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Title: Wood-Carving - Design and Workmanship
Author: Jack, George
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Wood-Carving - Design and Workmanship" ***

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Edited by W. R. LETHABY.

The series will appeal to handicraftsmen in the industrial and mechanic
arts. It will consist of authoritative statements by experts in every
field for the exercise of ingenuity, taste, imagination--the whole
sphere of the so-called "dependent arts."

     BOOKBINDING AND THE CARE OF BOOKS. A Handbook for Amateurs,
     Bookbinders, and Librarians. By DOUGLAS COCKERELL. With 120
     Illustrations and Diagrams by Noel Rooke, and 8 collotype
     reproductions of binding. 12mo. $1.25 net; postage, 12 cents

     SILVERWORK AND JEWELRY. A Text-Book for Students and Workers in
     Metal. By H. WILSON. With 160 Diagrams and 16 full-page
     Illustrations. 12mo. $1.40 net; postage, 12 cents additional.

     by the Author and other Illustrations.

_In Preparation_:



See page 197.]




_All rights reserved_

_Published October, 1903_


In issuing these volumes of a series of Handbooks on the Artistic
Crafts, it will be well to state what are our general aims.

In the first place, we wish to provide trustworthy text-books of
workshop practise, from the points of view of experts who have
critically examined the methods current in the shops, and putting aside
vain survivals, are prepared to say what is good workmanship, and to set
up a standard of quality in the crafts which are more especially
associated with design. Secondly, in doing this, we hope to treat design
itself as an essential part of good workmanship. During the last century
most of the arts, save painting and sculpture of an academic kind, were
little considered, and there was a tendency to look on "design" as a
mere matter of _appearance_. Such "ornamentation" as there was was
usually obtained by following in a mechanical way a drawing provided by
an artist who often knew little of the technical processes involved in
production. With the critical attention given to the crafts by Ruskin
and Morris, it came to be seen that it was impossible to detach design
from craft in this way, and that, in the widest sense, true design is an
inseparable element of good quality, involving as it does the selection
of good and suitable material, contrivance for special purpose, expert
workmanship, proper finish, and so on, far more than mere ornament, and
indeed, that ornamentation itself was rather an exuberance of fine
workmanship than a matter of merely abstract lines. Workmanship when
separated by too wide a gulf from fresh thought--that is, from
design--inevitably decays, and, on the other hand, ornamentation,
divorced from workmanship, is necessarily unreal, and quickly falls into
affectation. Proper ornamentation may be defined as a language
addressed to the eye; it is pleasant thought expressed in the speech of
the tool.

In the third place, we would have this series put artistic craftsmanship
before people as furnishing reasonable occupations for those who would
gain a livelihood. Although within the bounds of academic art, the
competition, of its kind, is so acute that only a very few per cent can
fairly hope to succeed as painters and sculptors; yet, as artistic
craftsmen, there is every probability that nearly every one who would
pass through a sufficient period of apprenticeship to workmanship and
design would reach a measure of success.

In the blending of handwork and thought in such arts as we propose to
deal with, happy careers may be found as far removed from the dreary
routine of hack labor as from the terrible uncertainty of academic art.
It is desirable in every way that men of good education should be
brought back into the productive crafts: there are more than enough of
us "in the city," and it is probable that more consideration will be
given in this century than in the last to Design and Workmanship.

       *       *       *       *       *

This third volume of our series treats of one branch of the great art of
sculpture, one which in the past has been in close association with
architecture. It is, well, therefore, that besides dealing thoroughly,
as it does, with the craftsmanship of wood-carving, it should also be
concerned with the theory of design, and with the subject-matter which
the artist should select to carve.

Such considerations should be helpful to all who are interested in the
ornamental arts. Indeed, the present book contains some of the best
suggestions as to architectural ornamentation under modern circumstances
known to me. Architects can not forever go on plastering buildings over
with trade copies of ancient artistic thinking, and they and the public
must some day realize that it is not mere shapes, but only _thoughts_,
which will make reasonable the enormous labor spent on the decoration of
buildings. Mere structure will always justify itself, and architects who
can not obtain living ornamentation will do well to fall back on
structure well fitted for its purpose, and as finely finished as may be
without carvings and other adornments. It would be better still if
architects would make the demand for a more intellectual code of
ornament than we have been accustomed to for so long.

On the side of the carver, either in wood or in stone, we want men who
will give us their own thought in their own work--as artists, that
is--and will not be content to be mere hacks supplying imitations of all
styles to order.

On the teaching of wood-carving I should like to say a word, as I have
watched the course of instruction in many schools. It is desirable that
classes should be provided with casts and photographs of good examples,
such as Mr. Jack speaks of, varying from rough choppings up to minute
and exquisite work, but all having the breath of life about them. There
should also be a good supply of illustrations and photographs of birds
and beasts and flowers, and above all, some branches and buds of real
leafage. Then I would set the student of design in wood-carving to make
_variations_ of such examples according to his own skill and liking. If
he and the teacher could be got to clear their minds of ideas of
"style," and to take some example simply because they liked it, and to
adapt it just because it amused them, the mystery of design would be
nearly solved. Most design will always be the making of one thing like
another, with a difference. Later, motives from Nature should be brought
in, but always with some guidance as to treatment, from an example known
to be fine. I would say, for instance, "Do a panel like this, only let
it be oak foliage instead of vine, and get a thrush or a parrot out of
the bird book."

In regard to the application of carving, I have been oppressed by the
accumulation in carving classes of little carved squares and oblongs,
having no relation to anything that, in an ordinary way, is carved. To
carve the humblest real thing, were it but a real toy for a child, would
be better than the production of these panels, or of the artificial
trivialities which our minds instinctively associate with bazaars.


_September, 1903._



Be you 'prentice or student, or what is still better, both in one, I
introduce the following pages to you with this explanation: that all
theoretical opinions set forth therein are the outcome of many years of
patient sifting and balancing of delicate questions, and these have with
myself long since passed out of the category of mere "opinions" into
that of settled convictions. With regard to the practical matter of
"technique," it lies very much with yourself to determine the degree of
perfection to which you may attain. This depends greatly upon the amount
of application which you may be willing or able to devote to its

Remember--the laws which govern all good art must be known before they
can be obeyed; they are subtle, but unalterable. The conditions most
favorable to your craft must first be understood before these laws can
be recognized. There yet remains at your own disposal that devotion of
energy which is the first essential step, both in the direction of
obtaining clearer views and in conquering technical difficulties.

I have to thank the following gentlemen for their assistance in
providing photographs for some of the illustrations: Messrs. Bedford
Lemere & Co.--H. Sandland--Charles C. Winmill--W. Weir--J. R. Holliday
and F. K. Rives.

G. J.

_September, 1903._



Editor's Preface                                                       7

Author's Preface                                                      15



Student and Apprentice, their Aims and Conditions of Work--Necessity
for Some Equality between Theory and Practise--The Student's
Opportunity lies on the Side of Design                                25



Average Number of Tools required by Carvers--Selection for
Beginners--Description of Tools--Position when in Use--Acquisition
by Degrees                                                            31



Different Stones in Use--Case for Stones--Slips--Round Mallet
Best--A Home-Made Bench--A Makeshift Bench--Cramps and Clips          42



Hard Wood and Soft Wood--Closeness of Grain Desirable--Advantages
of Pine and English Oak                                               48



The Proper Bevel--Position of Tools on Oilstone--Good and Bad
Edge--Stropping--Paste and Leather--Careless Sharpening--Rubbing
Out the Inside--Stropping Fine Tools--Importance of Sharp Tools       52



Its Savage Origin--A Clue to its only Claim to Artistic
Importance--Monotony better than Variety--An Exercise in Patience
and Precision--Technical Methods                                      63



Obstinacy of the Woody Fiber--First Exercise in Grounding--Description
of Method--Cutting the Miters--Handling of Tools, Danger of
Carelessness--Importance of Clean Cutting                             69



Difficulties of Selection and Arrangement--Limits of an Imitative
Treatment--Light and Distance Factors in the Arrangement of a
Design--Economy of Detail Necessary--The Word "Conventional"          82



Necessity for every Carver Making his own Designs--Method
of Carving Rounded Forms on a Sunk Ground                             88



Importance of Formal Pattern as an Aid to Visibility--Pattern
and Free Rendering Compared--First Impressions Lasting--Medieval
Choice of Natural Forms Governed by a Question of Pattern             96



Adaptation of Old Designs to Modern Purposes--"Throwing
About"--Critical Inspection of Work from a Distance as it Proceeds   103



Dangers of Imposing Words--Novelty more Common than Originality--An
Unwholesome Kind of "Originality"                                    108



Exercise in Background Pattern--Care as to Stability--Drilling
and Sawing out the Spaces--Some Uses for Pierced Patterns            110



Carvings can not be Independent Ornaments--Carving Impossible on
Commercial Productions--The Amateur Joiner--Corner
Cupboards--Introduction of Foliage Definite in Form,
and Simple in Character--Methods of Carving Grapes                   115



Old Work Best Seen in its Original Place--Museums to be approached
with Caution.--Methodical Memoranda--Some Examples--Assimilation of
Ideas Better than Making Exact Copies                                137



False Impressions Fostered by Fragmentary Exhibits--Environment
as Important as Handicraft--Works Viewed as Records
of Character--Carvers the Historians of their Time                   149



Medieval and Modern Choice of Form Compared--A Compromise
Adopted--A List of Plant Forms of Adaptable Character                153



Furniture Constructed with a View to Carving--Reciprocal Aims of
Joiner and Carver--Smoothness Desirable where Carving is
Handled--The Introduction of Animals or Figures                      161



Misproportion Not Essential to the Expression of Humor--The
Sham Grotesque Contemptible--A True Sense of Humor Helpful to
the Carver                                                           180



The Introduction of Animal Forms--Rude Vitality better than Dull
"Natural History"--"Action"--Difficulties of the Study for Town-Bred
Students--The Aid of Books and Photographs--Outline Drawing and
Suggestion of Main Masses--Sketch-Book Studies, Sections, and
Notes--Swiss Animal Carving--The Clay Model: its Use and Abuse       191



Intelligible Background Outline Better than Confused
Foreshortening--Superposition of Masses                              205



Undercutting as a Means and as an End; its Use and Abuse--"Built-up"
Work--"Planted" Work--"Pierced" Work                                 214



The Limitations of an Art not Safely Transgressed--Aerial
Perspective Impossible in Relief--Linear Perspective only Possible
in a Limited Way                                                     219



The Necessity for Variety in Study--A Carver's View of the Study of
Architecture; Inseparable from a Study of his own Craft--Importance
of the Carpenter's Stimulating Influence upon the Carver--Carpenters'
Imitation of Stone Construction Carried too Far                      223



Tool Marks, the Importance of their Direction--The Woody Texture
Dependent upon Clearness of Cutting and Sympathetic Handling         234



The Country Craftsman of Old Times--A Colony of Craftsmen in Busy
Intercourse--The Modern Craftsman's Difficulties: Embarrassing
Variety of Choice                                                    240



The Infinite Multiplicity of Styles--The "Gothic" Influence: Sculpture
an Integral Element in its Designs--The Approach of the so-called
"Renaissance" Period--Disturbed Convictions--The Revival of the
Classical Style--The Two Styles in Conflict for a Time; their
Respective Characteristics Reviewed--Carvers Become Dependent
upon Architects and Painters--The "Revival" Separates "Designer"
and "Executant"                                                      249

NOTES ON THE COLLOTYPE PLATES                                        265

THE COLLOTYPE PLATES                                                 271

INDEX                                                                305


A Suggestion from Nature and Photography                    Frontispiece
FIG. 1.                                                               37
FIG. 2.                                                               37
FIG. 3.                                                               39
FIG. 4.                                                               43
FIG. 5.                                                               46
FIG. 6.                                                               46
FIG. 7.                                                               47
        B. ANGLE FOR HARDWOOD                                         52
        D. BADLY FORMED EDGE.                                         54
FIG. 10.                                                              58
FIG. 11.                                                              61
FIG. 12.                                                              68
FIG. 13.                                                              74
FIG. 14.                                                              74
FIG. 15.                                                              78
FIG. 16.                                                              88
FIG. 17.                                                              91
FIG. 18.                                                              94
FIG. 19.                                                              94
FIG. 20.                                                              96
FIG. 21.                                                             100
FIG. 22.                                                             103
FIG. 23.                                                             105
FIG. 24.                                                             111
FIG. 25.                                                             113
FIG. 26.                                                             113
FIG. 27.                                                             116
FIG. 28.                                                             119
FIG. 29.                                                             120
FIG. 30.                                                             120
FIG. 31.                                                             120
FIG. 32.                                                             123
FIG. 33.                                                             123
FIG. 34. CARVING IN PANELS OF FIG 33                                 126
FIG. 35.                                                             127
FIG. 36.                                                             127
FIG. 37.                                                             131
FIG. 38.                                                             131
FIG. 39. _a._                                                        131
FIG. 39. _b._                                                        131
FIG. 40.                                                             133
FIG. 41.                                                             133
FIG. 42.                                                             135
FIG. 43.                                                             135
FIG. 44.                                                             137
FIG. 45.                                                             137
FIG. 46.                                                             139
FIG. 47.                                                             145
FIG. 48.                                                             145
FIG. 49.                                                             145
FIG. 50.                                                             145
FIG. 51.                                                             145
FIG. 52.                                                             145
FIG. 53.                                                             151
FIG. 54.                                                             166
FIG. 55.                                                             166
FIG. 56.                                                             168
FIG. 57.                                                             170
FIG. 58.                                                             174
FIG. 59.                                                             174
FIG. 60.                                                             176
FIG. 61.                                                             179
FIG. 62.                                                             179
FIG. 63.                                                             183
FIG. 64.                                                             187
FIG. 65.                                                             187
FIG. 66.                                                             190
FIG. 67.                                                             190
FIG. 68.                                                             199
FIG. 69.                                                             199
FIG. 70.                                                             202
FIG. 71.                                                             208
FIG. 72.                                                             209
FIG. 73.                                                             209
FIG. 74.                                                             213
FIG. 75.                                                             229
FIG. 76.                                                             229
FIG. 77.                                                             229

THE COLLOTYPE PLATES                                                 271
I. Old Carved Chest in York Cathedral.

