Fig Leaf Frame

In between working on the Selig chairs and the beer server/paddle I’ve also been doing the carving on the picture frame for one of Diane’s pictures.  By the way, she has started a new blog on WordPress, here is a LINK to her blog.  I’d love to have you check it out.  The painting she’s featuring is of a photo she took in Italy and one that I plan to make a Walnut frame for.  Anyway, back to the Fig Leaf frame in progress.  Carving is a very challenging aspect of woodwork for me.  On a picture frame the curves of the profile add a level of complexity and then since they are mitered at the corners, you have yet another challenge of working the grain.  We have a wood carving club that meets once a month here in Las Vegas.  Clubs are valuable in that they give you the opportunity to share information — sometimes you give and other times you learn!  Well, one of the guys who’s quite an accomplished carver (Dennis Patchett) gave me some advice that proved to be valuable for this frame.  Rather than using a parting tool or V-chisel to outline his work, he showed me a technique of using the tip of a gouge to accomplish the same thing. Holding the chisel this way allows you to pivot it around the curves and compensate for the profile shape at the same time.

He and another member also suggested that I don’t try to cut as deep in one pass but rather remove thinner sections of the background to achieve a crisper edge.  By holding the chisel vertical I’m able to use just the point of it to outline the leaf.  With the curves of the profile using a V-chisel is for this is difficult.  This was my first success!

One leg, ready for burnisher/sealer

One leg, ready for burnisher/sealer

Next was how to blend the leg of frame into the corner where the fig leaf had been carved.  You can see the final result in this picture.  You may notice some irregularities in the carve where it meets the frame.  This is a difficult area to smooth but at this point, with so much happening with the variegated leaf I don’t think it will matter.  I do have a way to smooth this out after the burnisher/sealer is applied.

What I ended up doing was to set the table saw fence so that the blade removed about 1/4″ from the thickness of the frame.  However; this cut can’t be made on the entire edge so after marking where the saw blade started and stopped I carefully dropped the frame on the mark, feed it along the fence to the end mark, and then lifted it straight up.

After all 4 sides were cut a line was drawn at the same measurement on each leg to give me a visual point to blend the curve of the profile towards the corner and the carving.  I did what I could to refine the leaf and added lines and curves as possible to give it life.  Something magical about carving a life like object onto a chunk of wood — don’t know if I’ll ever achieve on wood what I visualize in my mind but that’s what sparks the motivation to continue doing these types of things.

The final steps to this process will be to apply the burnisher/sealer, polish or burnish that out and then comes the oil size.  For this one I’ll be using slow set size which sets up in about 10-12 hours and will let me work it for almost 24 hours.  Usually I do this in the house but will do this frame in the garage which adds a bit of the “unknown” to the process and drying time at 100 degrees vs. 80 degrees in the house.  Thought I’d give it a try out there rather than have the gold leaf floating all over the room where we store paintings and boxes.  As always, life stays interesting!

About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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