Arched Doorway, Fountains Abbey, Moulding, Light Covers, an Old Bowl etc.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in and out of the workshop recently. A lot of work has been for a long term job I’m doing in collaboration with Thomas Philpott Cabinet Makers (the guys downstairs in the workshop) for a client who is completely remodelling their home with some very interesting and ornate features.

One recent set of components that were required for this was a set of panels to go on the underside of an arched doorway. We scratched our heads a bit about how to do these but in the end went for bending sheets of 3mm MDF into a curved glued form and machining the beaded, raised panel shape into these to match the rest of the panelling in the room which is being painted.

In the set of photos shown below you can see this process documented. The first few images show the forms used to curve the MDF and also to cradle it once curved on the CNC. The fourth image shows the MDF glued and in the vacuum bag to keep it in position overnight while the glue set. In the fifth image you can see the formed panel, which was sawn into three pieces. The cradle was then positioned onto the CNC and I machined out a precise curve to ensure everything would line up perfectly.

Each panel was screwed in place on the cradle and then the panel shape carved into it and the edges squared up. The finished parts can be seen in the last image, I also made a saw jig for these so they could be cut to length for installation. They have now been installed but I have not been able to get to the clients house yet to take a photo but will update when I can.

Last weekend we got away for the weekend to one of my favourite places in the UK; Fountains Abbey. Below you can see a photo of the ruin of the 12th century abbey - its location in a secluded valley is unusual for such a large building but just adds to the magic. Inside the ruin the light and shapes are amazing, we were particularly lucky to have a nice sunny autumn day to accent this as can be seen in the second image below. The last image is a carving that was on the wall in the more recent hall that was built near the ruin. It’s a very good carving, almost certainly Lime wood and in the style of Grinling Gibbons (although not close to how fine his work is). Still very good and interesting to see.

Why mention this trip on a work blog? Visiting places like this is how I get inspired and motivated to create my own work…

The Moulding toolpath is a really good featured that was added to Vectric’s Aspire software about 2 years ago. It allows you to machine standard cross sections very efficiently. I’ve had need for it twice in the last two weeks. The first was to cut arched pieces of architrave to match the moulding being used, as seen in the first three pictures below. The second was to create a curved pieces of cornice to match another much deeper moulding (65mm). The process for both of these was to measure the original carefully using digital calipers, draw the profile in the software and then cut a 2D sample to compare to the original and make any small adjustments. Then you can literally extrude this shape to make a moulding toolpath to carve the shape. As you can see in the last photo you can get this pretty much perfect and they are also pretty efficient to cut too.

A while back I cut a prototype for a light cover for a client, they approved it but did not want all the parts cutting until the lights were ready for install. I got the go-ahead with these last week so went into production mode carving 10 of them at once - 2 sided. There was a bit of tear-out in the oak on a couple of them so I had to cut a couple more, adjusting the toolpath to minimise the chance for this to happen. These are waiting for final finish before install. The pictures below show them in process but not the complete set (I forgot to take a photo)…

When I first started CeorfanWorks I made a bowl in Sapele with a rippled back. I really liked the design and had always intended to make a second version the original sits on the piano at home. A recent visitor saw the original and really liked it, he’s now commissioned me to make him one in Walnut. The thing I loved about the original was the rippled shape and how it interacts with the grain, the only problem is with it being on the underside its quite hidden - hence we have the original on the piano where its elevated. For this version I added some ripples to the top as well (although not as pronounced) which looks really good. Below you can see the process for cutting the bowl (two sided). This now needs sanding to eliminate all the tooling marks (although these are light I like to try and get rid of them all) and then I’ll oil it which should really make the grain pop.

Finally a few other quick jobs from the shop (it has been busy). I made some internal panels for a window frame I cut the parts for a few weeks ago (first image below). Another job was a couple of curved components which I don’t actually know the use of (I just draw them to spec and cut them…). The last image shows the result of my new branding iron I ordered which I can use to burn the logo into products rather than always carve it - the carving takes time and can be awkward to finish. I had a bit of trouble with heating it and making a good mark but with some practice I’m sure I’ll get good results.

Loose Ends, Decorative Beam Carvings and 2D Components

To finish up some business from the last blog entry you can see in the first picture below the fully painted Mayan Pyramid my son and I made for his school project. The teacher was very happy with it but more important we really had fun making it and I think he learned a few things (I know I did)…

The second image below shows some bought parts that let wires come up through a hole in a desk. The guys in the workshop had lost one of the tops so I made a new one (the one on the right) for them. Really nice to quickly be able to make a simple component without having to wait for it to be ordered.

The third image on the top row shows a 2.4m (8 ft.) board, being carved by the CNC. To carve parts this long I have to pull them through the 900mm bed carefully locating them to ensure they are straight and indexed in the right place. I have good method for this now using a jig to keep it straight and a known tool position to locate its length correctly. The design shown in the image uses a combination of V-Carving toolpaths with a flat bottom pocket and also the fluting toolpath for the swept shapes in between - this is relatively quick to machine but still take a while when you need 6 metres of it. To secure this under the beam where it will be installed I cut 10 mm holes for the screw to sit within. To cover these I carved some decorative square-domed walnut plugs which you can see in the second row of photos. The first one shows the back with the 10 mm circle that will insert into the hole. Once this side is cut then are flipped over, aligned accurately using dowels and the top dome shape carved with a small ball-nosed tool. I left tabs to hold them in place and then trimmed these off with a knife and sanded them clean on a disk sander. You can see the finished parts in the photo below with the metal ruler. These small accurate pieces are very satisfying to make and turn a negative (the screw hole) into a decorative positive addition to the design.

The beam that the long carving shown above is going onto the base of also has decorative sides. Running along the length will be arches. Each one is made from the components shown in the first three photos in block below. These will have a 4mm wide walnut bead glued into the centre and then be sawn using the MDF jigs you can see in the middle photo. These will go together make the joint to complete the arch.

The top part of the beam will include a decorative moulding that will have an egg and dart element inserted to it. A lot of this last week has been spent carving lengths of this as you can see in the bottom three images. These have to be indexed through and aligned as accurately as possible. You can normally see a slight witness line where they overlap but this is easily sanded out. I still have about 5 metres of this left to carve. Each metre takes about 3 hours to cut using a tool with a 1.5mm (1/16”) tip diameter to get the fine detail…

Finally the guys in the workshop needed some 2D parts cutting which they can make by hand but the CNC can do more accurately and quickly. The first of these was some dividers cut out of 15mm thick maple wood. These had to interlock to create the grid to go in the drawers. I used the T-Bone fillet option in the Vectric software to allow the joint to fit properly as you can see in the middle-top photo below. The final photo shows the parts waiting a finish sand and final assembly.

The last three images show some long MDF parts required for a small rise of stairs that had to fit round some existing newel posts at a customers house. Again I needed to index these through the machine as the boards were 1500mm long but everything came out well and the guys were very pleased with how easy these were to assemble. You can see the finished set of stairs waiting for install in the final image.

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.