II.--Figure from the Tomb of Henry IV. in Canterbury Cathedral.

III.--Aisle Roof--Mildenhall Church, Suffolk.

IV.--Nave Roof--Sall Church, Norfolk.

V.--Portion of a Carved Oak Panel--The Sheepfold.

VI--Portion of a Carved Oak Panel--The Sheepfold.

VII.--Preliminary Drawing of a Lion for Carving. By Phillip Webb.

VIII.--Book Cover Carved in English Oak--"Tale of Troy."
(only carved portion shown.)

IX.--Book Cover Carved in English Oak--"Tale of Troy."
(only carved portion shown.)

X.--Book Cover Carved in English Oak--"Reynard the Fox."
(only carved portions shown.)

XI.--Carving from Choir Stalls in Winchester Cathedral.

XII.--Carving from Choir Screen--Winchester Cathedral.

XIII.--Font Canopy--Trunch Church, Norfolk.

XIV.--Two designs for Carving, by Philip Webb.
One executed, one in drawing.

XV.--Leg of a Settle, carved in English Oak.

XVI.--Pew Ends in Carved Oak--Brent Church, Somersetshire.


     Student and Apprentice, their Aims and Conditions of
     Work--Necessity for some Equality between
     Theory and Practise--The Student's Opportunity
     lies on the Side of Design.

The study of some form of handicraft has of late years become an
important element in the training of an art student. It is with the
object of assisting such with practical directions, as well as
suggesting to more practised carvers considerations of design and
treatment, that the present volume has been written. The art of
wood-carving, however, lends itself to literary demonstration only in a
very limited way, more especially in the condensed form of a text-book,
which must be looked upon merely as a temporary guide, of use only until
such time as practise and study shall have strengthened the judgment of
the student, and enabled him to assimilate the many and involved
principles which underlie the development of his craft.

If the beginner has mastered to some extent the initial difficulties of
the draftsman, and has a fair general knowledge of the laws of design,
but no acquaintance with their application to the art of wood-carving,
then the two factors which will most immediately affect his progress
(apart from natural aptitude) are his opportunities for practise, and
his knowledge of past and present conditions of work. No one can become
a good carver without considerable practise--constant, if the best
results are to be looked for. Just as truly, without some knowledge of
past and existing conditions of practise, none may hope to escape the
danger of becoming, on the one hand, dull imitators of the superficial
qualities of old work; or on the other, followers of the first
will-o'-the-wisp novelty which presents itself to their fancy.

If use of the tools and knowledge of materials were the only subjects of
which a carver need become master, there would be no way equal to the
old-fashioned one of apprenticeship to some good craftsman. Daily
practise with the tools insures a manual dexterity with which no amateur
need hope to compete. Many traditional expedients are handed down in
this way that can be acquired in no other. There is, however, another
side of the question to be considered, of quite as much importance as
the practical one of handicraft skill. The art of wood-carving has also
to fulfil its intellectual function, as an interpreter of the dreams and
fancies of imagination. In this respect there is little encouragement to
be looked for in the dull routine of a modern workshop.

There are, therefore, two widely separated standpoints from which the
art may be viewed. It may be looked at from the position of a regular
craftsman, who regards it primarily as his means of livelihood; or it
may be dealt with as a subject of intellectual interest, based upon its
relation to the laws of art in general. As, in the first instance, the
use of the tools can not be learned without _some_ accompanying
knowledge of the laws of art, however slight that acquaintance may be,
the method of apprenticeship has the advantage of being the more
practical of the two; but it must be accepted with all the conditions
imposed upon it by the pressure of commercial interest and its usages:
conditions, which, it may easily be imagined, are far more favorable to
the performance of dull task-work, than to the adventurous spirit of
curiosity which should prompt the enterprise of an energetic student.

On the other hand, although an independent study of the art offers a
wider range of interest, the student is, for that very reason, exposed
to the risk of involving himself in a labyrinth of confusing and
ineffectual theories. The fact is, that neither method can at the
present time be exclusively depended upon as a means of development;
neither can be pronounced complete in itself nor independent of the
other. The only sure safeguard against the vagueness of theory is
constant practise with the tools; while, to the craftsman in the full
enjoyment of every means for exercising and increasing his technical
skill, a general study and intelligent conception of the wide
possibilities of his art is just as essential, if it were only as an
antidote to the influence of an otherwise mechanical employment. The
more closely these contradictory views are made to approximate, the
more certain will become the carver's aims, and the clearer will be his
understanding of the difficulties which surround his path, enabling him
to choose that which is practicable and intrinsically valuable, both as
regards the theory and practise of his art.

If the student, through lack of opportunities for practise, is debarred
from all chance of acquiring that expertness which accompanies great
technical skill, he may at least find encouragement in the fact that he
can never exhaust the interest afforded by his art in its infinite
suggestion to the imagination and fancy; and also that by the exercise
of diligence, and a determination to succeed, he may reasonably hope to
gain such a degree of proficiency with the tools as will enable him to
execute with his hands every idea which has a definite existence in his
mind. Generally speaking, it will be found that his manual powers are
always a little in advance of his perceptions.

Thus the student may gradually work out for himself a natural and
reliable manner of expressing his thoughts, and in a way, too, that is
likely to compensate for his technical shortcomings, by exciting a more
lively interest in the resources of the art itself. The measure of his
success will be determined partly by his innate capacity for the work,
and partly by the amount of time which he is enabled to give to its
practise. The resources of his art offer an infinite scope for the
exercise of his powers of design, and as this is the side which lies
nearest to his opportunities it should be the one which receives his
most earnest attention, not merely as experiments on paper, but as
exercises carried out to the best of his ability with the tools. Such
technical difficulties as he may encounter in the process will gradually
disappear with practise. There is also encouragement in the thought that
wood-carving is an art which makes no immediate calls upon that
mysterious combination of extraordinary gifts labeled "genius," but is
rather one which demands tribute from the bright and happy inspirations
of a normally healthy mind. There is, in this direction, quite a life's
work for any enthusiast who aims at finding the bearings of his own
small but precious gift, and in making it intelligible to others; while,
at the same time, keeping himself free from the many confusions and
affectations which surround him in the endeavor.



     Average Number of Tools required by Carvers--Selection for
     Beginners--Description of Tools--Position when in Use--Acquisition
     by Degrees.

We will suppose that the student is anxious to make a practical
commencement to his studies. The first consideration will be to procure
a set of tools, and we propose in this place to describe those which
will answer the purposes of a beginner, as well as to look generally at
others in common use among craftsmen.

The tools used by carvers consist for the most part of chisels and
gouges of different shapes and sizes. The number of tools required by
professional carvers for one piece of work varies in proportion to the
elaborateness of the carving to be done. They may use from half a dozen
on simple work up to twenty or thirty for the more intricate carvings,
this number being a selection out of a larger stock reaching perhaps as
many as a hundred or more. Many of these tools vary only in size and
sweep of cutting edge. Thus, chisels and gouges are to be had ranging
from 1/16th of an inch to 1 inch wide, with curves or "sweeps" in each
size graduated between a semicircle to a curve almost flat. Few carvers,
however, possess such a complete stock of tools as would be represented
by one of each size and shape manufactured; such a thing is not
required: an average number of, say seventy tools, will always give a
sufficient variety of size and sweep for general purposes; few pieces of
work will require the use of more than half of these in its execution.

The beginner, however, need not possess more than from twelve to
twenty-four, and may even make a start with fewer. It is a good plan to
learn the uses of a few tools before acquiring a complete set, as by
this means, when difficulties are felt in the execution of work, a tool
of known description is sought for and purchased with a foreknowledge of
its advantages. This is the surest way to gain a distinct knowledge of
the varieties of each kind of tool, and their application to the
different purposes of design.

The following list of tools (see Figs. 1 and 2) will be found sufficient
for all the occasions of study: beginning by the purchase of the first
section, Nos. 1 to 17, and adding others one by one until a set is made
up of twenty-four tools. The tools should be selected as near the sizes
and shapes shown in the illustration as possible. The curved and
straight strokes represent the shape of the actual cuts made by pressing
the tools down perpendicularly into a piece of wood. This, in the case
of gouges, is generally called the "sweep."

Nos. 1, 2, 3 are gouges, of sweeps varying from one almost flat (No. 1)
to a distinct hollow in No. 3. These tools are made in two forms,
straight-sided and "spade"-shaped; an illustration of the spade form is
given on the second page of tools. In purchasing his set of tools the
student should order Nos. 1, 2, 3, 10, 11 in this form. They will be
found to have many advantages, as they conceal less of the wood behind
them and get well into corners inaccessible to straight-sided tools.
They are lighter and more easily sharpened, and are very necessary in
finishing the surface of work, and in shaping out foliage, more
especially such as is undercut.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.]

[Illustration: FIG. 2.]

Nos. 5, 6, 7 are straight gouges graduated in size and sweep. No. 8 is
called a Veiner, because it is often used for making the grooves which
represent veins in leaves. It is a narrow but deep gouge, and is used
for any narrow grooves which may be required, and for outlining the
drawing at starting.

No. 9 is called a V tool or "parting" tool, on account of its shape. It
is used for making grooves with straight sides and sharp inner angles at
the bottom. It can be used for various purposes, such as undercutting,
clearing out sharply defined angles, outlining the drawing, etc., etc.
It should be got with a square cutting edge, not beveled off as some are
made. Nos. 10, 11, 12 are flat chisels, or, as they are sometimes
called, "firmers." (Nos. 10 and 11 should be in spade shape.) No. 13 is
also a flat chisel, but it is beveled off to a point, and is called a
"corner-chisel"; it is used for getting into difficult corners, and is a
most useful tool when used as a knife for delicate edges or curves.

Nos. 14 and 16 are what are known as "bent chisels"; they are used
principally for leveling the ground (or background), and are therefore
also called "grounders." These tools are made with various curves or
bends in their length, but for our present uses one with a bend like
that shown to tool No. 23, Fig. 2, and at _a_ in Fig. 3, will be best;
more bend, as at _b_, would only make the tool unfit for leveling
purposes on a flat ground.

No. 15 is a similar tool, but called a "corner grounder," as it is
beveled off like a corner-chisel.

No. 17 is an additional gouge of very slow sweep and small size. This is
a very handy little tool, and serves a variety of purposes when you come
to finishing the surface.

These seventeen tools will make up a very useful set for the beginner,
and should serve him for a long time, or at least until he really begins
to feel the want of others; then he may get the remainder shown on Fig.

Nos. 18, 19, 20 are deep gouges, having somewhat straight sides; they
are used where grooves are set deeply, and when they are required to
change in section from deep and narrow to wide and shallow. This is done
by turning the tool on its side, which brings the flatter sweep into
action, thus changing the shape of the hollow. Nos. 21, 22 are gouges,
but are called "bent gouges"--"front bent" in this case, "back bent"
when the cutting "sweep" is turned upside down. It is advisable when
selecting these tools to get them as shown in the illustration, with a
very easy curve in their bend; they are more generally useful so, as
quick bends are only good for very deep hollows. These tools are used
for making grooves in hollow places where an ordinary gouge will not
work, owing to its meeting the opposing fiber of the wood.

No. 23 is a similar tool, but very "easy" both in its "sweep" and
bend--the sweep should be little more than recognizable as a curve. This
tool may be used as a grounder when the wood is slightly hollow, or
liable to tear up under the flat grounder.

No. 24 is called a "Maccaroni" tool. This is used for clearing out the
ground close against leaves or other projections; as it has two square
sides it can be used right and left.

