Carving a Grapevine, Ribbon, & Reeds on a Turning

2017-07-07T11:07:44-04:00 July 15th, 2015|

This is a brief introduction to "Carving a Grapevine, Ribbon & Reeds on a Turning."

This 4 episode lesson is Part 1 of the "Turned Dresser Leg" series and covers the detailed process of carving a grapevine on a ribbon spiraling around reeds as the upper portion of this turned leg from the early 1800s. My customer supplied the turnings and the design for the legs of a dresser he was building.

  • Series: Part 1 of 6 in the "Turned Dresser Leg."
  • Lesson Contents: 4 episodes; 2 templates, tool list, and photo in Episode 1
  • Type of Wood: Mahogany
  • Size: 14-1/4" long x 2-7/16" diameter
  • Tool List: 3mm v-chisel; 6mm v-chisel; #1, 1mm; #1, 14mm; #1, 22mm; #3, 3mm; #3, 5mm; #3, 6mm; #3, 14mm; #5, 5mm; #5, 8mm; #5, 14mm; #7, 6mm; #7, 10mm; #10, 2mm; #11, 2mm
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • BONUS: By popular request, I've added a photo and measurements of the bench-top vice to the first episode of each part of this series. Enjoy!

Lessons in this Series:

= More Lessons at the Advanced Skill Level =


  1. JOE LAMBERT July 16, 2015 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    I am happy to see you advancing into more complex projects. As always I enjoy your videos. This one I was especially interested in seeing. I was wondering though, have you ever used a card scraper after using gouges to level as much as possible to attempt to level a surface. I would think it would give a smoother surface upon which to pencil in the lines for reeding. Looking forward to the other videos. I think this would make a beautiful four poster

    • Mary May July 17, 2015 at 9:59 am - Reply

      This is pretty complex! I have not used a card scraper for this type of work, however I’m sure it will work. Just make sure, as with chisels, that the edges of the ribbon does not get damaged.

  2. Bob Easton September 4, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    As I write this, you have shown us how to carve 5 of the 6 parts of this elegant leg. My initial attraction was to the sheer beauty of the entire object.

    Yet, I realize that I’ll never actually make a set of legs like this, nor recreate a replica of the dresser they supported … by the as yet unnamed 19th century craftsman.

    Instead, this leg is deceptive. It is a series that’s much like a complete carving course on its own. I’m watching it, and learning immensely, not for the object itself, but for the techniques used in each of the sections.

    My hope is that others look at it the same way. Be wary of taking a quick look and turning away because you won’t ever build this kind of dresser. Instead, take a closer look inside each lesson and find all sorts of interesting techniques.

    Thanks Mary, for showing so many techniques in one project!

    • Mary May September 4, 2015 at 8:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Bob,
      Thanks for bringing that up! You are very correct in that there are so many different unique techniques to this entire project. You can also pick and choose what design you like and incorporate it into any project. You can even take some of these designs and carve it into a flat surface, rather than carving it on a turning. So much fun and so many possibilities!

  3. Joyce September 18, 2015 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    Mary, I was interested to see how a carver approached the reeds. I was taught a furniture maker’s method of making reeds, but, there were no twisting ribbons through the reeds! So the furniture maker’s method may not work for this leg. It involved making a scratch stock (a piece of springy steel, usually scrap from an old saw) that is filed to create a sharp point in the center that rounds over on each side of the point. I used a round file (used for chain saws) on either side of the point. It was sharpened on stones to make the edges square and sharp. Then that was put into a holder (quickly made of scrap and screws, with the sharp point sticking out the center. The turning was left in the lathe so that the indexing head could be used to mark out the lines. A simple box was made, with runners on each side to support the scratch stock in its holder, and the box and the turning secured so that nothing moved. The scratch stock was carefully centered in the box and checked to make sure as you moved it down the runners it stayed in the center. The indexing head on the lathe was locked in place, and a line created with the scratch stock, going deeper until it began to show the rounded portion of the scratch stock. Then, move on to the next reed. It produced very similar reeds which were very straight. It was cleaned up with carving tools much like you demonstrated. And it took a lot longer. I am interested in making this leg, but I don’t know if I can stop at the ribbon carving. I might slip right on into it with the scratch stock and ruin the previous carving! I can always screw a stop onto the runners, so the scratch holder can’t go any further. It sounds like too much woodworking for a carver, but it did make a nice reeded leg.

    • Mary May September 30, 2015 at 3:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks Joyce! I can see how that would work great for long reeds. That’s a great technique. When you make this with the “carving technique” making the stop cuts at the edge of the ribbon are critical in keeping the edges of the ribbon clean, but it’s still not easy. Slowly, slowly, slowly – that’s the best technique.

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