Commissioning a Maple Leaf Carving, Part 3

When we left off yesterday, I was waiting for the glue to dry and had carved the maple leaf. Next up is to clean the glue off the background and draw the curve to be cut out with the bandsaw.

The shape that Peter had sketched looked like a Gothic style arched window. My challenge was to draw it so that the arch looked equal on each side. The easiest solution for that was to fold my paper in half and draw one side only. Then I took a pair of scissors and cut out the arch. Once it was cut out, I could unfold the paper and have perfectly matching sides.

Cutting the arch

Cleaning up the glue off the maple background was quite easy. I grabbed my 1″ wide cabinet maker’s chisel and laid it flat on the wood and drove it at the glue lines that had bubbled out. The hardened glue chipped off nicely. This is one of the things I like about working with maple – it cleans up so easily. Once that was finished, I traced the outline of the arch onto the wood and cut it out with my bandsaw. The longest part of this job so far was the sanding. Maple is one of the hardest woods grown in North America and as a result it takes a long time to sand smooth. I used coarse paper to sand off the blade marks and followed it up with a cabinet scraper. I like using a scraper on maple because the grain is so tight it doesn’t crush, and the scraped wood is glassy-smooth when finished.

My next job was to the take the base and lay out the words CORAM DEO onto it. The other nice thing about working with maple is just how smooth it is. That makes drawing out complex shapes like letters fairly easy – the pencil doesn’t follow the grain lines – it goes where you want it to. I have a copy of Chris Pye’s book, Lettercarving In Wood, and he has a letter style called Versal that he profiles. I hadn’t tried it before, but this seemed like the perfect project for it. The Versal style of letter has some fine detail that the hard, close grain of maple will show quite well.

It took me a little while to get the letters drawn out just so and carved into the base. I roughed-in the letters and got the basic shapes carved into the base and then put all the parts together just to see how it would look. As you can see, it’s getting there.

Unfinished Maple Leaf

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