Tattooed Wooden Fists, Door Update, Samples, Plywood Desk and a Mayan Pyramid

Tattooed Fists

Out of necessity I’ve been learning how to tattoo for the last couple of weeks. In particular to transcribe the tattoo of my client onto the wooden arms/fists I made. This proved to be a challenge (to say the least). I started by drawing a couple of flat versions of the tattoo on paper based on the photos of the clients arm, this was to figure out how everything lined up as the tribal patter went around his arm and ultimately proved invaluable. Then I pencilled the design onto one of the arms. This again took a while and multiple erasings to get things spaced correctly and working right. Once the pencil version looked OK I started the pyrography. This uses pen with a heated metal nib to literally burn the design into the wood. If you make a mistake then you have to sand it off… so I proceeded to carefully outline the main black areas. Next I filled the solid areas and then added the outline and finally the detail. Once the first one was finished I used that to help me do the second so this was quicker but still time consuming (approx. 4/5 days to do all the work for both arms). The various stages can be seen in the images below. I was very happy with how these turned out and the finished result exceeded my expectations of how good this concept would look. The customer will be seeing them in person today, I hope he likes them as much as I do…

Door Update

The door I have been working on was put into its frame, sanded and a walnut inlay added around the inside of the rails and stiles. We also placed the walnut beads I made to hold the glass in place and put a coat of oil on it. This now just needs sanding back, more oil and the glass putting in place. The walnut really accents the panel well and I love the way the grain of the oak looks on the scalloped areas.


Below you can see a few random items I’ve been slotting in the past couple of weeks. The first is a new design for the magnetic key-holder. I like how this looks but don’t think the oak works for it so will probably stick to maple like the first one I built. The second image is a small sign I made to put next to my display at the Vectric User Group that I attended on Wednesday. It was good to see the new features going into the software and catch up with some old friends there. The final image is some egg and dart I modelled and machined based on a photo supplied by the customer. This was a machining test to see how it looked and time how long it takes to make so I can give him an accurate price on carving 12 metres of it!

Plywood Desk

My son needed a desk for his room. It had to fit over a box surrounding some pipes and also fulfil his wish list of having shelves, a tilted drawing board and looking “cool”… I volunteered to make it and ended up creating a design to use up some sheets of 12mm plywood I had in the workshop. Originally I designed it with plywood legs but a mistake on my behalf, running the same file twice instead of making the left and right meant I ran out of material (doh!). Some hasty design changes and adjustment meant I could still complete it without buying more material, but I did need to source some metal legs to add on instead. The whole thing took me about 50% longer than it should have to make as tends to be the case. This but does the job and most importantly the customer was very happy with it… You can see some of the parts being cut below (it all slotted together straight off the machine) and the desk with and without the drawing board in place…

Mayan Pyramid

The last thing I worked on (literally this morning) was also for my son. His homework this week was to draw and describe a Mayan Temple - they also said if he wanted he could make a model of one too. I thought this would be a fun thing to work on together so I can show him the CAD/CAM process and something cutting on the CNC. We designed some files to cut into 18mm MDF that would stack up on each other to make the pyramid and also the steps going down each of the sides. You can see a willing helper vacuuming and sanding in the first two images and the finished pieces stacked up and glued in the third. Following this we scraped away the excess glue and put sanding sealer on it so it can be sanded back and painted tomorrow. It was really good fun and some “stealth” education to work on it together and we were both pretty pleased with how it turned out…

Modern Gothic, Poppy Window Frames, Beam Decoration and Fist Newel Posts

Apologies for the lack of a recent update. Starting with the World Cup, holidays and various other summer distractions I got out the habit of doing a weekly update. Going forward I’ll aim to add something every two weeks to make sure there is some good content but not to onerous to keep up with. On the plus side I have been quite busy with some interesting projects as detailed below. All these are for a particular client that Thomas Philpott Cabinet Makers (who I share workshop space with) are working with to create a unique interior space.

