Posts Tagged With: mahogany

The Carving Process: Roughing Out

The next stage in the carving process involves roughing out the pattern and removing the larger areas of wood so that the form begins to emerge.  In this photo you can see that the basic shape of the head and neck are in place, and I have begun to work on the curve of the wing.  A few of the feathers leading from the body into the wing have been roughed out to help define the flow of the transition into the curve of the wing.

In this image you can see the rough shape of the nest and the begining of the outline of the pelican chicks.  The opposite wing still need to be roughed out, and once I have the inside curve of both wings completed I will work from the back to finish giving the wings their shape.

Roughing out is usually done with larger carving tool profiles using a mallet.  I started with large gouges to remove the greatest portion of the wood, and then work down to smaller profiles to smooth it to the finished rough form.  The roughing out stage  can be a little awkward as you transition from the clean outline of the pattern to the rough form of the carving.  It can be hard to resist the urge to begin refining areas as you get them to a good roughed out point, but it is important to rough the entire form out to the same degree before beginning on the detail.

As I mentioned earlier, this particular piece of wood came from a selection of wood that has been stored in barns at SPS going as far back as the early years of the 20th century.  Although it is impossible to know how long this piece of wood has been at the school, I did find out a little more information about it.  After an informative tour of the boat house and the workshop, Mr. Bailey (who maintains and restores the crew boats at  SPS) showed me the collection of wood stored there for use in repairing and restoring the crew boats.  This wood is a type of mahogany called Spanish cedar.  This is a deceptive name, since it isn’t from Spain, and it isn’t a type of cedar, but this resinous wood  has a wonderful aroma, and is highly resistant to rotting in water.  Spanish cedar has been long used to make cigar boxes and for the lining of humidors, as well as for making boats.  So the piece of Spanish cedar I am using for this carving was very likely purchased by the school at some point for use in building and repairing the rowing boats – a tradition at SPS that goes back to the 1870s.

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The Carving Process: The Pattern

The first step in the carving process is creating a pattern of the carving design.  The photo below shows the design adapted from the original stone carving in the first Carving Process post.  I used a photograph that I took of the pelican carving from the SPS cemetery as a reference and drew the design to fit the size of the piece of mahogany I selected for the carving.  The pattern is first roughly sketched and then a finished drawing is done on graph paper at full size.

A photocopy of the pattern, shown at the very bottom of the photo, is used to transfer the design onto the wood. I trace the outline of the pattern onto the wood and then use graphite paper to add the interior details.  I re-draw the design on the wood with a soft dark pencil.  This lovely piece of mahogany is ready to be cut out using a scroll saw.

The photo below shows the piece after carefully cutting the outline shape using the scroll saw.   Here I am using a hand-held router to rough out the background area surrounding the pelican’s head.  This will clear the wood out from that background area and leave it the same depth, which simplifies the roughing out process greatly.

The wonderful thing about working with mahogany is the smell – cutting, sanding and carving the wood gives off a rich spicy aroma.  After the routing is finished the edges of the carving are smoothed using rasps and wood files.  Then the piece is ready for the next step in the carving process: roughing out.

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