The request for this custom order from Etsy was a large box to store remote controls for her music system. Just so there wasn’t any confusion as to what the box will contain she asked if I could carve a treble clef on the lid and then gild it with copper leaf. I just completed the gilding of it this morning and this is what it looks like before the copper is toned down a bit and sealed. One of the things about copper is that it began to tarnish almost immediately, once the size is completely cured it will get a very light scuffing with 4/0 steel wool and then sealed with shellac. The shellac will more than likely be tinted to soften the coppers shine.
The way I went about this particular carving was to use a spray adhesive to fasten it to the wood. I thought I’d try this rather than using tracing paper to get the design on the wood. Then it was a matter of cutting the outline, for this I like using a chip carving knife from Hock Tools, Ron really knows how to work blades and I’ve used his plane blades to make my own scrub plane. I chose this rather than a V-chisel because the Basswood didn’t cut too cleanly with it when going across the grain. I found that an advantage of gluing the design directly to the wood is that the inside shapes and lines remained where they were supposed to, the only downside is that the residue of the adhesive was a little difficult to remove from the surrounding area. Next time I’ll only apply the adhesive to the back of the paper rather than the entire board. Here’s a slide show to give you an idea of how the work progressed:
Usually boxes are smaller than this one so adding texture and shape to the lid background is pretty straight forward. The background is always a dance; you don’t want it to look as if it were hacked out crudely but you also don’t want it to look as if it were done with a machine. At this point I try to create a uniform flow of valleys and peaks to catch the light. Once I was satisfied with the overall appearance the edges needed to be chamfered a bit. I suppose this could have been accomplished with the table saw but it’s more enjoyable planing a 45 degree chamfer by hand with a block plane. The first step is to pencil in a line on the top and sides to work to. This one is 1/4″ from the edge. It’s really matter of controlling the plane and locking you hand to the correct angle. Always start with the end grain since it may split out at the ends. After making a few passes, check to see that the angle is correct, if not adjust your hands. Your goal is to work down to both lines equally. Once the end grain is done it’s time to do the long grain edges. By now you have a feel for the proper angle and the important thing now is to watch the corners. There should be a straight line from the junction of the chamfer on the lid directly to the edge, here’s another slideshow to illustrate that:
We’re getting down to the final steps on this project and the 5 other boxes of this series. The copper gild needs to dry thoroughly before it’s toned and sealed so in the meantime I’ll be trimming the keys on the mitered edges and beginning the finish process. The lids are ready to be fitted now that the humidity levels are getting more desert like after the recent monsoons. You may have seen how the interstate (I-15) had a 2 mile stretch washed out between here and St. George — that was quite a heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Norbert!