In the illustration, Fig 3, _a_ shows the best form of grounding tool;
_b_ is little or no use for this purpose, as it curves up too suddenly
for work on a flat ground. It is a good thing to have the handles of
tools made of different colored woods, as it assists the carver in
picking them out quickly from those lying ready for use.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.]

When in use, the tools should be laid out in front of the carver if
possible, and with their points toward him, in order that he may see the
shape and choose quickly the one he wants.

The tempering of tools is a very important factor in their efficiency.
It is only of too common occurrence to find many of the tools
manufactured of late years unfit for use on account of their softness of
metal. There is nothing more vexatious to a carver than working with a
tool which turns over its cutting edge, even in soft wood; such tools
should be returned to the agent who sold them.

With a selection from the above tools, acquired by degrees in the manner
described, almost any kind of work may be done. There is no need
whatever to have a tool for every curve of the design. These can readily
be made by using straight chisels in combination with such gouges as we
possess, or by sweeping the curves along their sides with a chisel used
knife fashion. No really beautiful curves can be made by merely
following the curves of gouges, however various their sweeps, as they
are all segments of circles.

Tools generally come from the manufacturer ground, but not sharpened. As
the student must in any case learn how to sharpen his tools, it will be
just as well to get them in that way rather than ready for use. As this
process of sharpening tools is a very important one, it must be reserved
for another place. Should tools be seriously blunted or broken they must
be reground. This can be done by the carver, either on a grindstone or a
piece of gritty York stone, care being taken to repeat the original
bevel; or they may be sent to a tool shop where they are in the habit
of grinding carving tools.

Catalogues of tools may be had from good makers; they will be found to
consist mainly in a large variety of the tools already mentioned. Those
which are very much bent or curved are intended for special application
to elaborate and difficult passages in carving, and need not concern the
student until he comes to find the actual want of such shapes; such, for
instance, as bent parting tools and back bent gouges.

In addition to the above tools, carvers occasionally use one called a
"Router." This is a kind of plane with a narrow perpendicular blade. It
is used for digging or "routing" out the wood in places where it is to
be sunk to form a ground. It is not a tool to be recommended for the use
of beginners, who should learn to make sufficiently even backgrounds
without the aid of mechanical contrivances. Carvers also use the
"Rifler," which is a bent file. This is useful for very fine work in
hard wood, and also for roughly approximating to rounded forms before
finishing with the tools.

A few joiner's tools are very useful to the carver, and should form
part of his equipment. A wide chisel, say about 1-1/4 in. wide, a small
iron "bull-nose" plane, and a keyhole saw, will all be helpful, and save
a lot of unnecessary labor with the carving tools.



     Different Stones in use--Case for Stones--Slips--Round Mallet
     Best--A Home-Made Bench--A Makeshift Bench--Cramps and Clips.

The stones which are most generally used for the purpose of sharpening
carving tools are "Turkey" and "Washita." There are many others, some
equally good, but "Washita" is easily procured and very serviceable. It
is to be had in various grades, and it may be just as well to have one
coarse and one fine, but in any case we must have a fine-grained stone
to put a keen edge on the tools. A "Turkey" stone is a fine-grained and
slow-cutting one, and may take the place of the finer "Washita." The
"India" oilstone is a composition of emery with some kind of stone dust,
and is a useful stone for quickly rubbing down superfluous steel before
putting an edge to the tool. It is better to get these stones without
cases, as they can then be used on both sides, one for flat tools and
one for gouges, which wear the face of a stone into grooves. A case may
be made by hollowing out a block of wood so as to take the stone
loosely; and if at one end a small notch is made in this block, a
screwdriver may be inserted under the stone when it is necessary to turn
it. Two brads or pins should be inserted in holes, having their points
just appearing below the bottom of the block. These prevent it slipping
about when in use. These stones should be lubricated with a mixture of
olive oil and paraffin in equal parts. Bicycle lubricating oil is very
good for this purpose.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.]

For sharpening the insides of tools, "slips" are made with rounded edges
of different sizes. One slip of "Washita" stone and one of "Arkansas"
will be enough for the present, as they will fit moderately well most of
the gouges in the beginner's set of tools; the "Arkansas" being used for
the smaller tools. The "Arkansas" slip should be what is called
"knife-edged." This is required for sharpening such tools as the veiner
and V tool; it is a very fine marble-like stone, and exceedingly
brittle; care must be taken in handling it, as a fall would in all
probability be fatal.


_The Mallet._--The carver's mallet is used for driving his tools where
force is required. The most suitable form is the round one, made of
beech; one 4 ins. diameter will be heavy enough.

_The Bench._--Every carver should provide himself with a bench. He may
make one for himself according to the size and construction shown in the
illustration, Fig. 5. The top should be made of two 11 x 2 in. boards,
and, as steadiness is the main feature to be aimed at, the joints should
have some care. Those in illustration are shown to be formed by
checking one piece of wood over the other, with shoulders to resist
lateral strain. Proper tenons would be better, but more difficult to
make. It must have a projecting edge at the front and ends, to receive
the clamps. The bench should have a joiner's "bench-screw" attached to
the back leg for holding work which is to be carved on its edges or
ends. The feet should be secured to the floor by means of iron brackets,
as considerable force is applied in carving hard wood, which may move
the bench bodily, unless it is secured, or is very heavy. Professional
carvers use a bench which is composed of beech planks, three or four
inches in thickness, and of length according to shop-room.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.]

[Illustration: FIG. 6]

Should it not be possible to make or procure a bench, then a substitute
must be used. Fig. 6 gives a suggestion for making such a temporary
bench. The top is composed of one piece of board, 11 ins. wide and 1-1/2
in. thick. It should be about 2 ft. 6 ins. long and rest on two blocks
fixed about 1-1/2 in. from the ends, which must project, as in Fig. 6.
This may be used on any ordinary table, to which it should be secured by
means of two 3-1/2-in. clamps. The height from the floor should be 3 ft.
2 ins. to top of board. This gives a good height for working, as carvers
invariably stand to their work. The height can be regulated by making
the blocks, _a_, higher or lower to suit the table which is to be used.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.]

_Cramps._--Cramps for holding the work in position on the bench are of
several kinds. For ordinary thicknesses of wood, two 4-1/2-in. screw
clamps, like the one in Fig. 7, will be sufficient. Wooden blocks may be
also used to hold one end of the work down while the other is held by a
clamp. These blocks are notched out to fit over the thickness of the
board being carved, as in Fig. 7. Carvers use for their heavier work a
"bench-screw," as it is called; that is, a screw which passes through
the bench into the back of the work, which may thus be turned about at
will; also, if the work is very thick, they hold it in position by means
of a bench "holdfast," a kind of combined lever and screw; but neither
of these contrivances is likely to be required by the beginner, whose
work should be kept within manageable dimensions.



     Hard Wood and Soft Wood--Closeness of Grain Desirable--Advantages
     of Pine and English Oak.

The woods suitable for carving are very various; but we shall confine
our attention to those in common use. Of the softer woods, those which
are most easily procured and most adaptable to modern uses are yellow
pine, Bass wood, Kauri pine, and Lime. These are all good woods for the
carver; but we need not at present look for any better qualities than
we shall find in a good piece of yellow pine, free from knots or shakes.

The following woods may be considered as having an intermediate place
between soft and hard: Sycamore, Beech, and Holly. They are
light-colored woods, and Very useful for broad shallow work.

_English Oak._--Of the hard woods in common use, the principal kinds are
Oak, Walnut, and occasionally Mahogany. Of oak, the English variety is
by far the best for the carver, being close in the grain and very hard.
It is beyond all others the carvers' wood, and was invariably used by
them in this country during the robust period of medieval craftsmanship.
It offers to the carver an invigorating resistance to his tools, and its
character determines to a great extent that of the work put upon it. It
takes in finishing a very beautiful surface, when skilfully handled--and
this tempts the carver to make the most of his opportunities by adapting
his execution to its virtues. Other oaks, such as Austrian and American,
are often used, but they do not offer quite the same tempting
opportunity to the carver. They are, by nature, quicker-growing trees,
and are, consequently, more open in the grain. They have tough, sinewy
fibers, alternating with softer material. They rarely take the same
degree of finish as the English oak, but remain somewhat dull in
texture. Good pieces for carving may be got, but they must be picked out
from a quantity of stuff. Chestnut is sometimes used as a substitute for
oak, but it is better fitted for large-scaled work where fineness of
detail is not of so much importance.

_Italian Walnut._--This is a very fine-grained wood, of even texture.
The Italian variety is the best for carving: it cuts with something of
the firmness of English oak, and is capable of receiving even more
finish of surface in small details. It is admirably suited for fine work
in low relief. In choosing this wood for carving, the hardest and
closest in grain should be picked, as it is by no means all of equal
quality. It should be free from sap, which may be known by a light
streak on the edges of the dark brown wood.

English walnut has too much "figure" in the grain to be suitable for
carving. American walnut is best fitted for sharply cut shallow carving,
as its fiber is caney. If it is used, the design should be one in which
no fine modeling or detail is required, as this wood allows of little
finish to the surface.

_Mahogany_, more especially the kind known as Honduras, is very similar
to American walnut in quality of grain: it cuts in a sharp caney manner.
The "Spanish" variety was closer in grain, but is now almost
unprocurable. Work carved in mahogany should, like that in American
walnut, be broad and simple in style, without much rounded detail.

It is quite unnecessary to pursue the subject of woods beyond the few
kinds mentioned. Woods such as ebony, sandalwood, cherry, brier, box,
pear-tree, lancewood, and many others, are all good for the carver, but
are better fitted for special purposes and small work. As this book is
concerned more with the _art_ of carving than its application, it will
save confusion if we accept yellow pine as our typical soft wood, and
good close-grained oak as representing hard wood. It may be noted in
passing that the woods of all flowering and fruit-bearing trees are very
liable to the attack of worms and rot.

No carving, in whatever wood, should be polished. I shall refer to this
when we come to "texture" and "finish."



     The Proper Bevel--Position of Tools on Oilstone--Good and Bad
     Edge--Stropping--Paste and Leather--Careless Sharpening--Rubbing
     Out the Inside--Stropping Fine Tools--Importance of Sharp Tools.

Having given this brief description of the tools and materials used by
carvers, we shall suppose a piece of work is about to be started. The
first thing the carver will require to do is to sharpen his tools. That
is, if we may assume that they have just come from the manufacturer,
ground but not yet brought to an edge. It will be seen that each has a
long bevel ending in a blunt ridge where the cutting edge should be. We
shall take the chisel No. 10 and sharpen that first, as it is the
easiest to do, and so get a little practise before we try the gouges.
The oilstone and oil have already been described. The first thing is to
well oil the stone and lay it on the bench in a position with its end
toward the operator.

[Illustration: A. ANGLE FOR SOFTWOOD


FIG. 8.]

Tools which are going to be used in soft wood require rather a longer
bevel and more acute edge than when they are wanted for hard wood. Both
angles are shown in Fig. 8. Lay the flat of the tool on the stone at an
angle of about 15°, with the handle in the hollow of the right hand, and
two fingers of the left pressed upon the blade as near to the stone as
possible. Then begin rubbing the tool from end to end of the stone,
taking care not to rock the right hand up and down, but to keep it as
level as possible throughout the stroke, bearing heavily on the blade
with the left hand, to keep it well in contact with the stone. Rocking
produces a rounded edge which is fatal to keenness. C (Fig. 9) gives
approximately, to an enlarged scale, the sections of a good edge, and D
that of an imperfect one.


Practise alone will familiarize the muscles of the wrist with the proper
motion, but it is important to acquire this in order to form the correct
habit early. It should be practised very slowly at first, until the
hands get accustomed to the movements. When one side of the tool has
been rubbed bright as far as the cutting edge, turn it over and treat
the other in the same way. Carvers' tools, unlike joiners', are rubbed
on both sides, in the proportion of about two-thirds outside to
one-third inside. When a keen edge has been formed, which can easily be
tested by gently applying the finger, it should be stropped on a piece
of stout leather. It will be found, if the finger is passed down the
tool and over its edge, that the stoning has turned up a burr. This must
be removed by stropping on both sides alternately. A paste composed of
emery and crocus powders mixed with grease is used to smear the leather
before stropping; this can either be procured at the tool shop, or made
by the carver. When the tool has been sufficiently stropped, and all
burr removed, it is ready for use, but it is as well to try it on a
piece of wood first, and test it for burr, and if necessary strop it

Before we leave this tool, however, we shall anticipate a little, and
look at it after it has been used for some time and become blunt. Its
cutting edge and the bevel above it are now polished to a high degree,
owing to friction with the wood. We lay it on the stone, taking care to
preserve the original angle (15°). We find on looking at the tool after
a little rubbing that this time it presents a bright rim along the edge
in contrast with the gray steel which has been in contact with the
stone. This bright rim is part of the polished surface the whole bevel
had before we began this second sharpening, which proves that the actual
edge has not yet touched the stone. We are tempted to lift the right
hand ever so little, and so get rid of this bright rim (sometimes called
the "candle"); we shall thus get an edge quicker than if we have to rub
away all the steel behind it. We do this, and soon get our edge; the
bright rim has disappeared, but we have done an unwise thing, and have
not saved much time, because we have begun to make a rounded edge,
which, if carried a little farther, will make the tool useless until it
is reground. There is no help for it: time must be spent and trouble
taken in sharpening tools; with method and care there need be very
little grinding, unless tools are actually broken.

