Love and Coffee


I’ve missed out on a love affair with coffee.  Seems like just about everyone else has had one and most of them last a lifetime.  Long before iced-coffees became chic, my grandfather loved cold black coffee.  He kept it in the fridge and took it along with him deep down into the bituminous coal mines of western Pennsylvania.  His love for the dark brew was topped by my father.  At any given point in the day, my dad’s blood composition is 70% coffee.  People have deep relationships with coffee.

That fact was reinforced recently when I was asked to carve an inscription for a wedding anniversary gift.  It’s always a challenge to express the intensity of one’s love.  Folks have tried everything from holding their arms wide open to writing sensitive sonnets.  In this case, she wanted to sum up her affection with one breathtaking statement: “I love you more than coffee.”


As the angle of light and perspective changes, so does the perception of the carving.

But to add a touch of mystery, she wanted it in Latin which is (as far as I know!): “Amo te magis quam capulus.”


She left it open to me to determine the design, just that it shouldn’t be too large.  I won’t bore you with the many other possibilities that ran through my head, but in the end I decided to carve a representation of a coffee cup from a thick butternut board.  I had split up a butternut log years ago and saved several billets.  A little bit of planing, and I had a canvas for the lettering.    Then it was on to drawing letters on paper.  Lots of playing and erasing.


Before cutting the letters, I got all of the shaping done on the cup itself to avoid clamping and cutting after the letters were finished.  The dimensions are 10 1/2″ x 5″ x 1 1/2″.  Here’s the handle end and backside:


Then it was on to cutting the letters themselves.


The pencil lines are there as a guide, but it’s the knife that makes the final decisions.  There’s a balance.  If you are hyper focused on cutting exactly on the line, you may lose flow and a sense of liveliness.  Stray too far and your composition will fall apart.  It’s something like the painted lines on the road.  You don’t try to slavishly stay precisely centered in your lane as you go, yet it would be hazardous to treat the lines as mere suggestions.


Regardless of what you do about the lines, the carving is a joy; maybe even more than coffee.

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21 Responses to Love and Coffee

  1. francedozois says:

    fun and an appropriate solution–

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kalia Kliban says:

    Your lettering work is an inspiration to me. It’s lovely, lively and strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emil says:

    Great story telling Dave. Well told.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barry Gordon says:

    Love your analogy between the pencil lines and the painted lines on a road!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Russell West says:

    That’s beautiful work as always, Dave

    I’m curious about your lettering; is there a type of font you have adopted or has that developed as your own skills have?

    Kind regards from the UK

    I can completely relate to the coffee comments. I personally do enjoy a brew – in fact I recently discovered the ‘Marley’ brand (of Bob Marley fame) and enjoy a cup every morning. There’s something about the beans being grown and roasted by a musical family that makes it all the sweeter. The Three Little Birds tune often comes to mind…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Hi Russ. I don’t use specific fonts in my lettering. There are lots of reasons for that, including it’s just not as interesting for me to do. That’s not to say there aren’t circumstances when it would be appropriate to use, say, a classical Roman form. It is so important and fundamental. That’s where I started when I cut some of my first lettering with chisels, and it’s classic for a reason. This lettering on a large frame done just a couple years ago is one example where I decided to stay much closer to that, but I was still drawing letters rather than transferring or copying a specific font. I just try to draw letters that I are suited to the particular piece I’m working on. You’ll see that the lettering in the piece from this “Coffee” post is quite different in many ways from the letters in my last post with “Cleave the Wood…” Yet there are still some common elements of style. I suppose it’s unavoidable and probably good that over the years that I have developed tendencies when I draw and cut letters that may be recognizable as a certain style of mine. Those tendencies come from the experience of discovering what has worked for me and the way I work, and of course there are all sorts of influences worked into the mix. When I see a bit of lettering that I find interesting, or even captivating, I first just enjoy it and have an emotional response. Then I find myself trying to glean some lessons from it, not in terms of remembering the specifics of particular letters, but rather the approach of the designer, painter, carver. I attempt to discover some concepts, to learn lessons from studying the finished product closely that might expand my way of thinking. So, while it all influences me in some way I suppose, I know very little about fonts and typefaces. I certainly don’t recognize hardly any, certainly not by name. I don’t know my Helvetica from a whole in the ground. But I love playing around with the possibilities.

      All that said (which was too much), Don’t be discouraged from using fonts from the computer to transfer an inscription and carve it. Just keep in mind that some fonts lend themselves to cutting in wood more than others. They were designed to be printed flat and some won’t translate well to three dimensions or certain cutting techniques, others will pretty well. Starting with one of the classic Roman forms is probably a good idea — Trajan is one I know of. And — from what I understand — some computer programs will let you pull and stretch and otherwise adjust lettering to come up with unique designs. Some letter carvers draw their designs on the computer which then allows them to make adjustments or resize easily. Lot’s of options, but I know next to nothing about that. I just sketch on paper and wood, but who knows.

