Dragon spoon

This was a gift for my daughter’s art teacher as he is moving on at the end of this term. I call it keeper of the pearl; if you look really close you might spot the ‘pearl’. There’s a tiny ball that is completely free moving carved inside the dragon’s mouth. I was really pleased with this one; only about 12″ long, it was quite a challenging carve, especially the head, where the eyes are only 3mm long and 2mm high, but it came together very nicely.


dl spoon (2)


first antler relief carving finished (well, nearly)

OK, well, for anyone that might be interested, this is how my second  carving in stag-horn (antler) is coming along – the bulk of the carving, to all intents and purposes is finished, except for some sharpening up here and there, which I am leaving until it is mounted in a cross-bow – at current rate of progress that will be this time next year…. Oh, it will need some kind of antique-effect wax to help pick-out the details and slow down moisture movement too So, for your delectation I present archangel Michael as based on the carving on the underside of the Ulrich crossbow attributed to Heinrich Heid von Winterthur (probably Swiss, active Stuttgart, recorded 1453–1460) held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art).   michael and scalesThe carving measures 2cm by 21cm and is a maximum of 1mm deep, but perhaps most interestingly (to some), I strongly believe the ‘crosslet’ in the diamond at the base has been mis-identified, and is in fact satan carved as a dragon – if you look at the hd image on its strongest magnification ( http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/21940)  you can just about make out a mouth and a head – you will need to select additional images. Although badly worn, an image of satan in the underworld with the earth represented by oak leaves and archangel michael guarding the way to Heaven makes sense (at least to me). I am very grateful too, for the work by Dirk Breiding (Met Museum publication The Crossbow of Count Ulrich V of Wurttemberg, Met Museum Jounal, vol 44, 2009) in which he points out the scales containing the penitent and the tower, and the demon pulling at the scales, all of which would have been extremely difficult to identify without his work.   Only one carving tool was used for this, a small skew chisel using  the point as a scraper.


Whew, now that the series of posts on the HW rifle-stock is concluded I can show a little of the other work that has been underway.

image60th Anniversary celebration lovespoon with elements significant to the couple- dragon, celtic knotwork, lily of the valley, heart, book, and ball-in-cage.

meanings – dragon – strength and protection, regimental badge (he was a soldier)

celtic knot – eternity/love without end

lily of the valley – her wedding flowers/ flowers also mean affection, also though the photo does not show it, there are two stems for two children and the flowers each represent a grandchild

heart -love

book – she was a teacher

ball-in-cage – love held safe

spoon bowl – to love and look after ( the tradition is believed to refer to the wife as the one who feeds the family)

This lovespoon has been a very enjoyable challenge, and as I like to do, incorporates some elements that push me just a little. In this case, the Lily of the Valley (the bell-shaped flowers between the heart and the disc) was a tricky little carving since I have a bit of a thing about rotary power tools – I hate them, and will not use them, in fact I don’t actually own one – when mine packed up I couldn’t be bothered to replace it. It can be tempting to use the power tool as a short-cut which in fact it adds time and effort, the rotary power tool has a specific job to do but even I will acknowledge that for engraving and drilling they really do excel. However, as soon as you move up in scale from etching and engraving, I believe chisels/gouges/knives to be superior in almost every way but for this job I am not sure whether rotary power might have been the better choice. Still, carving such fine work with gouges, drills and coping saw was a lot of fun.

Carve Dragon-head finial, part two

I’ve finished playing with the dragon-head that was carved in the first part of this article.  I wasn’t going to go any further with it but couldn’t resist the opportunity to do some snake-scale carving.

this is where we left things last time

Carving the snake-scales is well underway in the picture (above).  Two base-lines were used for the lay-out, one just visible behind the fringe of ‘spikes’ at the beginning of the neck, the other a line marking the junction between the snakey-scales and the long and thin scales that cross the underside of the neck.

The snake scales were carved with a deep gouge (a number 6,7, or 8 will do) to set in the pattern, BUT a gouge of half the depth and half the width was used as well to do the half-cut where the scales meet the base line, and where they meet the horns.

After the pattern is laid-out the carving was done with a SHARP, long, thin, blade – the long thin point is needed to reach into the junction between scales.






The snake-scale carving is completed here, and the carving under the neck is underway.  These scales were very simple to carve.  First a deep line is scored with a knife (known as a ‘stop-cut’ – because the blade will reach this and stop moving and any timber that splits away will not split past this cut).

Next the same blade is used to cut a champfer into the stop-cut, first one way, as shown in this image; then the other as shown in the next image.





 When the three cuts meet the waste should fall away as shown here.

 I try to never sand a carving, and the rough edges were tidied up by gently pulling the sharp blade across the carved surfaces, with the blade held vertically so that it acts as a scraper.  Scraped surfaces and carved surfaces will not rise when wetted by a water-based finish such as the acryllic paints used in the next phase, which is…







The paint was simple to apply. 

First a white base-coat was applied and allowed to dry; next a top coat of blue was applied over the white and then wiped off straight away leaving the blue filling the low points and exposing the white over the high points and surface. 

Finally a wax (or varnish, if you prefer) was applied to give a pleasant sheen

How to …carve a dragon-head finial.

Dragon-heads are one of my favourite finials, perfect for tiller handles.

One of the nicest ways to begin learning how to carve animals is to carve mythical creatures, this is because no-one has a real dragon to compare your carving to and, of course, you intended it to look like that, didn’t you?

Dragon heads, like most quadruped heads, are triangular in basic shape when viewed from both the side and from above.

Changing the shape of the triangle, broad and short, or tall and pointy will dramatically change the appearence of the creature.

imagethis is a page from my sketchbook showing a draft plan for this project, for those not familiar with drafting the three views (elevations) you need a 45 degree line to reflect one set of construction lines to meet the other set of lines, see the bottom right quadrant of the page. Carry as many significant reference  points from the other elevations through the ‘reflector’ as necessary to draw the elevations- corners of eye, tip of nose, end of horns and so on.

OK, time to carve.

First draw on the centre-line and then cut off the corners to form the side profile and the plan (top-down) profile.

Re-draw the centre line, a vital step as it helps to ensure symmetry.

Draw on one of the profile outlines and carve it; then draw on the other profile and carve it out.



triangles cut out, profiles re-drawn and centre-line put in






imageRound over the snout and hollow the cheeks to enable you to carve the eye.

Draw in the mouth and cut it in, be careful to keep both sides the same as it will affect the view from the front.

The eye-ball is a ball and you really must try hard to round it over, you will be staggered at the difference it makes to a carving if the eye is left too flat.

imageYou will find that to enable you to carve the eyeball, the eye-lids and the hollow around them will form naturally as you relieve (carve away) the area around the eye. DO NOT dig into the wood but pare-away the enwanted timber, if you dig into the wood it will splinter; it is hard to control the depth of cut; you will scar the timber at the base of the hole; when you come back to refine the carving later the deep cut will be hard to re-model.

While it is fresh in your mind, repeat the process to cut the other eye – carry the position over the skull by drawing two lines at 90-degrees to the centre-line, one line for each corner of the ey (the image above shows these lines).   Better than carving one eye then the other, carve both sides simulataneously, including repeating any mistakes made, as a symmetrical head will be the result and that is better than relying on memory and a pattern.

imageComplete modelling the horns and add any detailing needed.

     imageHere are a couple more…

The sharp-eyed ones amongst you may notice the bottom dragon is the one from the plan, I changed my mind about the beard and carved this head without one, kinda wish I’d left it on though.

Have fun!