To resume our lesson in tool-sharpening: we can not do much carving with
one chisel, so we shall now take up gouge No. 2 as being the least
difficult. This being a rounded tool, we must turn the stone over and
use the side we have determined to keep for gouges, etc. We commence
rubbing it up and down the stone in the same manner as described for the
chisel, but, in addition, we have now another motion. To bring all the
parts of the edge into contact with the stone the gouge must be rolled
from side to side as it goes up and down. To accomplish this the wrist
should be slowly practised until it gets into step with the up and down
motions; it matters very little whether one turn of the tool is given to
one passage along the stone, or only one turn to many up and down
rubbings. The main thing is evenness of rubbing all along the circular
edge, as if one part gets more than its share the edge becomes wavy,
which is a thing to be avoided as much as possible. When the outside has
been cleanly rubbed up to the edge, the inside is to be rubbed out with
the Washita slip and oil to the extent of about half as much as the
outside. The handle of the tool should be grasped in the left hand,
while its blade rests on a block of wood, or on the oilstone. Hold the
slip between the fingers and thumb, slanting a little over the inner
edge; and work it in a series of short downward strokes, beginning the
stroke at one corner of the gouge and leaving off at the other (see Fig.
10). Strop the outside of the tool, and test for burr, then lay the
leather over the handle of another tool and strop the inside, repeating
the operation until all burr has been removed, when probably the tool
will be ready for use.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.]

The Veiner requires the same kind of treatment, only as this tool is not
part of a circle in its section (having straight sides), only one-half
must be done at a time; and it is as well to give the straight sides one
stroke or so in every half-dozen all to itself to keep it in shape. Care
must be taken with this tool as it is easily rubbed out of shape. The
inside must be finished off with the Arkansas knife-edged slip, one side
at a time, as it is impossible to sweep out the whole section of these
deep tools at one stroke. Stropping must follow as before, but as this
tool is so small that the leather will not enter its hollow, the leather
must be laid down flat and the hollow of the tool drawn along its edge
until it makes a little ridge for itself which fills the hollow and
clears off burr (see Fig. 11); if any such adheres outside, a slight rub
on the Arkansas stone will probably remove it. When the edges of the
tools begin to get dull, it often happens that they only require to be
stropped, which should be frequently done. As the treatment of all
gouges is more or less like what has been described, practise will
enable the student to adapt it to the shape of the tool which requires
his attention. There remains only the V tool, the Spoon tools, and the
Maccaroni, which all require special attention. The point of the V tool
is so acute that it becomes difficult to clear the inside. A knife-edged
slip is used for this purpose, and it is well also to cut a slip of wood
to a thin edge, and after rubbing it with paste and oil, pass it down
frequently over the point between the sides. Unless a very sharp point
is obtained, this tool is practically useless; the least speck of burr
or dullness will stop its progress or tear up the wood. In sharpening
it, the sides should be pressed firmly on the stone, watching it every
now and then to see what effect is being produced. If a gap begins to
appear on one side, as it often does, then rub the other side until it
disappears, taking care to bear more heavily on the point of the tool
than elsewhere. If the sides get out of shape, pass the tool along the
stone, holding it at right angles to the side of the stone, but at the
proper angle of elevation; in this case the tool is held near its end,
between fingers and thumb. Spoon tools must be held to the stone at a
much higher angle until the cutting edge is in the right relation to the
surface, or they may be drawn sidewise along it, taking care that every
part of the edge comes in contact and receives an equal amount of
rubbing. These may be treated half at a time, or all round, according to
the size and depth of the tool. However it is produced, the one thing
essential is a long straight-sectioned cutting bevel, not a rounded or
obtuse one. Strop the inside by folding up the leather into a little
roll or ball until it fills the hollow of the tool.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.]

For the small set of tools described in Chapter II one flat oilstone and
two slips will be found sufficient for a beginning, but as a matter of
fact, it will be advisable, as the number of tools is enlarged, to
obtain slips of curves corresponding to the hollows of all gouges as
nearly as possible. Many professional carvers have sets of these slips
for the insides of tools, varying in curves which exactly fit every
hollow tool they possess, including a triangular one for the inside of
the V tool. The same rule sometimes applies to the sweeps of the
outsides of gouges, for these, corresponding channels are ground out in
flat stones, a process which is both difficult and laborious. If the
insides are dealt with on fitting slips, which may be easily adapted to
the purpose by application to a grindstone, the outsides are not so
difficult to manage, so that grooved stones may be dispensed with.

Before we leave the subject of sharpening tools it will be well to
impress upon the beginner the extreme importance of keeping his tools in
good order. When a tool is really sharp it whistles as it works; a dull
tool makes dull work, and the carver loses both time and temper. There
can be no doubt that the great technical skill shown in the works of
Grinling Gibbons and his followers could not have been arrived at
without the help of extraordinarily sharp tools. Tools not merely
sharpened and then used until they became dull, but tools that were
always sharp, and never allowed to approach dullness. Sharpening tools
is indeed an art in itself, and like other arts has its votaries, who
successfully conquer its difficulties with apparent ease, while others
are baffled at every point. Impatience is the stumbling-block in such
operations. Those most painstaking people, the Chinese, according to all
accounts, put magic into their sharpening stones; the keenness of their
blades being only equaled by that of their wits in all such matters of
delicate application. To make a good beginning is a great point gained.
To carefully examine every tool, and at the expense of time correct the
faults of management, is the only way to become expert in sharpening



     Its Savage Origin--A Clue to its only Claim to Artistic
     Importance--Monotony better than Variety--An Exercise in Impatience
     and Precision--Technical Methods.

One of the simplest forms of wood-carving is that known as "chip"
carving. This kind of work is by no means of modern origin, as its
development may be traced to a source in the barbaric instinct for
decoration common to the ancient inhabitants of New Zealand and other
South Sea Islands. Technically, and with modern tools, it is a form of
the art which demands but little skill, save in the matter of precision
and patient repetition. As practised by its savage masters, the
perfection of these two qualities elevates their work to the dignity of
a real art. It is difficult to conceive the contradictory fact, that
this apparently simple form of art was once the exponent of a struggling
desire for refinement on the part of fierce and warlike men, and that it
should, under the influence of polite society, become the all-too-easy
task of esthetically minded schoolgirls. In the hands of those warrior
artists, and with the tools at their command, mostly fashioned from
sharpened fish-bones and such like rude materials, it was an art which
required the equivalent of many fine artistic qualities, as such are
understood by more cultivated nations. The marvelous dexterity and
determined purpose evinced in the laborious decoration of canoe paddles,
ax-handles, and other weapons, is, under such technical disabilities as
to tools, really very impressive. This being so, there is no inherent
reason why such a rudimentary form of the art as "chip" carving should
not be practised in a way consistent with its true nature and
limitations. As its elemental distinctions are so few, and its methods
so simple, it follows that in recognizing such limitations, we shall
make the most of our design. Instead, then, of trusting to a forced
variety, let us seek for its strong point in an opposite direction, and
by the monotonous repetition of basket-like patterns, win the
not-to-be-despised praise which is due to patience and perseverance. In
this way only can such a restricted form of artistic expression become
in the least degree interesting. The designs usually associated with the
"civilized" practise of this work are, generally speaking, of the kind
known as "geometric," that is to say, composed of circles and straight
lines intersecting each other in complicated pattern. Now the "variety"
obtained in this manner, as contrasted with the dignified monotony of
the savage's method, is the note which marks a weak desire to attain
great results with little effort. The "variety," as such, is wholly
mechanical, the technical difficulties, with modern tools at command,
are felt at a glance to be very trifling; therefore such designs are
quite unsuitable to the kind of work, if human sympathies are to be
excited in a reasonable way.

An important fact in connection with this kind of design is that most of
these geometric patterns are, apart from their uncomfortable "variety,"
based on too large a scale as to detail. All the laborious carving on
paddles and clubs, such as may be seen in our museums, is founded upon
a scale of detail in which the holes vary in size from 1/16 to something
under 1/4 in. their longest way, only in special places, such as
borders, etc., attaining a larger size. Such variety as the artist has
permitted himself being confined to the _occasional_ introduction of a
circular form, but mostly obtained by a subtle change in the proportion
of the holes, or by an alternate emphasis upon perpendicular or
horizontal lines.

As a test of endurance, and as an experimental effort with carving
tools, I set you this exercise. In Fig. 12 you will find a pattern taken
from one of those South Sea carvings which we have been considering.
Now, take one of the articles so often disfigured with childish and
hasty efforts to cover a surface with so-called "art work," such as the
side of a bellows or the surface of a bread-plate, and on it carve this
pattern, repeating the same-shaped holes until you fill the entire
space. By the time you have completed it you will begin to understand
and appreciate one of the fundamental qualities which must go toward the
making of a carver, namely, patience; and you will have produced a
thing which may give you pleasant surprises, in the unexpected but very
natural admiration it elicits from your friends.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.]

Having drawn the pattern on your wood, ruling the lines to measurement,
and being careful to keep your lines thin and clear as drawn with a
somewhat hard pencil, proceed to cut out the holes with the chisel, No.
11 on our list, 1/4 in. wide. It will serve the purpose much better than
the knife usually sold for this kind of work, and will be giving you
useful practise with a very necessary carving tool. The corner of the
chisel will do most of the work, sloping it to suit the different angles
at the bottom of the holes. Each chip should come out with a clean cut,
but to insure this the downward cuts should be done first, forming the
raised diagonal lines.

When you have successfully performed this piece of discipline, you may,
if you care to do more of the same kind of work, carry out a design
based upon the principles we have been discussing, but introducing a
very moderate amount of variety by using one or more of the patterns
shown in Fig. 12, all of which are from the same dusky artist's designs
and can not be improved upon. If you wish for more variety than these
narrow limits afford, then try some other kind of carving, with perhaps
leafage as its motive.



     Obstinacy of the Woody Fiber--First Exercise in
     Grounding--Description of Method--Cutting the Miters--Handling of
     Tools, Danger of Carelessness--Importance of Clean Cutting.

It is curious to imagine what the inside of a young enthusiast's head
must be like when he makes his first conscious step toward artistic
expression. The chaotic jumbles of half-formed ideas, whirling about in
its recesses, produce kaleidoscopic effects, which to him look like the
most lovely pictures. If he could only learn to put them down! let him
but acquire the technical department of his art, and what easier than to
realize those most marvelous dreams. Later in his progress it begins to
dawn upon him that this same technical department may not be so very
obedient to his wishes; it may have laws of its own, which shall change
his fairy fancies into sober images, not at all unlike something which
has often been done before by others. But let the young soul continue to
see visions, the more the better, provided they be of the right sort. We
shall in the meantime ask him to curb his imagination, and yield his
faculties for the moment to the apparently simple task of realizing a
leaf or two from one of the trees in his enchanted valley.

With the student's kind permission we shall, while these lessons
continue, make believe that teacher and pupil are together in a
class-room, or, better still, in a country workshop, with chips flying
in all directions under busy hands.

I must tell you then, that the first surprise which awaits the beginner,
and one which opens his eyes to a whole series of restraints upon the
freedom of his operations, lies in the discovery that wood has a decided
grain or fiber. He will find that it sometimes behaves in a very
obstinate manner, refusing to cut straight here, chipping off there, and
altogether seeming to take pleasure in thwarting his every effort. By
and by he gets to know his piece of wood; where the grain dips and
where it comes up or wriggles, and with practise he becomes its master.
He finds in this, his first technical difficulty, a kind of blessing in
disguise, because it sets bounds to what would otherwise be an
infinitely vague choice of methods.

We shall now take a piece of yellow pine, free from knots, and planed
clean all round. The size may be about 12 ins. long by 7 ins. wide. We
shall fix this to the bench by means of two clamps or one clamp and a
screwed block at opposite corners. Now we are ready to begin work, but
up to the present we have not thought of the design we intend executing,
being so intent upon the tools and impatient for an attack upon the
silky wood with their sharp edges.

