Carving an American Rococo Shell

2018-03-05T11:22:04-05:00 March 29th, 2017|

This is a brief introduction to "Carving an American Rococo Shell."

This 3 episode lesson is Part 2 of the "Colonial Charleston Fireplace" series. The lesson teaches how to carve an historical reproduction of a colonial, American Rococo style shell for the center panel of the undermantle (flanked by the acanthus leaves from Part 1).

  • Series: Part 2 of the "Colonial Charleston Fireplace"
  • Lesson Contents: 3 episodes; template, tool list, and photo in Episode 1
  • Type of Wood: Mahogany
  • Size: 6-1/2"w x 6-1/2"h x 1-1/4"d
  • Tool List: 6mm v-chisel; #3, 14mm; #5, 6mm; #5, 14mm; #7, 6mm; #7, 14mm; #8, 10mm; #11, 3mm
  • Skill Level: Advanced


Lessons in this Series:

Carving a Rococo Vine

Carving an English Rose

Carving a Scroll & Rosette

Carving an Acanthus Bracket

Carving an American Rococo Shell

Carving a Pomegranate Branch

= More Lessons at the Advanced Skill Level =


  1. Ralph Scheffler May 1, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Great amount of detail, Mary. I love the way you use the back side of your carving tools for rounding edges. Is the skill you learned on your own or
    taught by another carver? Does the sharpness of the tools back side require
    a different approach when you sharpen all your tools?

    • Mary May May 1, 2017 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Hi Ralph, it’s difficult to say whether this was learned from someone, or it just became a very convenient and efficient way of shaping wood. It was many years ago and I don’t really recall an “aha” moment, but it just evolved over the years. My guess is it was a combination of watching various master carvers and developing my own technique that works the best for me.

      When you talk about the “sharpness” of the back side, I’m assuming you are referring to the bevel angle? They ideal angle for carving gouges is 22 to 23 degrees. More than that and the tool is lifted too high off the wood. Less than that, the tool runs too close to the wood to cut comfortably. With a few exceptions, they are all very close to this angle.

      I hope this helps.

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