      If you find a font you like and plan to carve, I would still recommend sketching it out on paper at least to come to understand it better and get to know it and imagine how you might go about carving it. Then try it, fail splendidly, try again. That’s part of the fun.

      Listening to a litte Bob Marley while you’re cutting will help keep you in the right frame of mind too!


  6. Regina L Johnson says:

    Incredibly beautiful, Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Owen Lowe says:

    “It’s something like the painted lines on the road. You don’t try to slavishly stay precisely centered in your lane as you go, yet it would be hazardous to treat the lines as mere suggestions.”

    Wonderful analogy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. maydanlex says:

    It’s actually relaxing to read your posts. Great work as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. nrhiller says:

    So beautiful. The shaping of the handle is delightfully crisp.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mgmoody42 says:

    I know a smattering of Italian and already know that “Te Amo” means “I love you” and Italian, like Spanish and Portuguese sprang from Latin so I had to go check to see if it agreed. It thinks you nearly got it right. Their translation is “Te amo magis quam potio Arabica placet” but I wouldn’t worry too much as it takes your interpretation and translate it to English which is quite bizarre! Who knows what’s going on behind there? They may be watching me!
    That is a beautiful piece of work and I like how you left the facets on the handle.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t understand coffee. Blech. I think the whole thing is just a fad, and it will blow over soon.

    “The pencil lines are there as a guide, but it’s the knife that makes the final decisions. There’s a balance. If you are hyper focused on cutting exactly on the line, you may lose flow and a sense of liveliness. Stray too far and your composition will fall apart. It’s something like the painted lines on the road. You don’t try to slavishly stay precisely centered in your lane as you go, yet it would be hazardous to treat the lines as mere suggestions.”

    That’s the greatest carving advice I have seen, ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kate says:

    In absolute agreement with all of above about your beautiful work,
    I think that layer of sap or maybe spalting wood on top looks like froth…
    I am a tea person myself though.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. nrhiller says:

    Extreme word-nerd alert! (This is what happens when I find myself imprisoned on hold for an important bureaucratic phone call.) While I was applying finish yesterday evening it occurred to me that I was unfamiliar with the word “capulus,” which is not common in the literature we studied for A-Level Latin in England during the ’70s. (No surprise there!) I figured that if it were correct and a singular masculine noun of the second declension (such nouns end in -us), the accusative case (i.e. when such a noun is used as a direct object) would have the ending -um, in this case “capulum,” coffee, along with “more than,” being a direct object of amare, to love. On looking up the word, I can find no reputable source that gives the definition of “capulus” as coffee, despite this translation in online sources. So I consulted the authority since 1879, Lewis and Short: A Latin Dictionary, published by Oxford. Speaking literally, capulus is a bier or sarcophagus, i.e. a container for someone, whether living or dead. It also signifies a handle (such as a handle for a sword). Capula, on the other hand (here in the feminine, first declension singular form), is a small bowl with handles, which connotes a cup; this meaning would readily extend by association to the cup’s contents, such as coffee. In this case, the carving should be “capulam,” the accusative case of the noun capula. (Interestingly, this noun is related to capulare, the verb for “pour.”) None of this detracts from the loveliness of your work, or the sentiment that inspired it. But damn, it drives me nuts when people adopt a Latin saying or motto without consulting a reliable authority. If there is a scholar of Latin out there who cares to elaborate, I am ready and eager to be edified on this matter!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thank you, Nancy. I wondered about that word myself, guessing that the Romans probably had no word for “Coffee” at all, that it had been adapted from some other original meaning. That thinking was correct, but my junior high Latin background was too long ago and too little help to get it right! I made a valiant attempt to research online, but impatiently decided to move on. I am happy to know that you are a word-nerd and I hope you don’t mind if I pick your brain when faced with similar conundrums in the future — before I cut. Latin scholars at any level are getting harder to find.

      In this case, if the inscription were on public display I might be more concerned, but in their private home it should still carry the sentiment well, as you said. On the other hand, if a Latin scholar visits them, he or she may wonder why the wife loves the husband more than a sarcophagus! A good conversation starter either way.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Holy crap Nancy. You are a nerd of The First Order.


  14. Barry Gordon says:

    I’ve been wanting to follow up on my earlier compliment (shared by others) of your lines on the road analogy. I know it’s important but don’t yet fully understand its significance. So far, I believe it has something to do with the relationship between precision and freedom. Wonder what David Pye would have said about it…


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