The illustration, Fig. 13, gives a clue to the sort of design to begin
with; it measures about 11 ins. long by 7 ins. wide, allowing a margin
all round. The wood should be a little longer than the design, as the
ends get spoiled by the clamps. This little design need not, and indeed
should not, be copied. Make one for yourself entirely different, only
bearing in mind the points which are to be observed in arranging it,
and which have for their object the avoidance of difficulties likely to
be too much for a first effort. These points are somewhat to this
effect: the design should be of leaves, laid out flat on a background,
with no complication of perspective. They should have no undulations of
surface. That is to say, the margins of all the features should be as
nearly as possible the original surface of the wood, which may have just
the least possible bit of finish in the manner I shall describe later
on. The articulation of the leaves and flower is represented by simple
gouge cuts. There should be nothing in the design requiring rounded
surfaces. The passage for tools in clearing out the ground between the
features must not be less than 1/4 in.; this will allow the 3/16 in.
corner grounder to pass freely backward and forward. The ground is
supposed to be sunk about three-sixteenths of an inch.

As you have not got your design made, I shall, for convenience' sake,
explain how Fig. 13 should be begun and finished. First having traced
the full-size design it should be transferred to the wood by means of a
piece of blue carbon paper.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.]

[Illustration: FIG. 14.]

Then with either the Veiner or V tool outline the whole of the leaves,
etc., about 1/8 in. deep, keeping well on the outside of the drawing.
Ignore all minor detail for the present, blocking out the design in
masses. No outline need be grooved for the margin of the panel at
present, as it should be done with a larger tool. For this purpose take
gouge No. 6 (1/4 in. wide), and begin at the left-hand bottom corner of
the panel, cut a groove about 1/16 in. within the blue line, taking care
not to cut off parts of the leaves in the process; begin a little above
the corner at the bottom, and leave off a little below that at the top.
The miters will be formed later on.

In this operation, as in all subsequent ones, the grain of the wood will
be more or less in evidence. You will by degrees get to know the piece
of wood you are working upon, and cut in such a way that your tool runs
_with_ the grain and not _against_ it; that is to say, you will cut as
much as possible on the up-hill direction of the fiber. This can not
always be done in deep hollows, but then you will have had some practise
before you attempt these.

Now take chisel No. 11, and with it stab into the grooved outline,
pressing the tool down perpendicularly to what you think feels like the
depth of the ground. The mallet need not be used for this, as the wood
is soft enough to allow of the tools being pressed by the hand alone,
but remember that the force must be proportioned to the depth desired,
and to the direction of the grain; much less pressure is wanted to drive
a tool into the wood when its edge is parallel with the grain than when
it lies in a cross direction; small tools penetrate more easily than
large ones, as a matter of course, but one must think of these things or
accidents happen.

When you have been all round the design in this way with such gouges as
may be needed for the slow and quick curves, get the wood out nearly
down to the ground, leaving a little for finishing. Do this with any
tool that fits the spaces best; the larger the better. Cut across the
grain as much as possible, not along it. The flat gouge, No. 1, will be
found useful for this purpose in the larger spaces, and the grounders
for the narrow passages. This leaves the ground in a rough state, which
must be finished later on.

Now take gouges Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and chisels Nos. 10, 11, 12, and
with them cut down the outline as accurately as possible to the depth of
the ground, and, if you are lucky, just a hair's breadth deeper. In
doing this make the sides slope a little outward toward the bottom. If
the gouges do not entirely adapt themselves to the contours of your
lines, do not trouble, but leave that bit to be done afterward with a
sweep of the tool, either a flat gouge, or the corner-chisel used like a

Now we have all the outline cut down to the depth of the background, and
may proceed to clear out the wood hanging about between the design and
the ground all round it. We shall do this with the "grounders," using
the largest one when possible, and only taking to the smallest when
absolutely necessary on account of space. This done, we shall now
proceed to finish the hollow sides of the panel and make the miters.
Again, take No. 6 gouge and drive a clear hollow touching the blue line
at end of panel, and reaching the bottom of the sinking, i.e., the
actual ground as finished, see _a_, Fig. 15. To form the miter at top of
left-hand side of panel, carry the hollow on until the tool reaches the
bottom of the hollow running along the top; as soon as this point is
gained, turn the tool out and pitch it a little up in the way shown at
_c_, Fig. 15, in which the tool is shown at an angle which brings the
edge of the gouge exactly on the line of the miter to be formed.
Beginning as it does at _b_, this quick turn of the handle to the left
takes out the little bit of wood shown by dotted lines at _b_, and
forms one-half of the miter. The cross-grain cut should be done first,
as in this way there is less risk of splintering. Now repeat the process
on the long-grain side of the panel, and one miter is in a good way for
being finished.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.]

A word now about these sides of sunk panels. They always look better if
they are hollowed with a gouge instead of being cut square down. In the
first case they carry out the impression that the whole thing is cut out
of a solid piece of wood, whereas when they are cut sharply down they
always suggest cabinet-making, as if a piece had been glued on to form a

We have now got the work blocked out and the ground fairly level, and we
are ready to do the little carving we have allowed ourselves. Before we
begin this I shall take the opportunity of reminding you that you must
be very careful in handling your tools; it is a matter of the greatest
importance, if the contingency of cut fingers or damaged work is to be
avoided. The left hand in carving has nearly as much to do as the right,
only in a different way. Grasp the chisel or gouge in the left hand
with the fingers somewhat extended, that is, the little finger will come
well on to the blade, and the thumb run up toward the top of the handle;
the wrist meanwhile resting on the work. The right hand is used for
pushing the tool forward, and for turning it this way and that, in fact
does most of the guiding. Both hands may be described as opposing each
other in force, for the pressure on the tool from the right hand should
be resisted by the left, until almost a balance is struck, and just
enough force left to cut the wood gently, without danger of slipping
forward and damaging it or the fingers. The tool is thus in complete
command, and the slightest change of pressure on either hand may alter
its direction or stop it altogether. Never drive a tool forward with one
hand without this counter-resistance, as there is no knowing what may
happen if it slips. Never wave tools about in the hand, and generally
remember that they are dangerous implements, both to the user and the
work. Never put too much force on a tool when in the neighborhood of a
delicate passage, but take time and eat the bit of wood out mouse-like,
in small fragments.

Now we are ready to finish our panel. Take the grounders, according to
the size required, always using the biggest possible. Keep the tool well
pressed down, and _shave_ away the roughness of the ground, giving the
tool a slight sideway motion as well as a forward one. Work right up to
the leaves, etc., which, if cut deep enough, should allow the chips to
come away freely, leaving a clear line of intersection; if it does not,
then the upright sides must be cut down until the ground is quite clear
of chips. Grounder tools are very prone to dig into the surface and make
work for themselves: sharp tools, practise, and a slight sideway motion
will prevent this. Tool No. 23 is useful in this respect, its corners
being slightly lifted above the level of the ground as it passes along.
Corners that can not be reached with the bent chisels may be finished
off with the corner-chisel.

Now we come to the surface decorations, for the carving in this design
consists of little more. This is all done with the gouges. Generally
speaking, enter the groove at its widest end and leave it at the
narrowest, lowering the handle of the tool gradually as you go along to
lift the gouge out of the wood, producing the drawing of the forms at
the same time. A gouge cut never looks so well as when done at one
stroke; patching it afterward with amendments always produces a labored
look. If this has to be done, the tool should be passed finally over the
whole groove to remove the superfluous tool marks--a sideway gliding
motion of the edge, combined with its forward motion, often succeeds in
this operation. To form the circular center of the flower, press down
gouge Nos. 5 or 6, gently at first and perpendicular to the wood. When a
cut has been made all round the circle, work the edge of the tool in it,
circus-like, by turning the handle in the fingers round and round until
the edge cuts its way down to the proper depth. (See A, Fig. 15.)

Carve the sides of the leaves where necessary with flat gouges on the
inside curves, and with chisels and corner-chisels on the outside ones.
These should be used in a sliding or knife-like fashion, and not merely
pushed forward. Finish the surface in the same manner all over between
the gouge grooves and the edges of the leaves, producing a very slight
bevel as in section _a_, Fig. 13, and this panel may be called finished.

Fig. 14 is another suggestion for a design, upon which I hope you will
base one of your own as an exercise at this stage of your progress.

Before we begin another, though, I shall take this opportunity of
reading you a short lecture on a most important matter which has a great
deal to do with the preparation of your mind in making a suitable choice
of subject for your future work.



     Difficulties of Selection and Arrangement--Limits of an Imitative
     Treatment--Light and Distance Factors in the Arrangement of a
     Design--Economy of Detail Necessary--The Word "Conventional."

Broadly stated, the three most formidable difficulties which confront
the beginner when he sets out to make what he is pleased to call his
design for carving in relief, are: Firstly, the choice of a subject;
secondly, how far he may go in the imitation of its details; thirdly,
its arrangement as a whole when he has decided the first two points.

Just now we shall deal only with the second difficulty, that is, how far
may likeness to nature be carried. We shall do this, because until we
come to some understanding on that point, a right choice of subject
becomes practically impossible, consequently the consideration of its
arrangement would be premature.

There is, strictly speaking, only one aim worthy of the artist's
attention, be he carver or painter; and that is the representation of
some form of life, or its associations. Luckily, there is a mighty
consensus of opinion in support of this dictum, both by example and
precept, so there is no need to discuss it, or question its authority.
We shall proceed, therefore, to act upon it, and choose for our work
only such material as in some way indicates life, either directly, as in
trees, animals, or figures, or by association, and as explanation
thereof, as in drapery and other accessories--never choosing a subject
like those known to painters as "still life," such as bowls, fiddles,
weapons, etc., unless, as I have said, they are associated with the more
important element.

You have already discovered by practise that wood has a grain which sets
bounds to the possibilities of technique. You have yet to learn that it
has also an inordinate capacity for swallowing light. Now, as it is by
the aid of light that we see the results of our labor, it follows that
we should do everything in our power to take full advantage of that
helpful agency. It is obvious that work which can not be seen is only so
much labor thrown away. There is approximately a right relative distance
from which to view all manner of carvings, and if from this position the
work is not both distinct and coherent, its result is valueless.

Then what is the quality which makes all the difference between a
telling piece of carving, and one which looks, at a moderate distance,
like crumpled paper or the cork bark which decorates a suburban
summer-house? The answer is, attention to _strict economy in detail_.
Without economy there can be no arrangement, and without the latter no
general effect. We are practically dealing, not with so much mere wood,
but unconsciously we are directing our efforts to a manipulation of the
light of day--playing with the lamps of the sky--and if we do not
understand this, the result must be undoubtedly failure, with a piece of
wood left on our hands, cut into unintelligible ruts.

But what, you will say, has all this to do with copying the infinite
variety of nature's detail; surely it can not be wrong to imitate what
is really beautiful in itself? You will find the best answer to this in
the technical difficulties of your task. You have the grain of the wood
to think of, and now you have this other difficulty in managing the
light which is to display your design. The obstinacy of the wood may be
to some extent conquered, and indeed has been almost entirely so, by the
technical resources of Grinling Gibbons, but the treatment demanded by
the laws of light and vision is quite another question, and if our work
is to have its due effect, there is no other solution of the problem
than by finding a way of complying with those laws.

If I want to represent a rose and make it intelligible at a glance from
such and such a point of view, and I find after taking infinite pains to
reproduce as many as I can of its numerous petals, and as much as
possible of its complicated foliage, that I had not reckoned with the
light which was to illuminate it, and that instead of displaying my work
to advantage, it has blurred all its delicate forms into dusky and
chaotic masses, would I not be foolish if I repeated such an experiment?
Rather, I take the opposite extreme, and produce a rose this time which
has but five petals, and one or two sprays of rudimentary foliage.
Somehow the result is better, and it has only taken me a tenth part of
the time to produce. I now find that I can afford, without offending the
genius of light, or straining my eyesight, to add a few more petals and
one or two extra leaves between those I have so sparingly designed, and
a kind of balance is struck. The same thing happens when I try to
represent a whole tree--I can not even count the leaves upon it, why
then attempt to carve them? Let me make one leaf that will stand for
fifty, and let that leaf be simplified until it is little more than an
abstract of the form I see in such thousandfold variety. The proof that
I am right this time is that when I stand at the proper distance to view
my work, it is all as distinct as I could wish it to be. Not a
leaf-point is quite lost to sight, except where, in vanishing into a
shadow, it adds mystery without creating confusion.

We have in this discovery a clue to the meaning of the word
"Conventional": it means that a particular method has been "agreed upon"
as the best fitted for its purpose, i.e., as showing the work to most
advantage with a minimum of labor. Not that experience had really
anything to do with the invention of the method. Strange to say, the
earliest efforts in carving were based upon an unquestioning sense that
no other was possible, certainly no attempts were made to change it
until in latter days temptations arose in various directions, the
effects of which have entailed upon ourselves a conscious effort of
choice in comparing the results of the many subsequent experiments.

