I’ll wait at least 24 hours before using steel wool to knock down the brassiness of the leaf, shellac, and then tone it to give a sense of age.

For lack of a better descriptor I’m calling this Frame #85.

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Picture Frame Carving Tutorial? : You Decide!

Without a doubt, much of what you and I do as woodworkers is the result of “self-teaching” and a lot of experimentation with a bit of frustration thrown in for good measure! Even with today’s technological advantage of just Googling It, we still need to strike out and follow our intuition to figure stuff out.  A case in point is my own quest on learning how to carve a closed corner picture frame.  Yes, there are many examples of others carving them on YouTube and other sites but they don’t give a step by step procedure and many are in stop motion slide show format.  You get the general idea from them but not all of the details.  I’m probably looking at this through the eyes of a retired shop teacher trying to figure out how to teach it so thought I’d give it a shot on my blog — you can decide if it’s worthy of being called a tutorial.  Here’s the results so far, then I’ll back up and explain how I got to it.

Frame so far: 5/7/2016

Frame so far: 5/7/2016

Here you can see it set up on the bench in poor light but you can make out the corner motif and the connecting ribbon.  The design is from a picture frame we saw in a museum that caught my eye.  Love being able to take pictures and manipulate the size but more on that later in the “tutorial”!  When working on the bench and checking the progress in the raking light things looked pretty good and in this picture the bottom half seems to show good detail.

Corner Detail -- needs refinement.

Corner Detail — needs refinement.

That being said, on closer inspection I see that the transition from the concave panel to the corner needs to be improved.  Note in the large picture how the transition looks good on the bottom, not so much on top.  Flip the frame over and it appears the same.  I’ve found that a long bent gouge works well in these places, now I need to teach myself how to make that transition seamlessly!

Frame Pattern

Frame Pattern

This frame is 16″ x 20″ and the last of the modified molding Diane had made at Foster Planing Mill.  Every scrap has been used so with nothing to practice on I had to just go for it.  The pattern is from a frame I photographed some time ago, can’t remember where I saw it though.  When I taught, the way you’d copy, reduce, or enlarge a pattern was to draw a grid over your design, then plot points where the design crossed the grid.  Next up was drawing a larger or smaller grid as required, re-plotting those points and then sketch everything in freehand.  Lots of fun teaching that to junior high school students.  Now all that’s needed is to put it on your scanner, drag it to the size you need and print it out! The size of the panel area is about 2″.

Materials to get design onto frame.

Materials to get design onto frame.

Although you can make a tracing of the pattern on tracing paper and then use that to get the design on the frame I definitely prefer to make a more substantial pattern from common plastic materials such as a salad container.  The advantage to is  that it’s stiff and can be anchored while you draw around it.  Tracing paper tends to slip around so isn’t as precise.  Once the size is correct, the pattern is glued to the plastic.  Making only a half pattern ensures that both halves similar.  Notice the tracing paper pattern to get the interior details?  Decided it’s better to do that after the design is completely carved out, too many lines lead to confusion!

For the design to be consistent each curved section needs to be cut with the same chisel.  The first corner took the longest and to keep myself straight the chisel sizes are written directly on the wood.  A picture was taken of that for reference to lay out the seven, remaining corners.  The picture comes in handy too when grounding out the design and needing to clean up the edges.

#2 Skewed Spoon

#2 Skewed Spoon

After the first corner is set, it’s fairly easy to follow the picture and I found that after 3-4 of them I knew which gouge to use where but having the paper for reference saved a lot of guessing.  Grounding it out was done mostly with various #3 gouges, the connecting ribbon is done with a parting tool.  An area that was hard to get at is between those two small leaves at the ends.  Years ago I bought a pair of #2, skewed spoon gouges that really work well here.  They’ve been modified a little and are a kind of awkward to use but they allowed me to get into those tight corners.

Almost done

Almost done

Working one corner at a time around the frame was my method, that way I could try to duplicate each design to stay as uniform as possible.  I thought it was pretty well done until the final pictures showed otherwise!  Smoothing the transition is the next step prior to modeling the leaves.  That will be the next “tutorial” on carving a closed cornered frame.  Hope this was informative, let me know if you need anything clarified.


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Mary May Carving Project: Rose & Lily

Carving, let’s talk about it!  My main focus in carving at this point is for picture frames.  That means they need to be fairly low relief and able to be gilded without the leaf faulting too much and showing the sealer undercoat.  A little of that is good as it replicates age but too much of that is crude.  All that being said, when I carve my goal is to keep the carving low relief while still trying convey a lot of depth.  Here’s a recent example taken from a Mary May Carving School lesson:

The depth on it is about 1/4″ and I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t easy — stressful actually.  Some of you may remember my artistic endeavor of carving when I decided to attempt carving a life size sculpture of my shorts.  Compared to this, that was fun because it was a free flowing form with really no right or wrong to it, check out this blog link and you’ll see what I mean.  This rose and lily had to look authentic!

Rose & Lily Carving Complete

Rose & Lily Carving Complete

For starters, I really enjoy the way Mary May presents her lessons.  I subscribe to another woodcarvers online school and one thing different is that Mary puts the size of the gouge used on the screen and leaves it up for quite some time.  Maybe it’s aging and short term memory loss but that seems to work in my favor as I rummage through the tools to find the one needed.  I’m also “blog buddies” with the man who does her video’s, Bob Easton, so when I see his name at the end of each lesson it feels more personal — silly I guess but that’s how it feels.  Bob and I often make comments and ask each other questions on our blogs so there’s a connection.  Mary did this carving on a piece of Maple, mine is Basswood since that’s what most of the frames I carve are too.  I’ve learned that not all Basswood is the same, some is very stringy and hard to cut cleanly.  The molding stock I get from Foster Planing Mill has always been excellent material.

Rather than go into a lot of boring details here’s a slide show of the lily being carved:

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Between slides #3 and #4 there was a lot of work that took place.  This is where gouges of a specific size are matched as closely as possible to the curvature of the design.  Mostly sweep numbers 3,5, and 7 of various widths.  My choice was to create an oval area for the design to sit in and a #5/12 accomplished that. The final slide shows the lily pretty much completed so it was on to the rose.

Getting all the Help I Can!

Getting all the Help I Can!

The rose was much more difficult then the lily!  I needed all the help I could get to outline the petals.  Thanks goodness for a lap top!  I was able to set it on top of the carving bench, listen a bit, and then immediately make the cuts that she did.  Even at that, there were a few mistakes.  Once most of the outlining was done it was time to model the rose.  At that point I removed the laptop, not too sure how well it’ll hold up to all of the chips being made.

The project was a good learning experience.  Through Mary’s teaching I have an understanding of how the flower flows and then trying to carve the wood to show that.  My preference is to simply apply a coat of wax (Liberon Black Bison) to protect and seal it and allow the wood to show through.  With a light colored wood like this the depth and undercuts give nice shadows, hopefully you noticed how I attempted to undercut the stems and leaves to enhance that effect.  You can see there is a slight chamfer planed on the edges but no sandpaper was used on this project.  My preference is for the tool marks to show through and authenticate how it was crafted rather than create a smooth look that a CNC machine could have done.  Once we return to Las Vegas I may decide to rabbet this piece and inlay it into the lid of a box.

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