Pierced Panel


Pierced Panel
Johan Roudy explains how to carve a decorative pierced panel in cherry

Johan Roudy explains how to carve a decorative pierced panel in cherry

This pierced panel was designed for a small organ. The purpose was to hide the upper part of the pipes. The style of the leaves and the type of wood, cherry, were chosen to match with the old music stand that
was going to be used with the organ.
Used like an appliqué or hung to decorate a frame, pierced relief can be a very effective ornament. First,
it offers the opportunity to undercut from the back, at the end of the carving process, which really makes
it stands out. Second, the design is cut directly on a board, saving the time and effort usually spent routing
and cleaning the background on a typical relief carving.
I used wooden pegs on a clamp workbench to secure the carving down. Another good option would be to glue the cutout on a larger plywood board with a sheet of newspaper in between. The carving would be carefully removed from the board before the undercutting stage by sliding a chisel between the wood and the board.
Cherry is a nice looking wood, ranging from a light blonde to red in its colour.
It is fine grained and can hold details well, but can be quite tricky to work with. It doesn’t really like to be carved against the grain. Even when using a deep gouge, you might have to carve both sides of the groove in opposite directions to get a clean surface.
The triangle is about 600mm wide and 350mm high, but a 600 x 250mm, 18–22mm thick board should be large enough to realise the project with very little scrap. Draw the general shape on the board, the grain running horizontally, and the offcut on the bottom left-hand corner should be big enough to be
glued and to complete the lower point of the triangle on the right side.
The design is composed of three main features: the main or concave leaves, the secondary or convex leaves, and the fruits or seedpods. Once you get these shapes in mind, you should be able to complete this project.

Things you will need
• Scrollsaw
• 12mm ‘V’-tool
• Flat gouge
• No.5, 8mm gouge
• No.5, 16mm gouge
• No.6, 12mm gouge
• No.6, 16mm gouge
• No.6, 25mm gouge
• No.8, 10mm gouge
• No.8, 12mm gouge
• No.8, 25mm gouge
• No.9, 8mm gouge
Cherry (Prunus avium) – 600 x 250 x 22mm 

1. Trace the pattern on the wooden board using tracing paper or by using carbon paper. Then, with a scrollsaw, carefully cut the shape out from the board. You can simplify the leaves’ shapes, but be sure to cut close to the line in tight areas within the pattern. The red circles in the photograph show the areas on the carving where I left some wood uncut. This is to avoid breakage in the most fragile parts of the carving

2. Next, separate the panel’s layers by removing some wood where the stem is covered by a leaf and either side of the ‘tie’. Start carving the wood far enough away to let the stem come down progressively and to avoid any bumpy effect on the wood

3. Now let’s shape the main leaves. Using the No.8, 25mm gouge, carve a groove running along the leaf in the pattern. Complete the groove on its narrow part with the No.8, 10mm gouge

4. Next, soften the angle left by the groove on the side of the leaf with a flat gouge. You can  even round the outside edge a little bit on some of the leaves

5. Use a flat gouge to mark the separation with the secondary lobe by an angled cut and shape the back of the leaf by reducing the wood in a steep angle

6. Now, redraw the tip of the leaf and set it in with the No.8, 25mm gouge. Then, using the No.5, 16mm gouge, stab the small lobe halfway to the main leaf and complete the leaf with the No.6, 16mm gouge, removing the waste along the drawing towards the stab cut

7. The secondary leaves – or lobes – in the pattern may be turned upward or downward. Give an angle to the upward leaves with the No.6, 25mm gouge

8. Redraw the leaf outline back onto the wood, then reshape it and carve the back of it with a flat gouge towards the main leaf

9. Separate the downward leaves from the stem using the ‘V’-tool. Cut deeper at the junction with the stem using a gouge matching the curve, and round the back towards the side with a flat gouge

10. Lower the tip of the leaf and round it as well, with the No.6, 16mm or the No.5, 16mm gouge. The definitive shape of the leaf will be achieved with the undercutting of the pattern

11. Some of the secondary leaves are divided in two lobes: upward and downward. Separate them from the stem with the ‘V’-tool and shape the upward lobe before moving on to the downward lobe. The other one is twisting, halfway between an upward and a downward leaf. Carve it deep enough to give the leaves the effect of some movement

12. If most leaves have their back slightly curved, the last leaf on the lower right corner is more rounded. Mark the edge of the adjacent leaf with the ‘V’-tool, and stab the separation between the seed pod and the lower leaf with a flat gouge

13. Begin to shape the seed pod with a flat gouge: round the edges and lower the tip. Now, round the back of the leaf with the No.6, 16mm or the No.5, 16mm gouge

14. This last type of twisting leaf requires to be lowered quite deeply at the tip. Carve the hollow first with the No.6, 16mm gouge, redraw the circle and then carve the back with the No.5, 16mm gouge following the line

15. Shape the secondary lobes like the previous ones. Carve the end of the leaf deeper than the main leaves and use the No.9, 8mm gouge to carve a groove below the lobe, melting with the side

16. Complete the shape of the leaf and the lower lobe, giving it a bigger angle

17. Shape the other closed seed pod like the first one, rounding the edges, but keep more wood at the tip to let it show above the leaf nearby. Draw the slot that will show the seeds

18. Use the No.5, 8mm gouge to set in the first seed. Then, use the No.9, 8mm gouge to carve a hollow from the base of the slot to the first seed. Switch back to the No.5, 8mm to start to set in the next seed and remove the waste around and between the seeds

19. Keep on clearing around the seeds one after the other, and use the same gouge to round them, along and across the grain

20. Carve a hollow with the No.8, 12mm gouge at the tip to twist it. Clean the slot edges and carve a hollow along the slot with the No.5, 16mm gouge. Repeat on the other pod

21. Move to the open seed pod. Separate the seeds area fromthe leaves with the V-tool and shape the leaves using the No.6, 25mm gouge. Just like the other pods, shape it roughly by rounding the edges and lowering the tip

22. Progressively set in and clear the seeds, starting from the top and middle of the grape. Use No.5, 8mm, No. 6, 12mm and No.8, 12mm gouges to vary the sizes of the seeds

23. Mark the place where the stem should meet the tie with the V-tool and round its edges using the No.5, 16mm gouge

24. Use the No.9, 8mm gouge to dig the lower part from both sides and clean this area by extending the stem. The tie should meet the sides of the stem a few millimetres below the carved grooves on the work. Complete the tie by rounding the sides with the No.6, 16mm gouge, slightly deeper on the top

25. Draw the veins on the main and secondary leaves with the ‘V’-tool. Undercut all around the carving at an angle about 20°. Choose the appropriate sweep for each part – a little flatter on the convex parts and a little deeper on the concave parts

26. Reverse the carving on a piece of cloth to avoid damaging it and complete the undercutting from the underside. Use the ‘V’-tool or a small U-shaped gouge to remove some wood where two leaves meet and remove the waste with a flat gouge until you meet the cuts you made from the top. You can clamp lightly on a high point to secure the carving

27. The finished panel in place on the organ

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