Modern Gothic Door

A major feature in the clients house is the door into the kitchen - I designed this in collaboration with Tom Philpott based loosely on a pattern of an old medieval gothic door panel that he found. I developed it into something that had a more contemporary feel but still kept the balance of symmetry with a natural flow through the panel. The customer also wanted some small panes of glass to go into the door so we selected some of the scalloped shapes to be cutout. The majority of the door frame was made by hand although I did cut the arched head which you can see in the first two pictures below. The next two images show the door being carved, these required two setups on the CNC per panel and each side of the door took 10 hours to carve. The fifth and sixth picture show the finished carved panel and the panels sandwiched into the frame.

To hold the glass in the cutouts I made 40 walnut beads. These were pretty tricky as they are only 6mm wide at the tops and the back has a 2mm step and then a 15mm deep wall that is only 4mm wide… Between them being generally tricky to cut and making a couple of errors in setup I ended up with well over 10 failures! In the last row of pictures you can see the process I used to make them, first cutting the pocket and wall from the back then inserting that into an MDF pocket to hold the part while cutting the rounded shape on the top. The final image shows them stacked after sanding.

To finish the door we are now waiting for the glass. I’m really looking forward to seeing it assembled, with the glass and beads in and everything oiled.

Door Frame and Window Headers

The frame for the door has a variation of the same “modern gothic” pattern cut into it. You can see in the first two pictures below they how the longer parts of the frame required three separate setups on my 900mm CNC bed. I’ve got a good, albeit time consuming method to get the wood perfectly lined up between cuts now. The third image shows the sides and top together ready for assembly. The second row of images below shows another variation of this design which I adapted to fit a pointed shaped header that will go above a window in the same room. I really like the way this pattern combines a certain geometry and flow with both sharp and rounded shapes and how you can adapt it to fit different applications.

Poppy Window Frame

The three images below show a “quick” job I did to carve some pieces for a painted window frame. I took the poppy motif that we’ve accented other items with in the house and carved that into the corners and middle of each side then added the fluted parts of the column so it could all be easily assembled and painted.

Beam Decoration Sample

Given the scope of the work in the clients home we end up making a number of samples to test things out and to fine tune designs and get feedback on what we’re doing. The sample shown in the image below, I made as an example of an ornate decoration we could add to the beams in the kitchen. This echoes the moulding profile and curved shape we’ll be using on the cabinet doors. To this I added a leaf with v-carved veins and a walnut inlay. Making this allowed the customer to see that this was more than he was looking for and we’ve pared this back now for the final version. I was still pleased with this combination though and particularly the interplay between the relief carving, v-shape and inlay. Often these things find a life on something else once you’ve made them.

Fist & Arm Newel Posts

The final thing to catch up on in this blog update are two fist shaped newel posts that I created to fill gaps in the posts on the clients stairs. Due to the age of the house the posts on each floor do not line up naturally but the customer still wanted them connected. So I suggested picking a shape that would completely break up the straight lines and offer something very unique while still having the same rough outline as a traditional newel post. After the customer agreed to it I realised I probably should have kept quiet as it was going to be pretty tricky to do - although really its this kind of difficult and unusual job that is always most interesting to solve. In the end I found a model of a fist on the Turbosquid 3D model website, this was an excellent model - I assume made from a 3D scan of a real hand. I still needed to bring this into Vectric’s Aspire software though and build the forearm including some accents for muscles and tendons and blend this all together and make it fit the post. This took quite a bit of adjustment and to help I cut a half-sized model of an early version which was useful to make final changes.

Each post is around 600mm long and required a piece of oak 110mm square. I cut the parts from one side first then flip the material to cut the other side. The depth of the cut along with the fact I only have 150mm of clearance on my CNC made for a pretty interesting setup as you can see in the first 5 images below. The carving time was about 5 hours per arm. The sixth picture shows them finished and off the machine. Due to the fact the tool cannot get into the undercuts I knew there would be a fair amount of hand-carving to do to finish off the detail under the fingers and in the sides of the fists themselves. The last row of photos shows the hand-carving in progress and the two fists almost finished at the clients house so they could be fitted. I have still got some more hand-carving to do to complete these and the customer is also looking to have me tattoo them both to match the amazing tribal tattoos on his arm. So this particular challenge keeps getting more interesting by the day…

More Cheese, Mini Poppies, Plaques and Build Photos...