Before I continue this subject further, I shall give you another
exercise, with the object of making a closer resemblance to natural
forms, bearing in mind the while all that has been said about a sparing
use of minute detail with reference to its visible effect. We shall in
this design attempt some shaping on the surface of the leaves and a
little rounding too, which may add interest to the work. In my next
lecture to you, I shall have something to say about another important
element in all designs for wood-carving. I mean the shapes taken by the
background between the leaves, like the patches of sky seen behind a



     Necessity for Every Carver Making his own Designs--Method of
     Carving Rounded Forms on a Sunk Ground.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.]

Fig. 16, our second exercise, like the first one, is only to be taken as
a suggestion for a design to be made by yourself. It is a fundamental
principle that both design and execution should be the work of one and
the same person, and I want you to begin by strictly practising this
rule. It was indeed one of the main conditions of production in the best
times of the past, and there is not a shadow of doubt that it must again
come to be the universal rule if any real progress is to be made in the
art of wood-carving, or in any other art for that matter. Just think
for a moment how false must be the position of both parties, when one
makes a "design" and another carries it out. The "designer" sets his
head to work (we must not count his hands at present, as they only note
down the results in a kind of writing), a "design" is produced and
handed over to the carver to execute. He, the carver, sets his hands and
eyes to work, to carry out the other man's idea, or at least interpret
his notes for the same, his head meanwhile having very little to do,
further than transfer the said notes to his hands. For very good reasons
such an arrangement as this is bound to come to grief. One is, that no
piece of carving can properly be said to be "designed" until it is
finished to the last stroke. A drawing is only a map of its general
outline, with perhaps contours approximately indicated by shading. In
any case, even if a full-size model were supplied by the designer, the
principle involved would suffer just the same degree of violence, for it
is in the actual carving of the wood that the designer should find both
his inspiration and the discipline which keeps it within reasonable
bounds. He must be at full liberty to alter his original intention as
the work develops under his hand.

Apparently I have been led into giving you another lecture; we must now
get to work on our exercise.

Draw and trace your outline in the same manner as before, and transfer
it to the wood. You may make it any convenient size, say on a board 18
ins. long by 9 ins. wide, or what other shape you like, provided you
observe one or two conditions which I am going to point out. It shall
have a fair amount of background between the features, and the design,
whatever it is, shall form a traceable likeness to a pattern of some
description; it shall have a rudimentary resemblance to nature, without
going into much detail; and last, it shall have a few _rounded_ forms in
it, rounded both in outline and on the surface, as, for instance, plums.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.]

In setting to work to carve this exercise, follow the same procedure as
in the first one, up to the point when the surface decorations began. In
the illustration, there is a suggestion for a variety in the background
which does not occur in the other. In this case the little branches are
supposed to lie along the tops of gentle elevations, and the plums to
lie in the hollows. It produces a section something like this, Fig. 17.
There is a sufficient excuse for this kind of treatment in the fact that
the branches do not require much depth, and the plums will look all the
better for a little more. The depth of the background will thus vary,
say between 3/16 in. at the branches and 3/8 in. at the plums. The
branches are supposed to be perfectly level from end to end, that is,
they lie parallel to the surface of the wood, but of course curve about
in the other direction. The leaves, on the other hand, are supposed to
be somewhat rounded and falling away toward their sides and points in
places. The vein in the center of the leaves may be done with a parting
tool, as well as the serrations at the edge, or the latter may perhaps
be more surely nicked out with a chisel, after the leaves have received
their shapes, the leaves being made to appear as if one side was higher
than the other, and as though their points, in some cases, touched the
background, while in others the base may be the lowest part. The twigs
coming out from the branches to support the plums should be somewhat
like this in section, and should lie along the curve of the background,
and be in themselves rounded, as in Fig. 18, see section _a a_. The
bottom of the panel shows a bevel instead of a hollow border: this will
serve to distinguish it as a starting-point for the little branches
which appear to emerge from it like trees out of the ground. The plums
should be carved by first cutting them down in outline to the
background, as A, Fig. 19. Then the wood should be removed from the edge
all round, to form the rounded surface. To do this, first take the large
gouge, No. 2, and with its hollow side to the wood, cut off the top,
from about its middle to one end, and reversing the process do the same
with the other side. Then it will appear something like B (Fig. 19).
The remainder must be shaped with any tool which will do it best. There
is no royal road to the production of these rounded forms, but probably
gouge No. 1 will do the most of it.

[Illustration: Fig. 18.]

[Illustration: Fig. 19.]

Here it may be observed that the fewer tools used the better, as if many
are used there is always a risk of unpleasant facets at the places where
the various marks join each other. Before you try the plums, or apples,
or other rounded fruit which you may have in your design, it would be as
well to experiment with one on a piece of spare wood in order to decide
upon the most suitable tools. The stems or branches may be done with
flat gouge No. 1, or the flat or corner chisel. A very delicate twist or
spiral tendency in their upward growth will greatly improve their
appearance, a mere faceting produced by a flat gouge or chisel will do
this; anything is better than a mere round and bare surface, which has a
tendency to look doughy. The little circular mark on the end of the plum
(call it a plum, although that fruit has no such thing) is done by
pressing gouge No. 7 into the wood first, with the handle rather near
the surface of the wood, and afterward at a higher inclination, this
taking out a tiny chip of a circular shape and leaving a V-shaped

Now I am going to continue the subject of my last lecture, in order to
impress upon you the importance of suiting your subject to the
conditions demanded by the laws of technique and light. Practise with
the tools must go hand in hand with the education of the head if good
results are to be expected; nor must it be left wholly to hand and eye
if you are to avoid the pitfalls which lie in wait for the unwary



     Importance of Formal Pattern as an Aid to Visibility--Pattern and
     Free Rendering Compared--First Impressions Lasting--Medieval Choice
     of Natural Forms Governed by a Question of Pattern.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.]

By a comparison of the piece of Byzantine sculpture, Fig. 20, with the
more elaborate treatment of foliage shown in Fig. 21, from late Gothic
capitals, in Southwell Minster, it will be seen how an increasing desire
for imitative resemblance has taken the place of a patterned foundation,
and how, in consequence, the background is no longer discernible as a
contrasting form. The Byzantine design is, of course, little more than a
pattern with sunk holes for a background, and it is in marble; but those
holes are arranged in a distinct and orderly fashion. The other is a
highly realistic treatment of foliage, the likeness to nature being so
fully developed that some of these groups have veins on the _backs_ of
the leaves. The question for the moment is this, which of the two
extremes gives the clearest account of itself at a distance? I think
there can be little doubt that the more formal arrangement bears this
test better than the other, and this, too, in face of the fact that it
has cost much less labor to produce. Remember we are only now
considering the question of _visibility_ in the design. You may like the
undefined and suggestive masses into which the leaves and shadows of the
Southwell one group themselves better than the unbending severity of the
lines in the other, but that is not the point at present. You can not
_see_ the actual work which produces that mystery, and I may point out
to you, that what is here romantic and pleasing on account of its
changeful and informal shadows, is on the verge of becoming mere
bewildering confusion; a tendency which always accompanies attempts to
imitate the accidental or informal grouping of leaves, so common to
their natural state. The further this is carried, the less is it
possible to govern the forms of the background pattern; they become less
discernible as contrasting _forms_, although they may be very
interesting as elements of mystery and suggestive of things not actually
seen. The consequence is a loss of power in producing that
instantaneous impression of harmony which is one of the secrets of
effectiveness in carving. This is greatly owing to the constant change
of plane demanded by an imitative treatment, as well as the want of
formality in its background. The lack of restful monotony in this
respect creates confusion in the lights, making a closer inspection
necessary in order to discern the beauty of the work. Now the human
imagination loves surprises, and never wholly forgives the artist who,
failing to administer a pleasant shock, invites it to come forward and
examine the details of his work in order to see how well they are

[Illustration: FIG. 21.]

These examples, you will say, are from architectural details which have
nothing to do with wood-carving. On the contrary, the same laws govern
all manner of sculpturesque composition--scale or material making no
difference whatever. A sculptured marble frieze or a carved ivory
snuff-box may be equally censurable as being either so bare that they
verge on baldness and want of interest, or so elaborate that they look
like layers of fungus.

Do not imagine that I am urging any preference for a Byzantine treatment
in your work; to do so would be as foolish as to ask you to don
medieval costume while at work, or assume the speech and manners of the
tenth century. It would be just as ridiculous on your part to affect a
bias which was not natural to you. I am, however, strongly convinced
that in the choice of natural forms and their arrangement into orderly
masses (more particularly with regard to their appearance in silhouette
against the ground), and also in the matter of an economical use of
detail, we have much to learn from the carvers who preceded the
fourteenth century. They thoroughly understood and appreciated the value
of the light which fell upon their work, and in designing it arranged
every detail with the object of reflecting as much of it as possible. To
this end, their work was always calculated for its best effects to be
seen at a fairly distant point of view; and to make sure that it would
be both visible and coherent, seen from that point, they insisted upon
some easily understood pattern which gave the key to the whole at a
glance. To make a pattern of this kind is not such an easy matter as it
looks. The forms of the background spaces are the complementary parts of
the design, and are just as important as those of the solid portions;
it takes them both to make a good design.

Now I believe you must have had enough of this subject for the present,
more especially as you have not yet begun to feel the extraordinary
difficulty of making up your mind as to what is and what is not fit for
the carver's uses among the boundless examples of beauty spread out for
our choice by Dame Nature.

Meantime, I do not want you to run away with the impression that when
you have mastered the principles of economy in detail and an orderly
disposition of background, that you have therefore learned all that is
necessary in order to go on turning out design after design with the
ease of a cook making pancakes according to a recipe. You will find by
experience, I think, that all such principles are good for is to enforce
clearness of utterance, so to speak, and to remind you that it is light
you are dealing with, and upon which you must depend for all effects;
also that the power of vision is limited. Acting upon them is quite
another matter, and one, I am afraid, in which no one can help you
much. You may be counseled as to the best and most practical mode of
expressing your ideas, but those thoughts and inventions must come from
yourself if they are to be worth having.

In my next lecture I shall have something to say with regard to
originality of design, but now we must take up our tools again and begin
work upon another exercise.



     Adaptation of Old Designs to Modern Purposes--"Throwing
     About"--Critical Inspection of Work from a Distance as it Proceeds.

[Illustration: FIG. 22.]

Here are two fragments of a kind of running ornament. Fig. 22 is a part
of the jamb molding of a church in Vicenza. If you observe carefully,
you will find that it has a decidedly classical appearance. The truth is
that it was carved by a Gothic artist late in the fourteenth century,
just after the Renaissance influence began to make itself felt. It is an
adaptation by him of what he remembered having seen in his travels of
the new style, grafted upon the traditional treatment ready to his hand.
It suits our purpose all the better on that account, for the reason that
we are going to re-adapt his design into an exercise, and shall attempt
to make it suitable to our limited ability in handling the tools, to the
change in material from stone to wood, and lastly, to our different
aims and motives in the treatment of architectural ornament. Please do
all this for yourself in another design, and look upon this suggestion
merely in the light of helping a lame dog over a stile.

[Illustration: FIG. 23.]

In this exercise (Fig. 23) you will repeat all you have already done
with the others, until you come to the shaping of the leaves, in which
an undulating or up and down motion has been attempted. This involves a
kind of double drawing in the curves, one for the flat and one for the
projections; so that they may appear to glide evenly from one point to
the other, sweeping up and down, right and left, without losing their
true contours. Carvers call this process "throwing about," i.e., making
the leaves, etc., appear to rise from the background and again fall
toward it in all directions. The phrase is a very meager one, and but
poorly expresses the necessity for intimate sympathy between each
surface so "thrown about." It is precisely in the observance of this
last quality that effects of richness are produced. You can hardly have
too much monotony of surface, but may easily err by having too much
variety. Therefore, whatever system of light and shade you may adopt, be
careful to repeat its motive in some sort of rhythmic order all over
your work; by no other means can you make it rich and effective at a

It is well every now and then to put your work up on a shelf or ledge at
a distance and view it as a whole; you will thus see which parts tell
and which do not, and so gain experience on this point. Work should also
be turned about frequently, sidewise and upside down, in order to find
how the light affects it in different directions. Of course, you must
not think that because your work may happen to look well when seen from
a little way off that it does not matter about the details, whether they
be well or poorly carved. On the contrary, unless you satisfy the eye at
both points of view, your work is a partial failure. The one thing is as
important as the other, only, as the first glance at carved work is
generally taken at some little distance, it is the more immediately
necessary to think of that, before we begin to work for a closer
inspection. First impressions are generally lasting with regard to
carved work, and, as I have said before, beauty of detail seldom quite
atones for failure in the arrangement of masses.

The rounded forms in this design may give you a little trouble, but
practise, and that alone, will enable you to overcome this. Absolute
smoothness is not desirable. Glass-papered surfaces are extremely ugly,
because they obtrude themselves on account of their extreme smoothness,
having lost all signs of handiwork in the tool marks. We shall have
something to say presently about these tool marks in finishing, as it is
a very important subject which may make all the difference between
success or failure in finishing a piece of work.



