Herald Angels or Heraldry?

It has been quiet on this site but not because it has been quiet in my carving studio! It had been crazy busy with carving work such that I have neglected you, my loyal readers! 

The Christmas season always sneaks up on me and I have to be careful not to overcommit. Must leave time to sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and other Christmas carols.

Some projects I am working on include a blanket ladder with dovetail joinery. 


It isn’t really carving work, per se, but I wanted to show old Roubo that his rants about carvers being imprecise are misplaced. I was building furniture and doing complex joinery long before I picked up a carving tool. 

I carved two other pieces that I have done before: a lettercarving piece (the first photo above) and a stylized acanthus leaf in relief. 

And on the heraldry front, I am working on a large family crest that is getting close to being finished. The short video below shows some progress. 


Stay tuned for more updates. I have a very large lettercarving project that I am on the verge of starting. In the new year I am picking up the wood for an ornately carved lintel over a front door in a large foyer. And I have another family crest in the works. It’s nice to have work, but I am feeling the pressure to get things completed! 

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Van Dyk Family Crest

Van Dyk Crest

The Van Dyk family crest carving is now complete. I carved it in a solid piece of yellow pine, approximately 8.5″ x 11″ and 3/4 of an inch thick. It is finished in two coats of Danish wax oil, and hand rubbed to a warm glow. This will hopefully be a family heirloom.

This was a commission from a local realtor friend. Contact me if you would like something similar. I have access to heraldry records for your family name (as long as you have an official crest).

Update. Here is a comment from the client:

“Hey Grant !!! Wow the crest looks even better in person… What a fantastic craftsman you are!!!!! I’m going to hug you next time I see you be prepared…
It will be a Christmas gift and I’m certain the Van Dyk family will Love it For generations to come…..
Thanks Grant!”

Carving a Family Crest, Part 4

Yesterday, I left you with a few pictures of the crest as the centre part was being carved. Today I’d like to show you how the Celtic knot was shaped. The hardest part of carving it is to make it consistent around the circle. The way I managed that was to make a template of paper, but only drew about 45 degrees of the arc. Then I turned the paper around the circle, tracing that part of the knot again and again. This ensured that each part looked the same. Then came the easy part – actually carving the wood!

Family Crest Unfinished
Celtic knot border

At this stage, the carving is almost complete. The next stage is to shape the banners and carve letters into them. Once that’s done, all that will be left is to put a finish on the carving. Stay tuned until tomorrow evening for that part of the story.

Grant McMillan

Carving a Family Crest, Part 3

Yesterday, I left you with the family crest being roughed in (or roughed out, or bosted in – whatever you wish), which means the next step is to start carving detail in. I do not carve one piece of a carving until it’s finished; I tend to roam all over the carving, working a little here and then there, and then over there. The reason I do this is because I need to keep a sense of the whole, rather than just one part. For example, if I was carving you and just worked on your ear until it was finished, it might not match the size of your head, or be in proportion to your eyes. It’s the same with a relief carving like this. I started working on the part I was most interested in, which was the helmet, but soon was drawn to the shield, the stars, and the acanthus leaves.

Bailie Family Crest Bosted In
Family Crest Progress

This way, as it comes together, I can make sure the depths are set correctly and the size fits the carving well before cutting too much away. In this case, I determined that the background needed to be set deeper.

Family Crest Getting There
Family Crest Getting There

Here you can begin to see the shape and flow of the acanthus leaves, as well as the potential of the shadows thrown by the deeper depth. I’ve only just begun to undercut the leaves, and initial shaping of the banners is coming along, but it’s still pretty rough. The Celtic border, because of it’s separation from the rest of the carving, and relative simplicity, can wait until tomorrow.

I hope YOU can wait till tomorrow too – because that’s when I’ll show you the Celtic knot taking shape.

Till next time,

Grant McMillan

Carving a Family Crest

Recently, Kyla from Prince George contacted me about a wood carving idea. Her husband is Scottish and is quite interested in his family lineage and he’s interested in heraldry. She wondered if I could carve a family crest for him as a surprise. She had a surprise for me: her husband already had his family crest tattooed on his back! She sent me a picture and asked if I could incorporate it into a carved crest.

If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know how much I enjoy working with people to come up with a finished product. This was no different. Kyla and I went back and forth by email quite a few times to talk through the development of the idea. She sent me some photos and I drew up a few concept drawings, and the idea grew into something that “just seemed right”. We agreed on a price and I went to work.

Concept Drawing of Crest

After drawing up the idea in detail, I had to select an appropriate kind of wood. Because of the size and shape of this carving, I didn’t want to take the risk of carving it out of one piece of wood. There’s too much chance of the wood warping or splitting. So I ripped the wood into smaller pieces on my table saw until they were 4″ wide by 17″ long and 1″ thick. Then I  glued them together to make an approximate square.

Did you know that watching glue dry is a very long process? It’s sort of like watching a pot of water boil… Check back tomorrow to see how it’s developing.