Due to the World Cup and our unusually hot weather I've been pretty slack over the past few weeks getting into the workshop and making much at all. With holidays coming up that'll probably continue until mid-August and then hopefully we'll start to kick back into gear on the Gothic Kitchen and get some other things moving too... 

This week however I was able to muster some energy do a production run on a re-vamped version of the "Che's Board" Cheese Board. I changed to a slightly larger wedge shape which fits its use better. I also curved the text and moved it above the face - I'm much happier with this design and the production process went quite well albeit I'm still playing with feeds and speeds to minimise chipping out the small details, so I did have to re-cut some of the walnut pieces. You can see the board and inlay being cut and a finished board with one coat of oil in the first row of photos below...

Tom, who I share the workshop with had some 20mm holes in a stair case that he needed to plug and thought it would be interesting to make a feature of it rather than just use rounds of the same wood. So he asked me to carve a set of very small (40mm diameter) poppies with a 20mm cylinder on the back of them (to act as the plug). I used a tapered 1/16 inch (1.5mm) diameter tip radius tool to get excellent detail and these ended up coming out really well and have got me thinking about other very small projects I could carve... The second row of photos shows the back of these, a close up with a finger for size and the finished carving of all 10 poppies.

The last row of photos show a Corian memorial plaque I made for my sister's friend in the first two images and the carved Caravaggio maquette I made the other week with some oil on it - which brought the tight grain of the Sapele out nicely. 

I have made a few additions to the website recently to add some projects that were finished a while ago to the Portfolio. I've also created a number of entries on this blog that detail photos from various jobs, if you scroll down from here you can browse them at your leisure. 

World Cup Trophy Replica - Build Photos

During the 2018 World Cup I was inspired to make an oversized replica of the trophy. I downloaded a really basic model of the general shape from the internet that was intended for 3D printing. I sliced this up in Vectric's Aspire software - carved the pieces in 40mm thick maple wood kitchen worktop. These slices were glued and then I hand carved the detail into it. The overall size was 700mm high - almost double the size of the original... 

Organic Bowl 2 - Build Photos

Undulating organic shaped bowl cut out of solid walnut and finished with Danish Oil.

Picture Disk Frame - Build Photos

I was commissioned to build two frames to display a pair of 12" vinyl picture disks. I decided to accentuate the round shape of the disks in the design for the frame. Along with the unusual shape the disks had a design with a cyclops on them so I decided to incorporate a carving on an eye along with the monogram added by request from the customer. You can see the individual pieces that were carved and assembled to create the frames and then finally one of the frames with the glass and disks installed.

Ornate Greenhouse Window - Build Photos

This was a collaborative project with Thomas Philpott Cabinet Makers who had been commissioned to design and build a large greenhouse. as part of this Tom designed an amazing decorative window to fill one of the triangular sections above the entrance. My job was to figure out how to make all the pieces for this part of the frame using a machine only 900mm x 600mm. Below you can see some of the separate pieces being machined and laid out before assemble and install. 

Inigo Jones - Door Book Ends

This was a commission to build two bookends based on a design for a large Italianate garden gate/door designed by by 16th/17th century British architect Inigo Jones. As you can see in the images each bookend was made from 7 seperate carved pieces.

Cherub Window - Build Photos

The customer for this project required an internal window be made to go between two rooms in their house. One room had the 17th century carving you can see in the first picture on display in it. As such I design the window frame to echo the design of the original cherub carving and to also include the quatrefoils which are a feature in the other room. I modelled the cherub in the software based on photos of the original. The engineering for the centre rotating window and the install was done by my associates at Thomas Philpott Cabinet Makers. The last two pictures on the final row show both sides of the finished window

CeorfAmp - Build Photos

These twelve images show aspects of the process used to build the CeorfAmp guitar amplifier. The housing is cut from a mix of oak and beech butcher block kitchen counter top material. This was made in slices which were glued together then I added a front and back rounded section to finish the shape. The small piece at the back houses the batter for the Jam Jar Amps amplifier, electronics and battery. The whole amp is finished with Danish Oil.