Tools for Working Wood

 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Carving a Tudor Rose  


I got my copy of Whittling and Woodcarving by E. J. Tangerman when I was about 10 or 11 and I loved it (that's my beat up copy in the picture). It's a fabulous book about all aspects of knife work and at the time I didn't have the ability to do much of any of it. I also didn't have the tools, I didn't know how to sharpen, I didn't have patience - the list goes on. The book was one of the first on carving I added to the store when I first started up, and it's still very popular.

Anyway, I when I was a kid I always wanted to carve the "Tudor rose" on page 213. It's seemed like real carving, but it seemed pretty straightforward, so I gave it a try. I don't remember the details, but I know I failed miserably. I didn't have any carving tools except a tiny Exacto set that was the wrong size and the tools weren't sharp. So for those and other reasons, I failed. But every time I went back to that book to show a customer, or just for my own amusement, I remembered that effort.

It was that effort that convinced me I had no talent and no real dexterity to do architectural carvings, so I had NEVER TRIED TO CARVE ANYTHING ELSE since. But last week I needed a carving in process for a picture for an advertisement and nobody else was available, so I got talked into it. The plan was drawn out very carefully on state-of-the-art computer drafting equipment, printed out and glued to a chunk of scrap mahogany, and off I went.

It took about two or three hours on and off during lulls in everything else. I stopped to take a few pictures. It isn't perfect, but I am really proud to have finished it. It's my first carving. It's not professionally crisp and it took far more time than it would a real carver. But I suppose apprentices have to start somewhere. I figure back then, the first Tudor rose an apprentice made would be installed pretty high up, not around eye level and certainly not near the patron's pew.

But you got to start somewhere and I'm pleased I did!!!!

P.S. The book was written in the 1930's. A few years ago I was told that the author, E. J. Tangerman, was still with us. If he finds out about this blog, he should know that his book was one of the most influential I ever read as a kid and it started me on the path of woodworking crafts. For that I will always be extremely grateful.

Tags:Woodworking Tools and Techniques
Comments: 3
03/22/2008Stephen Shepherd
Nice Rose Joel,

I wonder how many people had your same experience because of a lack of proper tools? Tried woodworking then gave up.

Tangerman's book, the one by Paul Hasluck and Charles Hayward and Wm Wheeler's Woodcarving books especially the latter volumn were early influences.

With Sloan and Watson as early reads, my course was set.

04/28/2008Lee A. Jesberger
Hi Joel,
Looks like a great job of carving!

My first real carving project for a client came from showing her pictures of American furniture from the 18th century. (my favorite).
She soon requested a dressing table in that style, and in her words, "with those kind of feet". (Ball and Claw).

I had never attempted to carve them prior to this so I was a bit worried about the outcome. I carved one over the weekend to use as a model for the piece, and on Monday morning my partner saw it. He asked me several times who had visited the shop the weekend. I told him "no visitors". After a short time he couldn't take it any longer. He said, "okay who carved that leg?". I said "I did". After a brief pause he said "I hate you", and walked away! What a great compliment!

08/17/2008Shannon Rogers
I just stumbled on this entry, not sure how I missed it when it originally came out, but it made me laugh. I had a similar experience recently that made me bite the bullet and try a carving. Mine was a Tudor Rose in relief. To echo your comment about the apprentice's first rose, mine looks great from a distance of about 4 feet! You can see it here

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