Creating Panels


Creating Panels:
Murray Taylor explores the drawing and carving of a variety of decorative panels.

Murray Taylor explores the drawing and carving of a variety of decorative panels

In this article, I will introduce you to a selection of panels, from the basic to the more advanced, look at ideas for a different style of chip removal and then move on to a project. In many European countries decorative panels can be found in larger forms, such as ceilings, door panels, drawer fronts etc., and on smaller objects like box tops, the backs of spinning stools, name plates, planters and stick stands. Now, before we go any further I would like to explain that a panel in this context is an area of wood decorated with various patterns. They can be repeated geometric shapes, rosettes or free-form designs. They can also be grids – that is a lattice-work of square or diagonal lines, made with stab-knife marks, other decorative patterns or any combination of the above.
It would only take a stroll around any major European city to see wonderful examples of carved door panels, some using low or high relief carving and some with highly decorative chip-carved designs. For absolute excellence you should see the carved doors of Bath cathedral in Somerset, or the exquisitely carved doors of the cathedral in St Omer in France, both of which are favourites of mine and can be seen online.
Closer to home, you will find interesting examples in local churches, museums or even some old pubs. Further afield you might visit stately homes or just take a walk around your nearest city – you will be surprised at what you will find.

A chip-carved panel in the seat of an old chair found in our local church

A panel on the Old Court House, not 100 yards from my home

Developing a panel
You will notice that the design for the panel is made up of two and three-cut chips that we have covered previously, and it should be noted that the scalloped lines from the 4mm marking template are still clearly visible along the top and left-hand side. The reason for this is a practical one. Often while carving you will find that your markings can become faint as your hand rubs on them – this is because you should have used a soft 2B pencil. By leaving the template markings it is easy to correct this and re-mark the pattern.
In this particular pattern you can see that the main element is a square consisting of 8 x 4mm divisions, this is broken down into 4 x 4mm divisions, the diagonals of which form the basis of the two-cut lozenge chip.

Developing the pattern on 4mm graph paper

The pattern transferred to the wood using the 4mm template

If you have trouble removing chips using one hand, secure your work and use your free hand to apply pressure to the blade

The finished panel with the edges trimmed and pencil marks removed

Composite panel
For the next panel I have used a series of two and three-cut chips, a rosette and a border. This design was drawn directly on to the wood without previously planning it on paper but note that all the marking out comes from the two centre lines. I would suggest at this stage that you do plan your panels on paper first.

A composite panel drawn directly on to the wood

Another panel of two and three-cut chips drawn on to the wood

The carved panel

Geometric design
Now we move on to geometric grids. The first is based on a 900 lattice. I have shown it drawn on 4mm graph paper and have given you two size options.
It can either be based on a 24mm square or on a 32mm square, both divided into 4mm divisions, and these would have a circle of 12mm or 16mm radius respectively. I have also shown how you could leave a centre section for a motif or initials.
There is a fundamental difference between marking out square and diagonal grids. It should be readily apparent that the horizontal and vertical divisions on the square lattice are the same, however this does not necessarily hold true for a diagonal lattice.
Once you have decided how many horizontal divisions you will make in your lattice you must divide the available vertical space into the same number of divisions. This will not be the same measurement. It takes a little more planning than for the square grid but is not difficult once you get the hang of it.
I hope that the various examples of panel layouts that I have given you will act as food for thought and encourage you to try out your own designs.

A drawing showing the 24 and 32mm grids and a partially carved example

An alternative grid based on a 24mm square using a washer to mark out the lozenges

Example of diagonal grids with stab-knife markings

Another example of diagonal grids with stab-knife markings

New cuts
At this stage in my introduction to chip carving I am going to introduce you to some new cuts that have not been covered so far and yes, shock horror, not all chip carving is done with just two knives.
If we look at the first of the new cuts, in section A, they might at first glance appear to be a standard three-cut chip, but closer examination will show that the two cuts going up to form the apex are not cut at the normal 65° but rather at 90° to the surface of the wood using your regular chip-carving knife. The third cut, however, is a slicing cut made with the straight-bladed knife.
The next example, figure B, is produced by a similar process. The 4mm scallop markings made by the template will enable you to judge the size of the chips. Now move on to example C and here we encounter a problem, the 900 cuts are made in the same way as before, but as we move away from the edge of the board it becomes very difficult to make the slicing with a knife so here we introduce the skew chisel.
Now we come to example D and here I am introducing something quite new to your chip-carving repertoire – the use of a gouge. In this case I have used a No.5, 10mm to make the first cut and a skew chisel for the slicing cut. You could use any suitable gouge and adjust your chip size accordingly,
Finally, we come to example E, which is a little different. Here both the vertical and slicing cuts are made with a gouge. In this case I have used a No.7, 6mm for the vertical cut but have chosen a slightly wider No.7 for the slicing cut. In this way it is easier to make the slicing cut get right into the corners of the vertical cut. You could, of course, use any suitable gouge that you already have.

A sample board of five new chip cuts

Some possible additions to your toolkit. From left to right: a straight-bladed chip-carving knife, two skew chisels, and three gouges, a No.7, 6 and 9mm and a No.5, 10mm

The first cut at 90⁰

The slicing cut

Using the skew chisel to make the slicing cut

Making a vertical cut with a gouge

Making the slicing cut with a skew chisel

Making the vertical cut with a gouge

Making the slicing cut with the No.7, 9mm

New tools
You may have noticed that the three gouges in the picture appear to be a little short – no, you are not seeing things, there is a reason. Most of my carving is done sitting down and I find the full-sized gouges cumbersome for this work, so what I use is a well-known make of palm tool blades fitted with a 115mm beech handle. This gives me a lightweight tool that is ideal for carrying to demonstrations.

Here I have personalised the box with a panel in the Japanese style. The lettering is simply formed with three-cut chips

Here is another idea – some chip-carved lettering and some foliage work drawn but not yet carved

The project for this issue is more open ended than usual. The idea occurred to me when I bought a really tough toolbox that would stand up to the rigours of travel to shows and clubs. There was a plastic label on the top of the box, which on removal left an unsightly residue which I could not remove so I had the idea of doing two jobs in one – personalising the box and covering the sticky mess left by the label.
The two panels are obviously designed for this particular box, but the idea of this project is to personalise your toolbox in any way that fits, or you could go all the way and make your box to suit your needs.
A box I made some time ago, the box and hinges etc. were my design, the carved designs were inspired by the work of Wayne Barton.
Once I got into the personal box theme the ideas just began to flow and I got to thinking of all those practice panels that I had from demonstrations and teaching sessions that were gathering dust at the back of my workshop, so a few dovetails later and another one-off box emerged.
I realise that this project idea is a little unusual, but as most projects are very specific I thought that ideas and not instructions would give a lot of scope, whether you are personalising an existing box or making one from scratch. It is always a good feeling to have your chip-carving tools in a box that is personal to you.

Top panel with hinges

Side panel

Back panel

Side panel

Back of box

End panel, box made up of practice boards


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