Tag Archives: strapwork

Decisions, Decisions

As I stated earlier, the slope of the desk-box offers a bit of a challenge when it comes to the carving. Typically, I wrap a carving pattern around the corner from the front onto the sides, but here that would leave a great deal of blank space. I decided to carve a portion of the pattern from the front and take up the remaining space with a rondel. Filling that space was now my new challenge.

While at the drawing board, I played with a few possibilities. Firstly, I thought, why not do something that accentuates the motif on the front.

Then I thought, how about something more traditional?

Or perhaps something unique.

Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to let the rondel dictate the carving!

Looking back, I’m quite glad I did! What are your thoughts?

Hopefully, I can repeat all of that on the right side and get to work on the interior. Stay tuned!

In Proper Order

In addition to this blog, I like to post to Facebook, where I am a member of the Beginner Wood Carvers group (BWC). This close-knit community has members from all over the globe, ranging from the novice level through to the more advanced carver. Carving styles run the gamut, as well, from whittling little people with a pocketknife to creating massive sculptures with a chain saw, and just about everything in between. If you are into woodcarving, you should consider joining the group.

Over the last few weeks, I have been posting videos showing my progress through a carved box. These videos were in response to questions from BWC members. I was working on a couple of strapwork carvings at the time, and interestingly, things got a bit out of order. I thought I would put those videos in order, here. Enjoy!

First, I established margins and put down a grid line.

Next, gouge strikes were made to layout the pattern.

Finally, the background was relieved and stippled.

At this point, the board is sawn into its individual parts and joined to make a box. Here I am forming the pintle on the back to receive a hinge cleat.

Damn the ̶T̶o̶r̶p̶e̶d̶o̶s̶ Blemishes, Full Speed Ahead!

Oh, that blemish I was so worried about; well, given all the positive feedback, my worries have been alleviated. Thanks to one reader, it was deemed a feature. Perhaps to be seen as a one of a kind, decorative curiosity of nature. Who would have thought?


Since I enjoyed carving that strapwork pattern so much, I decided to keep to the theme and start another.


The variations to this pattern are endless. I do believe this is why it is so fun to carve.


After just about an hour or so, I was removing the background and heading toward another box.


I know I mentioned it before, but I have to say again that I am glad I bought this 6mm #3 gouge. It sure makes working around the strapwork easier.

Don’t Let A Blemish Stop You

All done! I really like how the carving turned out. Strapwork is now my new favorite decoration. If you recall, I’m making this box for a friend. But…


It wasn’t until applying linseed oil that I noticed a most curious blemish on the front edge of the bottom. I am quite puzzled as to its origin. The board was clear up to applying the oil.


I made a few more passes with a plane, sanded it with coarse sandpaper, and even tried a bit of dark stain, yet the blemish persists! Perhaps this is just how it wants to look. Besides, who am I to mess with Mother Nature.


I guess I will just have to convince myself that this little spot simply adds character to my strapwork carved box. Unless someone has a clue as to what might have caused this, then I’m all ears!

At Odds

Mother Nature and I seem to have been at odds for at least a week. Rain, rain, and more rain. I know we need rain, but enough is enough! I did, however, manage to squeeze in a couple of hours of shop time, between downbursts, to complete the carving on the sides.


I am so glad I decided to buy the 6mm #3 gouge. This strapwork would not have been possible with it.


With rebates cut and the carcass fitted and squared, I formed the pintles for the hinge cleats.


I’ll get the bottom and lid installed once I can get back into the shop.

The Best of Both Worlds

If you will recall, I set out trying to carve a more historically accurate strapwork decoration. Well … I ran into a bit of a problem.


Equally dividing section “B” into 1/4″ increments, made the elongated central shape impossible. Oh my, what to do?

Not wanting to have the entire field stippled, I decided to pull two elements from the nulling pattern.


Alternating these elements, I completed the side piece.


Now, if the weather will cooperate, I might just get the other side done. It has been so cloudy these last few days. Overcast skies make for a dark shop. All I can do is pray for sunshine!

More Strapwork

Lately, I’ve been carving a lot of strapwork patterns. I do believe of all the decorations available, strapwork is the most versatile. The variations are virtually endless.

My last effort turned out well if I say so myself. I did seem to take quite a few liberties with the original design, though. But hey, I just used it for inspiration anyway!


Wanting to carve something a bit more historically accurate, I took to the Internet for some research. I came across an article by Anthony Wells-Cole, published in Furniture History, vol. 17, 1981, an annual publication of The Furniture History Society, entitled: An Oak Bed at Montacute: a Study in Mannerist Decoration. The article is a study of a particular strapwork design found on seventeenth-century furniture in Devon, England, and Ipswich, Massachusetts. For me, the article drove home the notion that countless variations of a particular pattern are indeed possible.

The following drawing helps to illustrate this fact.


All of the historical combinations are simply too numerous to list. I will, however, share the dimensions I chose:  A = 3-1/2″ ; B = 2″ ; C = 2″ ; D = 3/4″ ; E = 1-14″ ; F = n/a

These dimensions are reportedly from the strapwork pattern found on the Joined Great Chair in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine. However, upon further examination, this too is subject to interpretation!

At any rate, armed with this knowledge, and a clear poplar 1×4, I began.


Using a 1/4″ and 1/2″ chisel, a 10mm and 20mm #7 straight gouge, a 10mm #11 straight gouge, a nail set, try square, a 6mm #3 straight gouge for background removal, and a shop-made stippling tool, I made it half-way through the pattern.


Flipping the board around, I started again!

I am really pleased with how this turned out. It is going to make a great looking box.


I intend to carve something similar, yet a bit different on the sides …


Wish me luck!


Strapwork originated in the flat scroll work standard in Islamic metalwork. It was most fully developed in the Netherlands around 1540. Flemish and German woodworkers brought strapwork to England in the late 16th century, where it was used extensively.

This stylized ornament consisting of decorative forms resembling elaborately cut strips of leather or parchment, works outwards from a central point, most often a circle. The pattern then extends up, down, left, and right. There is no end to the paths this pattern can take.


Here I have laid out a strapwork pattern for a box front in poplar.


Quite a different look with the background removed. Wouldn’t you agree?


Symmetry Don’t Fail Me Now

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.