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…