This is a little acanthus scroll trailboard for a Victorian launch restoration, currently at the tweak and finish stage. The turn at the bow end is a little too oval, but otherwise it’s coming together nicely. The thing that really makes a deep relief like this ‘pop’ is to undercut it.  Undercutting is done to take the sides of the design out of sight. It is important that this is not overdone or the edges will be weakened. It is also important the back of the carving keeps in contact with the hull; if it is raised it will be susceptible to  breaking off when the carving gets knocked. The thing to bear in mind is to avoid pockets for water to collect in.


The first picture shows a vertical view but even here some of the sides of the carving are visible.


Whereas this image is only slightly off-vertical and the sides are clear to see.



tiller to Brest – update

Things are progressing, slowly, but I am still more-or-less on schedule, having managed to cobble together somewhere near 20 hours carving on the tiller in between and around other work.  I know I felt I would leave the rope-work until the whole thing was roughed out but in the end I have concentrated on getting it done and now the ropework is nearing completion; I think about 5 more hours should see it done.

Hopefully you can see that the work is much deeper and more fully rounded.  You might also see where I have started some fancy ‘whipping’ on the one end: more of that in a later post.  Incidentally the only tool I am using at the moment is a 10mm skew-chisel – the pointed end is essential for getting into the tiny spaces


Carving a half-hull model

Carving a half-hull model is one of my favourite ways to spend time at the carving bench and  is a great ‘novice’ carving project – I carved several when I first started out, including a powerboat, a table-top sculpture of a broads-yacht with sails carved from lime-wood ’till they were transparent, and a j-class yacht with mahogany below the water line and maple above.

There are several ways to carve a half-hull model, with many carvers stating that the best way is to laminate the hull in stepped laminates that follow the hull shape and which are then ‘faired’ into the final form.  This method, it seems to me, is  somewhat ‘potchy’ – you have to cut out and sand flat all those laminates, then glue them and clamp them and then, finally, get to the good bit and carve them into shape – and hope that the glue lines do not show or the model will have to be filled/sanded/painted. I must admit, I far prefer to just get on and carve the thing, although, I do sometimes like to use different colour timbers above and below the water lines.

lines of Albert Strange design ‘Mist’, image from Google Images, believed copy-right free as in public domain

The first thing you will need is a lines plan like the one above – the lines are the shape of the boat drawn on paper to show the 3-d shape of the boat. As you can see the lines plan is a method used to represent a 3-d shape in a 2-d drawing, what might not be so clear at first glance is that it shows the views of the hull from both the front and the back,but if you take a few moments to look at the lines carefully it all quickly becomes clear.  For our purposes the side view, the deck plan and the outline of the boat as seen from the front and rear (bow and stern) are the most important

The lines plans can be enlarged/shrunk to fit the timber and transferred to the block ready for (band)sawing.  Once the block is cut to shape then it can be carved using very few tools – a medium or shallow gouge is ideal, but a chisel can be made to do this work at a pinch. The tool marks must then be removed with a sanding block or Shinto-rasp.

This half-hull was carved using these tools: quick gouge (top)- gouge number 7,8 or 9, flat gouge-number 3, Shinto rasp



imageThe quick gouge is called quick because it removes a lot of material very quickly; best used across the grain to avoid splitting off large chunks if timber, unless you want to do so -it is a useful technique if you are totally sure what will be split away.

The model was finished with a scraper, I never use abrasive cloths or paper unless there is absolutely no alternative.

This half-hull has been finished with a clear wax – the wax is applied and then heated gently with a hair drier until it melts into the wood grain, then buffed with  a soft cloth.


finishing off and the joys of working with oak

In post 123, I started this blog by pointing out I have a bunch of tasks left unfinished or half-started, of which starting a blog was first on the list. Well, I have now got around to finishing task number 2.

Last Autumn (2012), I was demonstrating carving in World of Boats Cardiff, where I carved this chap:


He is carved from a railway-sleeper that they had out the back of the yard, and is almost certainly yellow pine. Now yellow pine is a good carving timber, usually, but in this case the wood was not the best and really only allowed for a naiive carving-style as the timber would not take any real detail.

To demonstrate a more delicate style, I started carving Cleo as a rudder-head in oak.

detail of rudder-head work in progress

detail of rudder-head work in progress

Oak is an altogether excellent carving timber, much maligned as ‘too hard’ – people always say something like ‘Oak, isn’t that rather hard?’ In point of fact, although Oak is marginally harder than, say, lime (linden), it is much softer than a fruit wood such as cherry and it carves very well, accepting a high level of detail. It is a far better wood for carving than mahogany.
Anyhow, after finishing in World of Boats, Cleo was left gathering dust OK, so time to tick one more entry off my list, time to finish Cleo.

carve cobra, begin to rough-out hair

carve cobra, begin to rough-out hair

carve eyes, continue carving hair, mouth and chin refined

carve eyes, continue carving hair, mouth and chin refined

just about there

just about there

hair and make-up

hair and make-up


Oak is classed as a resistant timber, meaning it is naturally resistant to rot and can be used as an out-door timber.Tannic acid is death, or at least deeply unpleasant, to beetles, insects, rot-spores and so-on. 

It also is bad for adhesives and ferous metal fastenings, which it disolves but which also turn the oak black – leave a cluster of nails on the timber one lunch-time and see what happens….  Green oak will turn your fingers black if you work in the hot sun as the perspiration on your fingers will react with the tannic acid that leaches out the timber that rubs on your hands. 

Oak’s ability to turn black means that if you apply a coat of vinegar that has been left covering rusty iron (take strong vinegar and drop in a number of rusty items – I used old nails and screws, leave to soak at least over-night, but the longer the better) it will indeed turn black before your very eyes – the wood will go from clear to bluey-black as you watch.  A word of caution, the more recently the timber surface was cut ~(i.e. the wetter it is), the more acid it has to react and the darker it will go – if the surface was exposed a while ago it will only colour to a dark grey. Also, the liquid will be absorbed a long way into the oak, will penetrate below paint and can show through (don’t ask me how I found this out) as it darkens.

Anyhow, Cleo is now for sale, she’ll make a great rudder-head or what have you, she measures 90mm across and 160mm in height.  Make me an offer if your interested, andrewwilliamvart@yahoo.com.