I’m in the home stretch with the oak box. The till now has a lid, and the carcass is squared and nailed together.
I decided to add a bit of carving to the till lid, too. This was a good workout for my newly acquired 6 mm #3 gouge.
The bottom was attached with wrought iron nails. I resawed some oak to make 1/2-inch thick hinge cleats. All that is needed at this point is to cut and attach the top. I guess when you get right down to it, aside from the carving, and regardless of size, a box is a box, is a box. They all go together in the exact same way!
With dark skies and heavy rain, shop time is nonexistent. On days like this, not even the skylight helps. The oak box will have to wait for another day. Perhaps I’ll spend the day perusing John Fiske’s, When Oak Was New, in search of another interesting pattern to carve.
Having removed the last of the background and stippling, until I could stipple no more, the carving was complete! Well, not really, I still had to figure out what to do with the rondels. There was no way to use the design in the original Dennis pattern. Given the size to which I increased my version, I would need at least a 35 mm #7 gouge. The best I could do was 20 mm. What to do?
After a few moments of reflection and prayer, my phone chimed, alerting me to an incoming message. I had received a text message from my friend Charles with photos attached. The photos were of carved panels from the library at Waterford, a neo-Georgia mansion, built in 1912, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Described as “the most beautiful room in Louisville,” the mansion’s main feature is the spectacular library. Waterford’s original owners, Jane and Arthur D. Allen, collected a large number of 16th through 18th-century French dower chests, during their travels in Europe in the early part of the twentieth century. These chests have since then been disassembled and used as paneling in the expansive library.
Needless to say, I had found my inspiration. I thanked Charles and began to lay out the patterns, filling the empty rondels. Now, the carving was done!
What else was there to do with the intricately carved board, but saw it in half!
Having packed the carving tools away for a season, it was time to start building another box! Thanks, Charles!
I awoke to a temperature of 27°. I thought that was a bit too cold to work in the shop, so I made a trip to Highland Woodworking, to pick up two new gouges. For some time now, I have wanted a 6 mm #3 straight gouge, to help with background removal in the tight spots. I also picked up a 10 mm #11 straight gouge, to help make the arched niches in the nulling patterns a bit easier.
By the afternoon, temperatures were well into the forties, a veritable heat wave! I did manage to get a couple of hours of shop time before the sun started to set. In that time, I finished the left side of my box, added a little detail to what I had already carved, and started laying out the right side of the front.
I think the gods of symmetry were smiling down on me. At least things started looking good once I began removing the background. I believe the fact that the front is eighteen-inches wide helps a lot, too!
I’ll continue plugging along tomorrow. I still haven’t decided what to do with the rondels. I sure hope something comes to mind before too long.
I decided to go with a strapwork pattern on my oak box. Strapwork in its basic form is a pattern of squares, circles, and other shapes that appear to have been made by leather straps. The pattern I chose is loosely based on a carving attributed to Thomas Dennis, a seventeenth-century joiner from Ipswich, Massachusetts.
After striking 3/4-inch margins, the layout for this particular pattern is nothing more than vertical and horizontal lines, spaced approximately 1/2-inch apart. Starting from a center, I worked my way toward the left side. I decided to alter the pattern on the side. After a bit more refining, I will work my way toward the right side.
I’m not sure I will follow Dennis’ pattern when it comes to the rondels. There will be some form of rose in the center. I’ll leave these for last to see what strikes me.
Despite temperatures in the forties, I managed to finish my mahogany box. I decided to go with poplar hinge cleats, for no other reason than I already had some 1/2-inch stock available.
After just a few minutes with a coping saw and file, I had a pair of hinges that matched pretty well.
With the hinge cleats placed over the pintles and pegged to the top, all that was needed was a few coats of boiled linseed oil and turpentine.
And there you have it, a 10″ D by 20″ W by 9″ H carved mahogany box. With an hour or so of daylight left, I roughed out the oak for the other commissioned piece. I’ll start carving tomorrow, once I figure out what I’m doing!
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