Poplar by Demand

In recent weeks deciding on what type of carving to attempt next has been quite challenging and during the interim I decided to go with a classic design to fill in the void. The carving that is now on eBay is a small Celtic design with a couple of main elements, namely a Celtic cross with hearts. The total dimensions are seven inches by two inches and carved from a nice cream to green colored timber called Poplar.

This timber is a hard wood but cuts extremely well with sharp tools. I normally use palm carving tools to maintain control of the cuts and a gouge for carving out the bowl of the spoon. It is always best to layout the design on paper first to ensure that the elements look balanced together. Once that has been achieved, trace it straight onto the timber or glue the paper right on top of the wooden blank.

Celtic cross carved from Poplar

For this design I imagined the cross in an ancient graveyard, having seen these type of headstones at cemeteries in England during my school days on various day trips. The presence that these ancient artifacts leave obviously last a life time as the image was easily put to paper.

Shadow cast by the sun replicates a cross in a cemetery

To get the basic form removing the excess on a bandsaw gives it instant three dimensional shape leaving the fine tuning to hand tools. Carving the bowl with an half inch gouge proves very satisfying especially as you are trying to get the thickness between the front and the back of the spoon to an absolute minimum without breaking through. By keeping the tools sharp the amount of tear out is kept to a minimum and is easily sanded out at a latter stage.

I believe the more relief on the carving the more desirable it becomes. It doesn’t make it any easier but it does provide a bigger challenge and more satisfaction at the end of the day.

2 thoughts on “Poplar by Demand

  1. Steve,

    I just have a quick question for you regarding this spoon. I’m doing one based on your design and I don’t have any power tools. How would you recommend I remove the excess wood between the circle and the cross and in the hearts? I’ve got the external shape done, but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing this. I’m a bit nervous about attempting it with my palm tools alone.

  2. Hi Mike,

    On this particular spoon after the initial layout I would have the rectangle blank and either clamp it to a larger piece of plywood or even screw it down in the outer area that will be removed later. At this stage you can drill through the hearts with a hand drill or if you only have carving tools you would at least be able to control the blade free from having to hold the piece. The same goes for the relief in the circle.

    As you have already cut the profile I would place a piece of corrugated cardboard over the shank and spoon and place a square of 6.0mm plywood over the top and use two screws per side to clamp the spoon to a larger piece of plywood, then clamp it to a bench or table. The corrugated cardboard protects the piece while you clamp it tight.

    This will allow you to either carve or drill the majority of the excess wood away without the worry of slipping and injuring yourself. Also if you are carving these holes mark the position on both sides and knife in the outline. This will help to stop the wood from splittering when you break through.

    Take your time and it should come out fine.

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