I have been working on carving a large egg and dart molding in quarter sawn white oak. I have spent a lot of time sharpening my tools, because about 90% of the time I am putting my chisels into the wood, I am using a mallet. This is HARD wood! But it really is very nice to carve – you can get a wonderfully crisp edge, and as long as your tools are really sharp, there isn’t an issue with the wood splintering or splitting – it even allows you to go against the grain to some extent, without it complaining too much. I guess I am sort of used to this – I am a stone carver also!
When I get the first 1 or 2 egg and darts carved, and get the tool line-up and the step-by-step process figured out, then I get into production mode. I make all the v-cuts down the entire length of the board, then make all the next step on all the eggs, etc. It really gets the job done fast, and it keeps all the shapes consistent also. If you can do as many cuts as possible with the same chisel in your hand, same angle, etc, then on to the next step, it’s amazing how quickly they come together. It’s also amazing that if you carve one completely, then carve the next completely, and on and on – that by the time you are down the other end of the board, the first one is much different than the final one. I guess at that point you are either perfecting it by the time you are getting to the other end, or you’re getting so sick of carving it that you are taking all kinds of short cuts. Either way, they usually end up completely different shapes down a 10 ft length.
I will be showing how to carve the little acanthus leaf in the corner also – in my next blog post. This is one way you can tell if an egg and dart molding has been hand carved or not. Look in the mitered corner and see if there is a little leaf. If not, then it was probably purchased in a long strip and cut. The problem with this, is that it is very difficult to get that mitered cut right at the correct position on the egg so that corner joins nicely. That is the reason for the leaf – so it joins nicely. Next time you look at a picture frame or something with egg and dart, notice the little leaf that joins it at the corner. It’s called “spot the machine carving”!