I have not written in a bit. It has been a very busy summer. There were days that I doubted if I was going to be able to keep up. A wise lawyer told me when I started out that there are two things one must consider when starting a business; “What do you do if it fails?” and What do you do if it succeeds?”. Happily I have been struggling with the latter. How am I going to make 14 plaques, 2 pastry boards and 6 boxes in a week? Sometimes you have to have a long talk with the guy in the mirror.
I had a client contact me with a strange request. Her father had once owned a mirror with the words from Psalm 96, “Then shall all the trees of the forest exalt before the Lord.” He loved this mirror and longed to have it again. She thought perhaps because of my constant use of tree motifs, I could offer a rendition of this mirror. This started me thinking about how to do this. Now since I have begun this journey, I have made plaques with engravings and items with relief laser carvings and I have made picture frames. I became intrigued with the notion of combining engraving and carving (deep relief) and traditional frame woodworking. However, this was not enough of a challenge. The mirror also needed to be arched and sit flat against a wall.
It is not that difficult to get the text to follow a curve in a graphics program. But how does one cut the frame parts to the exact same curve? It is one thing to build a mortice and tenon frame and add a curve, but it must be so that the laser knows how to follow the same shape and curve. I decided to use an old chair makers trick, templates.
When I would visit my great uncle Walter’s shop as a boy, I noticed dozens of thin templates hanging from the rafters. These templates were of various curves used to shape chair backs and set the angles on chair legs. My mother is a seamstress and I have often watched her lay out patterns for dresses and such. It is not important, the exact shape or angle. It is important all be the same. I thought to myself, “Patterns and Templates, that’s the ticket!”
I set about drawing patterns in Corel Draw and then using the laser to cut the patterns out in 1/8″ plywood. It turns out the laser does this very well. I then used the templates to layout the piece and cut to the line. I could even make a template of the mirror and take it to the good folks at Carmel Glass and Mirror to cut the 1/4 plate glass.
I cut the parts and carefully cut to the line of the template. I then cut the mortice and tenon in the traditional manor with chisel and saw. Now the rabbet or rebate for the back. Wait a minute! This will need two rabbets(grooves), one for the mirror and another for the slightly larger inset back. I decided to mill this on the router table, first cutting the larger rabbet and the a second relief for the mirror and finishing the corners with a chisel. This results in a stair step shape. Whew!
The frame completed could now be engraved and carved. I used two little relief carvings, one of a cherry blossom, as the frame is cherry and one little humming bird feeding from a blossom at the bottom. A cherry vine wraps the frame. I made my poor customer wait about 16 weeks while all of this was figured out. Sometimes these special unique projects take awhile. The work doesn’t take anymore time but all the design and building of templates and such does. This another of those items thats looks simple but is in fact, rather complex.
So here is my first attempt at bringing woodworking, engraving and laser carving together. Who knows, might be a new style of craft. In the meantime, I am back at the bench, happily making as many unique and interesting items as I can. I am reminded of the words of Mother Teresa, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle, I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”