Lovespoon Carving Da Vinci Style

In the previous post I had talked about and worked out all the element placement and now I’m at the stage where I have attached the sketch to the wooden blank. In this particular instance I’m going to use birch as the wood of choice as it has the elasticity to absorb the constant pressure of carving in delicate areas without cracking. I know it will not be the easiest wood to carve as it tends to have a pliable feel when carving, in contrast to that crisp feel of cutting mahogany or maple. With birch it always seems to have a little resistance before the shaving starts to curl off the carving tool regardless of how sharp the blade is. It gives the impression that the tool is dull and you’re constantly checking for sharpness.

Drilled pilot holes in wooden blank ready for the fret saw.

The first task in the development of any of my Lovespoons is to drill small pilot holes in all of the tight corners. This one procedure eliminates a lot of mishaps with the bandsaw, it reduces the chance of cutting into delicate parts of the design and adds a clean finish to the corners. For this design I used a couple of different size drill bits depending on the complexity of the area. For the heart I only needed a few holes so that the fret saw could be easily maneuvered around the inside of the shape, in contrast the rose needed many small holes to define the corners and present an easy way of controlling the fret saw.

As you can see from the design I have decided to remove material from both the inside of the heart and the inside of the cross making for a light delicate theme throughout. The spoon bowl has also been extended and like I said previously, by leaving these areas open it gave me the option to revisit them as the design formulated in my mind.

With all the pilot holes drilled, the next stage is to cut out the inner shape with a fret saw, for me I use a hand fret saw. The ease with which you can transfer from one area to the next is far easier than releasing the blade on a power fret saw and trying to relock without the blade snapping more than once during the course of cutting out the shape.

I will leave the outside intact until I have cut the inner shape first and by doing this it will eliminate crushing the delicate edges of the design and provide a sturdy grip in the vise. The one drawback from hand cutting is trying to keep the blade square to the line, this would be a problem if the carving was going to be one sided but in my case I always shape the back face as well. In one sided carving you would want the hole to be square through so that you would get the full benefit of the shape whereas I can resolve any issues when I shape the back face. The best way for a square edge in this case would be to use a power fret saw.

Cutting out the material for me always starts at the top, that way I have the majority of the spoon blank secured in the vise preventing any unwanted bending. I want the blade to be cutting with every stroke without the material flexing, that way I get a reasonably clean cutout.

With all the inside cutout, the basic form begins to take shape and I can start to think about how I will shape the heart and cross. Will it be a beveled section or will I decide to round off the edges giving it a more organic look?

Removing the waste material from the Da Vinci Lovespoon.
Outside of the Lovespoon shaped on a bandsaw showing spoon bowl carved out.

While I ponder those design issues I’ll continue to shape the outside on my bandsaw taking care to remove material carefully, I don’t want to catch any of the smaller detail areas with the blade.

Once I have the outside shape I can tell if I have the balance right with all the elements, it’s not as though I can turn back now but it’s reassuring to know if it will look OK at the end of the day. I’ll try to cut as close to the line as possible in a smooth motion. This will reduce the amount of sanding and clean up at a later date, even though the finishing process accounts for 50% of the overall time in making the Lovespoon.

The first part to start carving is the spoon bowl, first I’m going to hone the half inch straight gouge that I use. This gouge, an old Sorby wood gouge was one of the tools that I purchased from a retired patternmaker in 1976 during my apprenticeship as a patternmaker. At that time it was around 40 to 50 years of age, showing a little pitting in the steel due to damp conditions but not enough to hamper the performance of the tool. I still find this one tool the most frequently used for carving the bowl on 90% of my Lovespoons, it just feels right and keeps a fine edge.

As I carve the bowl I can see the different layers, each represent one years growth of the trees life cycle. This layering gives the carving depth and a unique look and it’s something that I find very desirable so hopefully when I come to sell this Lovespoon the prospective buyer also finds it pleasantly pleasing.

When I carve the spoon bowl I generally cut very close to the edge but I’ve decided to leave a little extra this time. I’ve decided to roll the edge over when I do the final sanding, this will give it a much softer look compared to the rest of the detail that is very hard edged. This will keep the main focus on all of the main elements and at the same time be complimentary to detail seen in the spoon bowl.

For now, that’s as far as I’ve got, even though I could explain all the steps to the end of the carving but pictures are worth a thousand words so I will show you the rest of this carving in future posts.

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