More Decorative Carving: Samuel McIntire’s Fruit Basket

Samuel McIntire is one this country’s most famous wood carvers. The homes in Salem Massachusetts are filled with furniture decorated with his carvings, many buildings feature some decorative carvings of his and, in fact, many of the buildings in and around Salem were designed by him. During the late 18th and early 19th century McIntire carved hundreds, maybe thousands, of ornaments for builders, cabinet makers and government buildings. Perhaps his most famous design is the fruit basket. These were usually carved in shallow relief from thin mahogany and then attached to furniture. I’ve wanted to carve one for years and finally took the time to do it. My carving is about 12″ wide and carved from mahogany. I mounted it to  a piece of maple for contrast and then framed the entire piece with mahogany moldings. A pattern will be available soon.

Some Decorative Carving

I spend a lot of time looking for interesting things to carve. One of my favorite subjects is traditional decorative carving. The acanthus has been one of the most popular motifs for hundreds of years. While searching internet for images of acanthus leaf designs I found a drawing for the carving in the photo below. Instead of the typical relief carving I carved this almost in the round out of basswood and mounted it to a scrap piece of walnut I had. It is about 10″ tall and a full 1 1/2″ thick.

Another Boston Carving Co. Eagle

After carving the recent Boston Carving Co. eagle for a customer,  I decided to do another one more to my liking. This one has full depth wings, a shorter banner and a different finish.

I reshaped the banner a bit, and instead of an aged gold finish, I dyed the wood and finished it with linseed oil. The paint is acrylic.

The overall width is 60″ with a 51″ wingspan. This eagle is for sale and ready for immediate delivery.


Eagle Standing on Flags

This is a recent commission I just finished. It is a copy of an old eagle I found a picture of online many years ago. The photo was of very poor quality and it was small, so creating the pattern required some guess work. I have no idea how big the original was, but the customer wanted his 40″ wide, which made it only 10″ high. When finished it seemed rather small, but the customer had a specific space he wanted to hang it. Here is the carving completed in raw wood.

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Here it is after being dyed. The customer requested an aged finish. When wearing down the finish you need a dark base so you don’t end up with new looking wood under an older finish.

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And here is the finished product, lightly aged.

Life Sized, Anatomically Correct Human Skull

Well, almost anatomically correct. This was just a practice piece and isn’t perfect. But is is close. I used basswood and finished it to look like it was dug up out of the ground. I finished it in amber shellac and still have to kill some of the shine. I mounted it on a piece of maple into which I turned a bunch of disks to mimic vertebrae in a spine. Then I carved it into an “S” shape so it has a curve like a real spine.

I’ve wanted to carve one of these for a long time. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a real human skull as a model, which helped a lot.  Now I am trying to find a suitable block of burl to carve a keeper.

Carving an Eagle Designed by Artist John Ruthven

John Ruthven is a well known wildlife artist who has been compared to John Audubon. So when he inquired about having an eagle made, I encouraged him to draw up the design himself. It gave me the opportunity to work on something a little different.

John Ruthven and his late wife, Judy, bought and restored the boyhood home of Ulysses S Grant. They then donated the home to the state of Ohio where it is now a museum. The eagle  will be mounted above the front door as a tribute to Judy Ruthven who died recently.

Here is the artist’s drawing that I used to created a pattern.

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Jaguar Sculpture

This piece is more of a sculpture than a wood carving. Though I carved it out of wood, no tool marks are visible. I spent a lot of time filing and sanding them all away. The result is a smooth finish. It is carved out of a solid block of mahogany and mounted to a figured maple base. The piece is about 12 inches long. It is a close interpretation of the hood ornament on a Jaguar automobile.

Carved Eagle Talon

Eagle talons are complicated and difficult to carve. This is why almost every carved eagle you find has some sort of stylized version. I found a pretty good picture online of a close up view of an eagle talon and tried to reproduce it. Here’s the result.

It was a challenge. Most of it was pretty easy. Getting the texture or bumps on the skin turned out too difficult and I was forced to use a negative texture instead of the bumps.

Carving John Bellamy’s $660,000 Eagle

I recently received a commision to carve one of John Bellamy’s most famous carvings. Though I had created a pattern for it about a year ago, I had yet to actually carve one. This eagle will be smaller than the original at about 28″ wide. That’s about as small as I would carve one of these. Any smaller and you start losing some of the details.

Having a good pattern is the key to getting a close reproduction of the original. And having a high resolution photo of the original helps to get the details right. But without actually having the original in front of you, much of it is guess work.

Here is a series of photos taken a various stages. The last photo is the original.

If you’d like to try carving one yourself, at the end of this post you can purchase a pattern. To purchase a finished eagle click here.

God Is Refuge #1

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Template has been cut on the band saw and the head piece has been glued on.

Order a carving pattern here.


Another Liberty Head Carving – From the Morgan Dollar

I just finished another carving of a portrait of Lady Liberty. This time the portrait is from the gorgeous Morgan dollar. I tried some new things with this carving. I tried a new wood, African Mahogany. It’s a beautiful wood but has some problems. The grain has a little too much figure. The figure makes carving with the grain difficult. The grain of figured wood changes constantly.

Fortunately, another thing I tried was ultra high relief. Carving end grain in this wood produces the smoothest surface. When carving ultra high relief you spend much of the time carving end grain. The wood I used was almost 4 inches thick. I was able to carve a full 1/2 of the face. This required much more realism and attention to the true shape of the head.

The final thing I did for the first time was texture the background. I hadn’t planned on doing this but the changing grain made it too difficult to get a smooth background. I took a big 1/2″ bolt and filed a cross hatch pattern in the end of it, then used it as a punch and textured the entire background. This camouflaged any tear out and created a darker background, which made the subject stand out more.

The only time I’ll use African mahogany again is if I do another ultra high relief or full in-the-round carving. If you’d like to try carving this portrait yourself the pattern is available for sale.


Carving a New Sign For My Business

For years I’ve wanted to replace the tailgate of my pickup truck with a hand carved sign to use as a unique form of advertising. I’m finally doing it. Following is a photo diary of the process from conception to the final product.

Like everything else this carving started with a vision, and had to be put to paper before any carving could begin. I sketched out a design on a regular 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet of paper and then scanned it into my computer. Once digitized, I imported it into Adobe Illustrator and traced the sketch, then played with it until I was happy with the design. After measuring the original tailgate on my truck, I scaled the design to work on a piece of wood that matched the tailgates dimensions. Below is the finished drawing done in Adobe Illustrator. Click on the image below, and all images to follow to see a larger view.

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Carving Lady Liberty

Here is a carving  I just finished from one of the latest patterns I’ve posted on my patterns page. This version of Lady Liberty came from an early 19th century gold American coin.  The dark spot on the hair is a hidden sap pocket or knot or some other defect that was hidden until I starting cutting away wood. I also didn’t expect for the grain to be so pronounced. I used a little tung oil and it made the white pine look like yellow pine.