This is a demonstration of how to carve a simple leaf molding in poplar. This project was for Greg Guenther in Savannah, GA.
Notice that the technique is mainly stop cuts (and not my typical v-cut first) with a mallet. Poplar, because of its soft, spongy characteristic, really handled the stop cuts very well without having any damage to the wood – even on the very thin fragile areas like the vein line. If I were carving this in oak, mahogany, walnut, or any other hard wood, I would definitely make a v-cut first along the stop-cut line, and then make the stop cut. This allows the bulk of the wood to be removed, and then the pressure from the stop cut gives towards the v-cut and saves the wood that is going to be carved from being damaged. But.. not with poplar! Different rules…
It is really important to make sure your tools are very sharp. I often used my strop to touch up my gouges, as most of the cuts are cutting straight across the grain. There must be something in poplar that dulls the gouges quickly, because after carving about 15 of the leaves, I could tell the grain starting to open up and split as I cut across it. Just touching the tools on a strop seemed to do the trick.
I only had about 8 feet of this molding to do. It went quickly when I went down the whole length of molding with each step. It keeps it consistent also. Imagine decorating your whole house with this??? Go on… I give you a challenge! OK, maybe just a piece of furniture for start… and then on to bigger and better!