In the last month or so, I tried to knock a little bit of the rust off of my letter carving. I warmed up by completing a couple smaller projects, then tackled this long sign for Matt Cianci, a guy who really knows his way around a handsaw. Matt helped me out with some of my old backsaws that are now cutting sweeter than ever.
The sign is 37″ long and 6 1/2″ high. I had made a sketch and had an idea in mind, but, as is often the case, it evolved as I worked. The butternut plank I began with was nearly 5/4 (1 1/4″) thick, and my plan was to resaw it just to leave a surface textured from the cutting of the rip saw. So I planed the back side flat, struck a line around the edges, and sawed.
As it turned out, the texture left by the saw wasn’t what I was looking for, but I still wanted some contrast between the surface and the eventual carving, so I planed off all of the sawn texture and painted the entire surface with a wash of titanium white artist oil paint thinned with citrus solvent. I rubbed it back to allow the grain of the wood to peak through. Oiling the sign darkened the wood and enhanced the contrast.
All of that sawing was not for naught, however. I now have a 1/4″ butternut board for shrink pot bottoms and other things.
After carving the lettering and the saw, I planed a bevel around the edges and did some large chip carving around that border in a saw tooth pattern. More about that below.
And there’s the rest of the sign. Just pretend you don’t notice the little slip by the bowl of the R.
In order to have better access to this sign, I screwed together a few boards to serve as a bit of a workbench extension, which took about ten minutes. I started with two lengths of 2×4 sistered together with a 1×6 on top. I secured the sign to it with four screws through the 1×6 into the back side of the sign. I was able to pop the whole thing securely in the vise, flip it around, even angle it. Most importantly, I was able to have close access to the work from both sides.
These sort of things can be made quickly to suit individual projects and circumstances. I’ll leave this one together for now, though. I could even mount a piece to it and arrange it more vertically, as above.
One last thing about that chip carved border. These chips have two vertical walls. I thought about making those vertical cuts with a chisel and mallet, but I wanted to avoid the wedging action and leave a nice sharp corner. So I used a standard utility knife, placing the tip of the blade at the apex of the chip and raising the edge at an angle to get more depth at the end of the blade. I struck the back of the knife with a rawhide mallet to make the cut. Did the trick.
Then it was just a matter of slicing the bottom surface down to the end walls.
The skew chisel fit all the way into the corner.