     Dangers of Imposing Words--Novelty more Common than Originality--An
     Unwholesome Kind of "Originality."

I told you that I should have something to say about originality. Almost
every beginner has some vague impression that his first duty should be
to aim at originality. He hears eulogiums passed upon the individuality
of some one or other, and tries hard to invent new forms of expression
or peculiarities of style, only resulting, in most cases, in new forms
of ugliness, which it seems is the only possibility under such conscious
efforts after novelty. The fact is that it takes many generations of
ardent minds to accomplish what at first each thinks himself capable of
doing alone. True originality has somewhat the quality of good wine,
which becomes more delightful as time mellows its flavor and imparts to
it the aroma which comes of long repose; like the new wine, too,
originality should shyly hide itself in dark places until maturity
warrants its appearance in the light of day. That kind of originality
which is strikingly new does not always stand the test of time, and
should be regarded with cautious skepticism until it has proved itself
to be more than the passing fashion or novelty of a season. There is a
kind of sham art very conspicuous at the present time, which was at
quite a recent date popularly believed to be very original. It seems to
have arisen out of some such impatient craving for novelty, and it has
been encouraged by an easy-going kind of suburban _refinement_, which
neither knows nor cares very much what really goes to the making of a
work of art. This new art has filled our shops and exhibitions with an
invertebrate kind of ornament, which certainly has the doubtful merit of
"never having been seen before." It has evidently taken its inspiration
from the trailing and supine forms of floating seaweed, and revels in
the expression of such boneless structure. By way of variety it presents
us with a kind of symbolic tree, remarkable for more than archaic
flatness and rigidity. Now, this kind of "originality" is not only
absolutely valueless, but exceedingly harmful; its only merit is that,
like its ideal seaweed, it has no backbone of its own, and we may hope
that it will soon betake itself to its natural home, the slimy bottom of
the ocean of oblivion.

Meantime, the only thing we are absolutely sure of in connection with
that much-abused word "originality" is this, that no gift, original or
otherwise, can be developed without steady and continuous practise with
the tools of your craft.



     Exercise in Background Pattern--Care as to Stability--Drilling and
     Sawing out the Spaces--Some Uses for Pierced Patterns.

The present exercises may be described as a kind of carved open
fretwork--that is to say, the ground is entirely cut away, leaving the
pattern standing free. This will form an excellent piece of discipline
with regard to the design of background forms, because in such work as
this, those forms assert themselves in a very marked manner; if they are
in any way found to be conspicuously unequal in size or are awkwardly
designed as to shape, the whole effect of the work is spoiled.

[Illustration: FIG. 24.]

For your first effort make a design based upon No. 24, and please to
observe these rules in its construction. The main or leading lines of
the pattern are to run as much as possible without crossing each other.
The holes are to be fairly equal in size, or rather in area, as they
need not be at all like each other in shape. The amount of wood left
standing to be of a width averaging never less than half the length of
the average-sized hole. This is necessary for securing sufficient
strength of material in the cross-grained pieces, which would be liable
to split if made too long and narrow. The pattern should be formal in
character, not necessarily symmetrical, but it should be well balanced.
You may have one part of your design composed of large holes and another
of small ones, provided the change is part of a definite design, as in
Fig. 25. You may even leave the wood in some parts forming a solid
background, or you may treat it as a separate piece of simple carving
on the solid, as in Fig. 26, being careful to execute it in a
consistently simple manner, as in this kind of work much change of
manner in execution is inadvisable, although, at the same time, it is
open to any amount of variety in design of outline and combination of

[Illustration: FIG. 25.]

[Illustration: FIG. 26.]

Take a piece of pine about 3 or 4 ft. long and 7 or 9 ins. wide by 3/4
in. thick. Trace on your pattern and drill circular holes in the middle
of each space to be cut through. Then take a keyhole saw, and remove the
wood by sawing round the space close to the blue line, taking care not
to cut through it in any place. The saw must be held very truly upright
in order to cut the sides of the spaces at right angles to the face of
the wood. Now carve the pattern on the surface in whatever manner you
have designed--in grooves suggesting the articulation of the leaves, in
short grooves which may pass for additional leaves, or in a dozen ways
which practise may help you to invent.

The wood should be held tightly down to the bench in all its parts, or,
at least, in those being operated upon, as it may, if unsupported, crack
across some of the narrow parts. The sides of all the holes must be
carved out clean to remove the rough saw marks. This can be done partly
by gouges, or still better, the wood may be held up on its edge and the
holes cut round with a sharp penknife where the grain allows it. Now
turn the work over on its face and carve bevels round each of the holes.
This reduces the apparent thickness of wood, and adds to the effect of
delicacy in the pattern.

This work may be used for the cresting of some large piece of furniture,
or may be adapted to fill screens or partitions, stair newels, and
balusters, or it may be used as a cornice decoration in the manner
suggested by No. 26, where the pierced work can be backed by a hollow
cornice which it fills and enriches.

In our next exercise we shall try our hands upon a piece of hardwood for
a change--meantime do one or two of these fret patterns by way of
disciplinary exercise in outline forms.



     Carvings can not be Independent Ornaments--Carving Impossible on
     Commercial Productions--The Amateur Joiner--Corner
     Cupboards--Introduction of Foliage Definite in Form, and Simple in
     Character--Methods of Carving Grapes.

We now come to the question, what are we going to do with all the pieces
of carving which we propose to undertake.

There is no more inexorable law relating to the use of wood-carving than
the one which insists upon some kind of passport for its introduction,
wherever it appears. It must come in good company, and be properly
introduced. The slightest and most distant connection with a recognized
sponsor is often sufficient, but it will not be received alone. We do
not make carvings to hang on a wall and be admired altogether on their
own account. They must decorate some object. A church screen, a font, a
piece of furniture, or even the handle of a knife. It is not always an
easy matter to find suitable objects upon which to exercise our
wood-carving talents. Our furniture is all made now in a wholesale
manner which permits of no interference with its construction, while at
the same time, if we wish to put any carving upon it, it is absolutely
essential that both construction and decoration should be considered

[Illustration: FIG. 27.]

A very modest beginning may be made in adapting ornament to a useful
article, by carving the surface of a bread plate. These are usually made
of some hard wood, such as sycamore. They may be made of oak, but
sycamore has the advantage in its lighter color, which is more likely to
be kept clean. Two suggestions are given in Figs. 27 and 28 for carving
appropriate to this purpose. The essentials are, that there should be a
well-defined _pattern_ simple in construction, and as effective as
possible with little labor; that there should be little or no rounding
of surface, the design consisting of gouge cuts and incisions arranged
to express the pattern. The incisions may form a regular sunk ground,
but it should not be deep, or it will not be easily kept clean. Then, as
in cutting bread the knife comes in contact with the surface, no
delicate work is advisable; a large treatment with broad surfaces, and
some plain spaces left to protect the carved work, is likely to prove
satisfactory in every way. A piece of sycamore should be procured, ready
for carving; this may be got from a wood-turner, but it will be as well
to give him a drawing, on which is shown the section of edge and the
position of all turned lines required for confining the carving. If the
plate is to be of any shape other than circular, then it must be neatly
made by a joiner, unless you can shape it yourself.

[Illustration: FIG. 28.]

Many of you are, I have no doubt, handy joiners, and may with a little
help put together some slight pieces of furniture to serve at least as
an excuse for the introduction of your carving. Here are some
suggestions for corner cupboards, chosen as giving the largest area for
carved surface with the minimum of expense in construction. The material
should be oak--English if possible, or it may be Italian walnut. The
doors of Figs. 40 and 41 are in three narrow boards with shallow beads
at the joints, those of the others are each made of a single board, and
should be 1/2 in. to 5/8 in. thick, the doors may be about 2 ft. 6 ins.
high, each having two ledges about 3 ins. wide, screwed on behind top
and bottom to keep them from twisting. All moldings, beads, etc., are to
be carved by hand, no planes being used. Having traced the lines of your
design upon the board, you may begin, if there are moldings as in Fig.
32, by using a joiner's marking gage to groove out the deepest parts of
the parallel lines in the moldings along the edges, doing the same to
the curved ones with a V tool or Veiner. Then form the moldings with
your chisels or gouges. Keep them very flat in section as in Fig. 29.
The fret patterns on Figs. 32, 35, and 36, where not pierced, should
also be done in low relief, not more than 1/8 in. deep, and the sides of
the bands beveled as in section _a_, Fig 30. The widths of these bands
ought not to be less than 1/2 in., and look better if they are wider.
Very narrow bands have a better appearance, if, instead of being cut
straight down, they are hollowed at sides like _b_ in Fig. 30.

[Illustration: FIG. 29.]

[Illustration: FIG. 30.]

[Illustration: FIG. 31.]

Fig. 31 is a detail of a kind of gouge work which you must all know very
well. One perpendicular cut of a gouge driven in with the mallet, and
one side cut, should form one of these crescent or thimble-shaped holes.
They should not be too deep in proportion to their size. Their
combinations may be varied to a great extent. Two or three common ones
are shown in the illustration. This form of ornament was in all
likelihood invented by some ingenious carpenter with a turn for art and
a limited stock of carving tools. His humble contribution to the
resources of the carver's art has received its due share of the flattery
which is implied by imitation. In all these patterns it is well to
remember that the flat surface of the board left between the cuts is
really the important thing to consider, as all variety is obtained by
disposing the holes in such a way as to produce the pattern required by
means of their outlines on the plain surface. Thus waved lines are
produced as in Fig. 31, and little niches like mimic architecture as in
Fig. 34, by the addition of the triangular-shaped holes at the top, and
the splayed sills at the bottom. (It is obvious that an arrangement like
the latter should never be turned upside down.) If this attention to the
surface pattern is neglected the holes are apt to become mere confused
and meaningless spots.

In small pieces of furniture like these, which are made of comparatively
thin wood, the carving need not have much depth, say the ground is sunk
1/4 in. at the deepest. As oak is more tenacious than pine, you will
find greater freedom in working it, although it is so much harder to
cut. You may find it necessary to use the mallet for the greater part of
the blocking out, but it need not be much used in finishing. A series of
short strokes driven by gentle taps of the mallet will often make a
better curve than if the same is attempted without its aid.

It will be well now to procure the remainder of the set of twenty-four
tools if you have not already got them, as they will be required for the
foliage we are about to attempt. The deep gouges are especially useful:
having two different sweeps on each tool, they adapt themselves to
hollows which change in section as they advance.

Fig. 32 contains very little foliage, such as there is being disposed in
small diamond-shaped spaces, sunk in the face of the doors, and a small
piece on the bracket below. All this work should be of a very simple
character, definite in form and broad in treatment.

[Illustration: FIG. 31. _Half_]

[Illustration: FIG. 32. _Half_]

Fig. 33 is more elaborate, but on much the same lines of design varied
by having a larger space filled with groups of leaves. Fig. 34 gives the
carving to a larger scale; in it the oak-leaves are shown with raised
veins in the center, the others being merely indicated by the gouge
hollows. There is some attempt in this at a more natural mode of
treating the foliage. While such work is being carved, it is well to
look now and then at the natural forms themselves (oak and laurel in
this case) in order to note their characteristic features, and as a
wholesome check on the dangers of mannerism.

It is a general axiom founded upon the evidence of past work, and a
respect for the laws of construction in the carpenter's department, that
when foliage appears in panels divided by plain spaces, it should never
be made to look as if it grew _from one panel into the other_, with the
suggestion of boughs passing behind the solid parts. This is a
characteristic of Japanese work, and may, perhaps, be admirable when
used in delicate painted decorations on a screen or other light
furniture, but in carvings it disturbs the effect of solidity in the
material, and serves no purpose which can not be attained in a much
better way.

[Illustration: CARVING IN PANELS OF FIG 33 FIG. 34.]

Expedients have been invented to overcome the difficulty of making a
fresh start in each panel, one of which is shown in Fig. 34, where the
beginning of the bough is hidden under a leaf. It is presumable that the
bough _may_ go on behind the uncarved portions of the board to reappear
in another place, but we need not insist upon the fancy, which loses all
its power when attention is called to it, like riddles when the answer
is known.

[Illustration: FIG. 35.]

[Illustration: FIG. 36.]

