Sunday, May 23, 2010

Verily, 'tis putty that saveth the day

A friend who's into medieval life and renaissance fairs asked if I would make a shield for him to hang on the wall that would include the first letter of his and his girlfriend's last names (H and Z). He wanted the two letters to be connected.

No prob. I got this.

The shield is 15.25" wide x 18" tall and I created the interlocking letters in Illustrator.

Roughing out the blank and planing the curved slopes so that the shield is convex was easy.

Then, I rubbed graphite on the back of the printout and transferred the design to the blank. Piece of cake.

I struck all the center stop cuts with chisels and gouges, and I was ready to start carving.

Here's where it gets ugly. If you're going to carve a sign, it's much easier if the grain is running horizontally. Those upright posts that create the letter H were a bear to carve in the vertical grain. That's because the chisel wanted to follow the grain.

Then it got uglier. Cutting the crossgrain serifs resulted in pock-marked tearout. Big chunks of pine popped loose.

That's when I reached for the wood putty.

The other mistake I made was in trying to carve too deep. If you use my technique for lettercarving (here, here, and here), you need to stick with about a 25º angle. I carved a 50º angle so the shadows would be very pronounced.

This resulted in more tearout. And more putty.

Alas, I pray my gentle friend doth paint the shield, whereupon he wouldst saveth mine arse from ruin and restoreth mine honor. Prithee, Bobby Z?