Carved Tulip Cross

Quite a number of years ago I found a carving of a mirror frame on Pinterest and saved it.  This was of a tulip and it’s leaves that wrapped around on side of it.  The carving was by someone named Athanasian Pastrikou and it really captivated me.  I loved the way he carved the tulip so a few years later it was time to challenge myself and see if I could capture his style on a cross.  If you look at his website you can see I have a ways to go but that’s what it’s all about, keep challenging and never be satisfied with where your skill set is at any time!  I’ve tried to find out what I can about this man and believe he’s from Greece, in any case the credit for the design goes to him.

My first attempt on this was a simple relief carving which turned out okay.  Then it was time to attempt to capture the curling leaf at the bottom which I did out of Basswood.  That cross hangs in my shop to remind me of where my strength and skills come from.  Sometimes it gets in my Instagram or blog post pictures so from time to time I’ve been asked to make them for others.  Well, I had some free time so decided the time was right to  carve a cross or two!  I started out with Basswood.  Since that’s the type of wood the majority of my custom picture frames are made of I usually have scraps of it in the shop.  The project begins by transferring the design to the wood and then cutting that wood into a T-shape as you can see here on the Cherry wood I needed to switch to, why switch?  Well check out how the original Basswood refused to cut cleanly:

In a recent Mary May video she did a leaf motif completely around a Mahogany table.  She did a lesson on it and for that she used Basswood.  I recall her saying that the Mahogany was actually easier to carve than the Basswood so thought I’d give it a chance and it worked much better.  Now I want to try one of these in Mahogany!

Cutting Lap Joint

After transferring the pattern the next step is cutting lap joints for the cross arm.  This picture is of the Basswood but the process is the same.  Placement of the cross arm is up to you, I prefer the placement on the second cross I did.  The cross arm is about 3/4″ square to match the T section of the motif.  Easy enough to do this by hand with a saw, chisel, and router plane to finish it off.  The area that over-laps is about 1/4″ thick and a combination of files and chisels is used to finesse the outer edges.  Next up is the carving itself.  Won’t go into the exact procedures and chisels used but basically once the motif is outlined the background (cross) is lowered.  Next up is the challenge of making the wood look like a tulip and leaves.  Must of been okay since both of them sold!

Currently have a couple of commissions for picture frames, one of them being a Tabernacle style which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I’d like to continue the carving work and do a few more of these before Christmas so check back if you were interested in them.  Here are the finished crosses, the one on the left was the first one completed.  You can spot subtle differences but that’s what hand craftsmanship is all about,  there’s a saying that goes something like: “the beauty of an item made by hand are its’ imperfections” and I can definitely live with that!




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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