I am going to teach a class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking in 2 weeks on carving details on a turned post. So… I just turned a 3″ piece of mahogany with a variety of shapes where we will carve 2 different styles of acanthus leaves, egg and dart molding, bead molding, rope molding, and 2 or 3 other profile designs that are often seen on the center pedestal post of traditional tea tables.
I think one of the biggest challenges in carving this is laying out the carving properly so that the design is evenly spaced along the surface and meets nicely as it curves around. Quite often I simply use a set of calipers and start estimating the division points of the design along the curved surface and hope that it meets at the starting point. If not, I do a little adjusting and try again. Not the most scientific, but does work.
There are other ways such as taking a thin strip of paper, wrapping it around the surface of the wood to determine the full length of the surface, then lay out the evenly spaced pattern on this paper – then transfer it to the wood.
Another way that one of my students actually discovered when I was teaching (show off!) was to take this strip of paper, fold it in half, and then again, and each of the folds are evenly spaced (this works if you are dividing it in 4ths only, so a 3-leaf design won’t work with this).
For you engineers, measure the length of the surface, divide the length by how many individual patterns (i.e. how many eggs along the surface of an egg and dart pattern) and you can get the exact spacing between each individual pattern. These division points might end up being the center of the egg or the location of the dart, for example.
Quite often the process I use depends on whether I know the exact design size, or whether I am going to be estimating and sketching the design on the wood and then trying to fit it around the length. For the class we will be going through much of the designing as we go process (which is much more creative and forces you to think more!)
A woodturner, I am not. I enjoy it, and had about 5 minutes of instruction from my 96 year old apprentice. Many of the “rules” are similar to woodcarving in that you can only go in certain directions in relation to the grain. I have a good old Canadian General lathe than my husband brought back from Canada, and quite a few tools that I have collected through the years. I remember watching a professional turner use a skew chisel and do pretty much all cuts with this – fascinating! And he made it look so easy that I thought I’d try this. Not a good idea for an amateur! The photo does not show the other side of the turning where the skew chisel caught and made a nice gouge of the wood – 3 times! The one that worked best for me is a smaller very curved gouge (sort of a #8 curve from a woodcarvers numbering)
I do plan on making videos on each of the carved moldings for my video web site. I’m not sure whether I will try videoing while I am teaching or not. Sometimes this works, and sometimes – especially the large very enthusiastic classes – there is just too much going on and too many distractions. And then each class seems to have sort of “inside” jokes – that just don’t make any sense if you are watching the videos. When the whole class is in hysterical laughter, and you’re watching the video scratching your head. So, we’ll see how it goes. I will spend some time before class carving on the turned piece in the photo, so it depends on how far I get. But the camera will be running!