In the Diocese’s there is a new Bishop. I’ve been commissioned by the outgoing Bishop to build a new Altar and Tabernacle to go into his private residence and for the new Bishop to carve a new crest for the presiding chair in the main Cathedral. Now as Crests go,,there is much symbolism. Each Bishop has his own motto and coat of arms.
On the coat of arms,, or crest ,, you will find that on one half is the symbolism for the Doiceses and the other half is the crest of the presiding Bishop. Well I was sent the coat of arms for the new Bishop and asked to carve the entire crest with his coat of arms included. This means that one half of the design will be for the Dioceses’ and the other half the new ,, or sitting Bishop as I have said.
So somehow,, they found someone design a coat of arms for the new Bishop,, and it’s my job to work it into a design to be carved. Why they just didn’t ask me from the beginning is beyond me,, but they gave me a design to use. Fine,, saved me some trouble,, but most designs don’t translate well to a carving. So I took their design ,, modified it , and incorporated it into a carving. It was OK,,, just not what I like to see. And this design will be used on all stationary and correspondence from the Diocesean offices. Great!
And of course, as I joked on another site,, just my luck they will expect this design to be carved into a panel,, going above the Bishops chair,, in a 6 X 6 panel. Well I wasn’t far off. They have a complex design that is going into a panel not 6 X 6,, but 7 1/2 X 8 inches… BUT,,, the new Bishops crest has to be in one half of that panel… so I have roughly 3 3/4 inches to carve an Eagle,, an axe,, and three medallions showing a fish.. a set of keys,, and a rose. Great! My worst expectations were exceeded!
And to top it all off, the panel will be carved into 1/2 inch of wood,,,out of which I can use only 1/8 inch of carving! Actually it came out to be 5/32 of an inch. So what? You sneeze or hiccup while carving a thitry second of an inch,, and it’s all gone. What’s an additional thirty second really mean in carving? Nothing. You sand that much away. Oh ,, this will be fun to pull off.
Now as i said I didn’t think the design ( for the shield) was all that great. I made a few changes within limits. Ultimately I think the design is a bit too busy for traditional Heraldry as well as what has to fit into this specific location. But,, who am I to argue.
I did the entire piece,, but I’m only showing the main crest and the motto scroll across the bottom. This isn’t intended as a tutorial,, a how to carve a crest or shield type of post,, but more of what can be pulled out of a limited amount of wood and still have it look decent. To me , that’s the interesting part. If anyone has questions as to how anything else was done you can easily post a question or comment and I’ll be glad to answer. But you’ll see,, what the other elements to make the design are pretty much straight forward. Get a scroll saw,, cut out the design,, carve some rope a few tassels and there you go.
But the reason I like the Crest part so much is the relative size of the piece,, and I’m currently carving the Tryptich as well. Now here is a juxtaposition. In one piece ( Tryptich) I have what seems like a lot of wood, relatively speaking. Each door panel is a bit over 2 ft. wide and almost 6 ft tall in a max of almost 2 inches thick. In this as you might have seen I’m carving Adam, Eve, the tree with the Serpent and a variety of foliage. At the same time I shift to carving an Eagle, an axe in his talons, and three medallions on his chest and wings that show a fish,, two crossed keys and a rose in an area that’s 3 3/4 inches X 6 inches in just over an eighth of an inch of wood. If I loose an eighth on the Tryptich,, not a major problem,, here,, that’s the entire carving. And in relative terms of depth to overall size the relationship is pretty close. I have just as much wood here,, as I do there,relatively speaking. The amount of depth for the size of the eagle is only relative to these proportions. And given it’s size,, I think it reads pretty well.
The other thing I think is curious is the tools are the same to carve both. The very same tools I use to carve a large panel.. mallet and all,, are the very same tools I used to carve this relief as well. I don’t use palms or micro tools,,I feel there is no control in them. And in a piece as small as this I need control and accuracy. As you go through some of the photo’s you’ll see a rose in one of the medallions. This rose was carved in the thickness less than a dime… and that same dime can cover the entire rose. That’s getting fairly small but the smallest tool I used was a 5 mm #8 ,, the same one used on the Tryptich. Now,, given the size,, there is only so much you carve in the thickness of a piece of paper or two. But given these parameters it too still is recognizable for what it is,, wood fibers have to have some thickness as well and it’s pretty hard to carve just half of one.
The one other thing that might be odd to some is I don’t use straight chisels very often,, if at all. I tend to stay away from them unless it’s a very short straight line that the entire chisel can cover. All the straight lines on the carving were done with a curved chisel,,, and you’ll also see that all the curved stop cuts were done with a fairly flat chisel ( like a #2 for example) Common sense tells me to use a curved chisel to make a curved stop cut. It can be used ,, depending on the particular cut.. but sometimes not nearly as well. And a straight chisel can cause more problems trying to make a straight line than a curved chisel will. And for an area such as grounding the flat areas behind the raised carving,, here too I will not use a flat chisel. It makes a mess. I use a curved chisel.
Got it? Makes sense right? For a while I didn’t think so either until I tried it. For a straight line ,, use a curved chisel,, for curves use an almost flat chisel,, and for a flat area,,use a curved chisel,and for small carvings,, use large full size “mallet” tools. Why,, because it’s easier in all respects. If there was an easier, faster, more accurate way,, I’d be doing that instead. See what happens if you’re self taught. You don’t do anything like your supposed to do. You always are looking for better ways to accomplish things. And when you get to see some photographs.. you’ll see just how well this can work,, and what the results you can achieve.
Enough talk,, lets see some pictures. As a reminder,, the photo’s bordered in red can be clicked on to enlarge them. I didn’t do this for all the photo’s , just the one’s that are a point of interest that pertain to the story.