All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“Let’s see where this road goes,” my dad would say as he turned the car onto an unknown route. We’d wander around back roads, unencumbered by any sweetly demanding GPS voice. We would see old farms that were new to us, and stop to look down into an unknown stream. I often assumed we were completely lost. Yet we always, magically it seemed, found the way home, richer from the adventure.
I know that’s a long way from Middle-earth, and Tolkien’s verse has a much deeper and broader meaning. Still, when I focus on that second line, riding around as a kid with my dad is a memory that comes to mind. I also think of Thoreau and his ideas about “sauntering” in his essay Walking. Tolkien and Thoreau knew, and my dad knows, that there is much to be gained from what may seem to be aimless wandering, and exploration extends to realms beyond a walk or a drive.
I thought the free flowing form of this cherry bowl shared a bit of the same spirit. When it came to designing the lettering, I did my wandering on paper. There, I can play with different ideas while marking and erasing freely. After I’ve worked things out, I can redraw the idea onto the wood. Sometimes, I’ll experiment with ideas by drawing directly on the wood before paring the final surface. I can take a photo of the design, surface the bowl, then redraw the lettering using the photo as a reminder.
Navigating the curly figure with carving tools was certainly an adventure. This vertical grain blank came from the central area of a log — to one side of the pith. The bowl is 21 inches long, 8 1/2 inches wide, and just under 2 inches high.
For this bowl, I found it best to do the lettering while holding the bowl in one hand and the pocket knife in the other, as can be seen in the second photo near the top of the post. Raking light helps to see edges and facets clearly when working.
While on the subject of lettering, I want to include another lettered bowl I completed recently in this post.
This walnut bowl represents the second time I’ve used the same Robert Frost verse, this time on a 20 1/2″ x 12 3/8″ elliptical ring.
As with the cherry bowl, I used the pen knife to cut these letters, but I found it best to secure the bowl with a couple holdfasts to enable me to use both hands.
I’ve written several other posts that relate to lettering. Just look under “lettering” in the category list on the right side.