Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Prequel

There are several ways to carve a ball and claw foot. Many remove the wood around the final form as they sculpt a block and excavate the ball from it. My way is much more calculated. It's very specific, stepped out, and would likely be easy to write about. At least it will be easier than trying to relate the artistic sculpting of wood to a person with minimal carving skill.

Like carving, there are a few ways to address the use of the planes that I make. You can, of course, start a round on square stock. It usually takes 2-3 attempted passes to realize that this doesn't work well.

You can start using rounds on chamfers and hollows on square corners as Graham Blackburn illustrated in Fine Woodworking years ago. I address this process in the book because there are times when I still use it. I, however, do not use this method extensively, certainly not exclusively (though many people do).

The third way to use these planes is to start a round on a rabbet and the hollow upon a chamfer. This is the method to which I subscribe and to which my book, "Mouldings in Practice", will build upon.

Using any of these methods you must treat the profile as something that either must be sculpted from the wood the same as a ball being held by a claw is to be relieved from a block or as I will teach. My book describes a very methodical set of steps for laying out simple coves and ovolos and translating that into very complex moulding profiles. I'm able to get very consistent and achievable results that rely very heavily upon the initial dimensions of the rabbets and chamfers, which are easy to make accurately. "Mouldings in Practice" will translate this method onto your bench and into your work.

If you are fully comfortable with laying out and executing the following two profiles then this book may not change your methods. 

These profiles are somewhat similar. They both have a convex profile sitting above a concave. They each have one fillet. One, however has a smooth transition while one is interrupted. On closer examination you will see that one of the convex portions (on the left) is 1/4 of a circle while the other is only 1/6th. The angle of the concave portion is also very different, despite being the same portion of a circle at the same location. 

By manipulating the rabbets and chamfers that the planes ride along the profiles have been changed. Much of the book details this simple manipulation in order to gain consistent and achievable results. "Mouldings in Practice" details this method.

If you fully understand the differences in laying out these two profiles above but have trouble translating the profiles to those below, then this book will help you too.

"Mouldings in Practice" will teach you how to look at any profile and copy it. 

My method for teaching the use of these planes that fascinate me is similar to the way I carve a ball and claw foot. It is very methodical and easily laid out in a series of specific steps. You will learn to relate these steps to all profiles. 

This book is a prequel to other sources that address these planes. It does not address the classical orders or design. "Mouldings in Practice" will guide you through the steps of dozens of different profiles for practice. It will teach you how to achieve a desired result, be it Greek, Roman or you.


  1. You are learning from Chris. Seeding/teasing the next book (The one about ball and claw feet) when first one is only just coming out.

  2. I am absolutely not the person to do that book. I wish I was.

    I'm in the process of making a ball and claw foot for which I have the pattern and model. It's tough.