Carving out the Summer

The summer is usually a busy time at the workshop, and this year is no exception. Many different jobs - both large and small - have come through our doors, which means we have several projects on the go at once.

We’ve been quite happily carving up a storm over this last month, amongst many other things. My primary project has been carving my second apprentice alphabet, which I have just now finished.

On the first pass of carving, I tried to get each letter as close to finished as possible before moving onto the next one. The second pass was dedicated to carefully refining each letter and checking that the line weights and curves were consistent across the entire alphabet. I then finished off with a third pass to clean up serifs, round out curves, and get out a few wobbles.

Almost through the first pass of carving.

Almost through the first pass of carving.

My first impulse was that the last pass wasn’t necessary; the letters looked fine. But Eric really pushed me to do another pass and see if I could squeeze a bit more out of the letters, so to speak. Once I realized the thing that was holding me back was a fear that I would screw something up, I had to admit another pass was a good idea; and I’m glad I took Eric’s advice: the letters are better for it.

In the thick of it!

In the thick of it!

All in all, carving this alphabet was both a joy and a challenge. I was lucky to get a very nice piece of Welsh slate (which certainly made things easier) but these letters were both curvy and very thin in places, so accuracy and attention to detail were upmost priorities. 

All of the carving is done. The marks are notes for remedial rubbing.

All of the carving is done. The marks are notes for remedial rubbing.

Now that the carving of my alphabet is done, I have a bit of sanding to do, then all that’s left is painting and gilding! I will go into this more in a future post.

The beginning of a bumpy road.

The beginning of a bumpy road.

Continuing on the slate theme: I finally got around to carving the “Rus In Urbe” garden stone we’ve been working on and off again over the last few months. It was my first time carving not only plumb slate (which I love), but also a riven surface! Trying to carve a consistent line across the topography of riven stone was an interesting problem to solve, as the shape of a letter can sometimes alter considerably depending on the angle from which you view it. But ultimately (a few chip-offs aside) it was a lot of fun, and I’m fairly happy with the result. Once a bit of remedial carving is done, the letters can be painted and a base added.

The carving is done…for now…

The carving is done…for now…

I’ve also recently had my first carving experience with sandstone, which I really enjoyed. I found the consistency of the York stone very even and tight. I was also interested to find my carving approach altered somewhat with this stone as I did a lot more chasing than I usually do. 

The letters, which Eric adapted from a left-over drawing by the late great Keith Bailey, were a sort of bouncy sans-serif cap, which I’ve never carved before. (I found myself missing serifs, for some reason?)

The start of carving. We eventually changed the position of the “A” at the top and added additional plant elements to the layout.

The start of carving. We eventually changed the position of the “A” at the top and added additional plant elements to the layout.

It’s been great to get so much carving practice lately, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress in my confidence as a carver, especially as I have started to expand my repertoire with new kinds of stone. Hopefully, the summer will hold out a bit longer: carving in the cold isn’t quite as much fun!