NOTE: Click on photos to get better detail
This weekend I will be teaching in Greenville, SC for the Greenville Woodworkers Guild. This is an amazing group of people. I think there are between 600 and 700 members and they have just recently acquired a 20,000+ sq. ft. building for their shop/auditorium/classroom or whatever their needs might be. It’s quite an organization.
Earlier this year I demonstrated for their monthly meeting how to carve a ball and claw foot in front of 250 people! I thought I was going to faint, because I think I forgot to breathe several times. The most I ever spoke in front of was 50 people, and that time it was dark and I was hiding behind a slide projector. I knew I needed to get over this fear of speaking in front of large groups, so who to get more comfortable with than a bunch of friendly, unintimidating woodworkers? It actually went really well, and the fact that I survived to tell about is kind of exciting!
The class this weekend will be 12 students. Most of the students have carved before, so this is going to be an “intermediate” class. Saturday we are going to be going over carving a shell on the knee of a cabriole leg, and Sunday we are going to go over carving the Convex Newport Shell. I generally need 2 days to carve the Newport shell, but we are going to pack it in in 1 day. We may only get half of the lobes carved, but at least we can get a start for people to finish at home.
I have included some photographs of the process of carving the convex Newport shell up to the point of rounding over the convex sections and hollowing out the concave ones. I really have no idea why I stopped photographing at this point. Maybe distraction? Maybe camera broke? Maybe I never actually finished this one? I can’t remember because it was done several years ago.
I have also included instruction pages for how to carve the shell, and also a template. So any of the missing photos can be made up for by written instruction (I hope). I also have a DVD for sale for this if you are interested (www.marymaycarving.com) with a matching plaster casting that can be used for a physical example to carve from.
I have included 2 photographs of period reproduction pieces that I carved details for.
The first one is a Goddard/Townsend six shell secretary – the originals were built in the middle to late 1700s by the furniture makers of Newport, Rhode Island – John Goddard and John Townsend. This reproduction was built by Greg Guenther in Savannah, GA (www.guentherwoodgroup.com), and I carved the shells, finials and rosettes. One of the originals recently sold at auction for $12 million. Wouldn’t that be nice?
The other photo is another reproduction piece. It is of a block and shell style chest of drawers that was built by Monty Hinson, of Charleston, SC and I carved the shells. These originals were also built by the Goddard and Townsend families – each creating their own unique characteristics as the talents were passed on to the next generation of woodworkers.
These Newport shells are not very easy to carve. When you start to carve the concave and convex secions, there are some tremendous grain difficulties – especially if the wood itself is not clean and straight grained. I would recommend trying it in basswood first, just to get the technique down. And… I do use sandpaper on this to finish the final surface. Just be careful not to round over any of the sharp edges of the little ledge that is carved.