In Fig. 35, like the last, the treatment is somewhat realistic. This is
shown to a larger scale in Fig. 38. Nevertheless, it has all been
"arranged" to fit its allotted space, and all accidental elements
eliminated; such, for instance, as leaves disappearing in violent
perspective, or even turned sidewise, and all minute details which would
not be likely to show conspicuously if carved in wood. In Fig. 39, (_a_)
is an outline of a group of vine-leaves taken from nature, as it
appeared, and in which state it is quite unfitted for carving, on
account of its complicated perspective and want of definite outline;
Fig. 39 (_b_) is a detail also copied from nature, but which might stand
without alteration provided it formed part of a work delicate enough
to note such close elaboration in so small a space. This, of course,
would entirely depend upon the purpose for which the carving was
intended, and whether it was meant for distant view or close inspection.
As there is arrangement necessary in forming the outline, so there is
just as much required in designing the articulation of the surfaces of
the leaves, which should be so treated that their hollows fall into a
semblance of some kind of pattern. Fig. 36 is a more formal design, or,
to use a very much abused word, more "conventional," in which such
leafage as there is only serves the purpose of ornamental points,
marking the divisions of the general design. The gouge work upon the
leaves should be of the simplest description, but strict attention is
necessary in drawing the grooves, so that their forms may be clear and
emphatic, leaving no doubt as to the pattern intended. Designs of this
kind have no interest whatever except as pieces of patterned work, to
which end every other consideration should be sacrificed. It must not be
cut too deep--say 1/4 in. at the deepest--and the sides of the panels
should be very gently hollowed out with a flattish sweep (see section on
Fig. 37) in order to avoid any appearance of actual construction in
what more or less imitates the stiles and rails of a door. Fig. 37 shows
a portion of the leafage to a larger scale, and also a plan explaining
the construction of all these cupboards.

[Illustration: FIG. 37.]

[Illustration: FIG. 38.]

[Illustration: FIG. 39 (_a_).]

Fig. 40 is designed upon the barest suggestion of natural foliage, the
wavy stem being quite flat, and running out flush into the flat margins
at the sides, connecting them together. The leaves in this case should
be carved, leaving the veins standing solid; grooved veins would have a
meager look upon such rudimentary leaves. Of course a more natural
treatment may be given to this kind of design, but in that case it would
require to be carried all over the door, and replace the formally
ornamental center panel. The pierced pattern in cresting should be done
as already described for Fig. 24.

[Illustration: FIG. 39 (_b_).]

[Illustration: FIG. 40.]

[Illustration: FIG. 41]

Fig. 41 is a variant on the last design. In this case a little more play
of surface is attempted, making a point of carving the side lobes of
the leaves into little rounded masses which will reflect points of
light. This is shown better on Fig. 42.

[Illustration: FIG. 42.]

[Illustration: FIG. 43.]

In carving foliage like that of the vine, where small dark holes or eyes
occur, enough wood should be left round them to form deep dark little
pits. They are very valuable as points of shadow. In doing this, cut the
rim all round with a very slight bevel as in section, Fig. 43. Whenever
leaves run out to a fine edge they also should have a small bevel like
this in order to avoid an appearance of weakness which acute edges
always present. As a general rule leave as much wood as possible about
the edges of leaves as you want shadow from them--dipping them only
where you are sure the variety will be effective. In the execution of
bunches of rounded forms like grapes there is no special mechanical
expedient for doing them quickly and easily; each must be cut out
separately, and carved with whatever tools come handiest to their shape
and size. It is a good way to begin by cutting triangular holes between
the grapes with the point of a small chisel (see Fig. 44), after which
the rough shapes left may gradually be formed into ovals. When the work
is very simple in character, and does not require a realistic treatment,
the grapes may be done in a more methodical way, as in Fig. 45. First
cut grooves across both ways with a V tool, dividing the grapes as at _a
a_, then with a gouge turned hollow down round each line of grapes into
rolls as at _b b_. Do this both ways, and afterward finish the form as
best you can.

[Illustration: FIG. 44.]

[Illustration: FIG. 45.]



     Old Work Best Seen in its Original Place--Museums to be Approached
     with Caution--Methodical Memoranda--Some Examples--Assimilation of
     Ideas Better than Making Exact Copies.

In holiday time, and as other opportunity arises, be sure to visit some
old building, be it church or mansion. In this way you will make
acquaintance with many a fine specimen of old work which will set your
fancy moving. In the one there may be a carved choir-screen or bench
ends, in the other a fireplace or table. The first sight of such things
in the places and among the surroundings for which they were designed,
is always an eventful moment in the training of a carver, because the
element of surprise acts like a tonic to the mind by arousing its
emulative instincts. It is by seeing such things in their proper home
and associations that the best lessons are learned. One sees in that
way, for instance, _why_ the tool marks left by the old carvers on their
work look more effective than smoothly perfect surfaces, when associated
with the rough timbers of the roof, or the uneven surface of the
plastered wall. One sees, too, the effect of time and friction in the
polished surfaces of bench ends, rubbed and dusted by countless hands
until they have become smooth to the eye and touch, and a mental note is
made to avoid sharp or spiky work in anything that is likely to be
within reach of the fingers. In this way a certain balance is given to
the judgment in proportioning to each piece of work its due share of
labor, and we come away with a fixed determination to pay more attention
in future to breadth of design and economy of actual carving, a problem
which no carver finds easy, but which must be faced if wasted work is
not to be his only reward.

[Illustration: FIG. 46.]

In museums, too, we shall find many useful lessons, although there we
see things huddled together in a distracting fashion which demands great
wariness of selection. The great point to be observed in making our
notes for future reference is, that each sketch should contain some
memorandum of a special quality, the one which attracted us at the time
of making it. One may be made for sake of a general arrangement, another
to remind us of some striking piece of detail or peculiarity of
execution. The drawings need not be elaborate or labored, provided they
make clear the points they were intended to record. Thus Fig. 46 is a
sketch which is meant as a memorandum of a lively representation of
birds, taken from an old Miserere seat. Fig. 47 was done for sake of the
rich effect of an inscription on the plain side of a beam, and also for
the peculiar and interesting section to which the beam had been cut.
Fig. 48, again, for sake of the arrangement of the little panels on a
plain surface, and the sense of fitness and proportion which prompted
the carver to dispose his work in that fashion, by which he has enriched
the whole surface at little cost of labor, and by contrast enhanced the
value of the little strips and diamonds of carved work, otherwise of no
particular interest. Figs. 49 and 50 are two sketches of Icelandic
carved boxes. Fig. 49 was drawn as an example of the rich effect which
that kind of engraved work may have, and of the use which it makes of
closely packed letters in the inscription. The pattern is, of course, a
traditional Norse one, although the carving is comparatively modern. The
points to be noted in the other box were its quaint and simple
construction, the use of the letters as decoration, more especially the
unpremeditated manner in which they have been grouped, the four letters
below making a short line which is eked out by a rude bit of ornament.
The letters are cut right through the wood, and are surrounded with an
engraved line. Fig. 51 was noted on account of the way in which a very
simple pierced ornament is made much of by repetition. The ornament is
on a Portuguese bed, and this is only a detail of a small portion. The
effect greatly depends upon the quantity, but in this case that is a
point which is easily remembered without drawing more of it than is
shown. The fact that this work is associated with richly turned
balusters is, however, noticed in the sketch, as that might easily be
forgotten. Figs. 47 to 51 are from South Kensington Museum.

[Illustration: FIG. 47.]

[Illustration: FIG. 48.]

[Illustration: FIG. 49.]

[Illustration: FIG. 50.]

[Illustration: FIG. 51.]

Then we come to the sketch of a chair (Fig. 52), or combined table and
chair. The richly carved back is pivoted, and forms the table top when
lowered over the arms, upon which it rests. The points to be noted in
this are, the general richness of effect, the contrast of wavy and rigid
lines, and the happy way in which the architectural suggestion of arch
and pillars has been translated into ornament. As this sketch was not
made so much for the chair itself as for its enriched back, no
measurements have been taken; otherwise chairs, as such, depend very
much upon exact dimensions for their proportions. This chair is at
Exning in Suffolk.

[Illustration: FIG. 52.]

Now we shall suppose that you are going to make many such sketches
both in museums and in country churches or houses. You will find some
too elaborate for drawings in the time at your disposal, in which case
you should obtain a photograph, if possible, making notes of any detail
which you wish particularly to remember--such, for instance, as the
carved chest shown in Plate I. The subject, St. George and the Dragon,
is given with various incidents all in the one picture. This is a
valuable and suggestive piece of work to have before you, as the manner
in which the pictorial element has been managed is strikingly
characteristic of the carver's methods, and well adapted to the
conditions of a technique which has no other legitimate means of dealing
with distant objects. The king and queen, looking out of the palace
windows, are _almost_ on the same scale as the figures in the
foreground; the walls of the houses, roofs, etc., have apparently quite
as much projection as the foreground rocks--distance is inferred rather
than expressed. The very simple construction, too, is worth noting. It
is practically composed of three boards, a wide one for the picture, and
two narrower ones for ends and feet.

The object in making these sketches should be mainly to collect a
variety of ideas which may brighten the mind when there is occasion to
use its inventive faculties. Suggestive hints are wanted; rarely will it
be possible, or wise, to repeat anything exactly as you see it. These
sketches, if made with care, and from what Constable used to call
"breeding subjects," will give your fancy a very necessary point of
vantage, from which it may hazard flights of its own.

As much of our knowledge must necessarily be gained from museums, and as
they now form such an important feature of educational machinery, I
think it will be well to devote a word or two of special notice to the
drawbacks which accompany their many advantages. This I propose to do in
the following chapter.



     False Impressions Fostered by Fragmentary Exhibits--Environment as
     Important as Handicraft--Works Viewed as Records of
     Character--Carvers the Historians of their Time.

A new world of commerce and machinery, having slain and forgotten a past
race of artist craftsmen, makes clumsy atonement by sweeping together
the fragments of their work and calling the collection a museum. From
the four corners of the earth these relics have been gathered. Our
hungry minds are bidden to make choice according to fancy, for here is
variety of food! Here are opportunities, never before enjoyed by mortal,
for an intellectual feast!--and of a kind which might be considered
god-like, were it not for the suspicion of some gigantic joke. That out
of all this huge mass of chaotic material we have not as yet been able
to make for ourselves some living form of art, must indeed be to the
gods a continual subject of merriment.

Museums of art are in no respect the unmixed blessings which they appear
to be. They have, to be sure, all the advantages of handy reference;
but at the same time, on account of the great diversity in the character
of their exhibits, they tend to encourage the spread of a patchy kind of
knowledge, far from being helpful to the arts in the interests of which
they are established. It must be remembered that, in these collections,
all specimens of architecture and architectural carving are invariably
seen in false positions. All have been wrenched from their proper
settings, and placed, more or less at random, in lights and
relationships never contemplated by their designers. To the environment
of a piece of architecture, and the position and surroundings of carved
decorations, are due quite half of their interest as works of art.
Deprive them of these associations, and little is left but fragmentary
specimens of handicraft, more or less unintelligible in their lonely
detachment, misleading to the eye, and dangerous as objects of
imitation, in proportion to the dependence they once had upon those
absent and unknown associations.

The educational purpose which these collections are intended to serve is
liable to be construed into an unreasoning assumption that every
specimen exhibited is equally worthy of admiration. How often the
plodding student is to be seen carefully drawing and measuring work of
the dullest imaginable quality, with no other apparent reason for his
pathetically wasted industry!

It would be strange, indeed, if all in this vast record of past activity
was of equal value; if merely to belong to the past was a sure warrant
that such work was the best of its kind. Far from this being the case,
it requires the constant use of a more or less trained and critical
judgment to separate what is good from the indifferent or really bad in
these collections, for all are usually present. There is inequality in
artistic powers, in technical skill, and a distinction of yet greater
importance, which lies in the significance the works bear as records of
the inner life of their creators. Artists, carvers in particular, are
the true scribes and historians of their times. Their works are, as it
were, books--written in words of unconscious but fateful meaning. Some
are filled with the noblest ideals, expressed in beautiful and serious
language, while others contain nothing but sorry jests and stupidities.

As all the works of the past, whether good or bad, are the achievements
of men differing but little from ourselves, save in the direction of
their energies and in their outward surroundings, there is surely some
clue to the secret of their success or failure, some light to be thrown
by their experience upon our own dubious and questioning spirit.

What better could we look for in this respect than a little knowledge of
the lives led by the carvers themselves, a mental picture of their
environment, an acquired sense of the influence which this, that, or the
other set of conditions must have imposed upon their work. With a little
aid from history in forming our judgments, their works themselves will
assist us--so faithful is the transcript of their witness--for, with
more certainty than applies to handwriting, a fair guess may be made by
inference from the work itself as to the general status and ideals of
the workman. The striking analogy between its salient characteristics
and the prevailing mood of that ever-changing spirit which seeks
expression in the arts, is nowhere more marked than in the work of the



     Medieval and Modern Choice of Form Compared--A Compromise
     Adopted--A List of Plant Forms of Adaptable Character.

It is high time now that we had some talk about the studies from nature
which are to furnish you with subjects for your work. I shall at present
deal only with studies of foliage, as that is what you have been
practising, and I wish you to carry on your work and studies as much as
possible on the same lines.

Between the few abstract forms, representing a general type of foliage,
so dear to the heart of the medieval carver, and the unstinted variety
of choice displayed in the works of Grinling Gibbons and his time, there
is such a wide difference that surely it points to a corresponding
disparity of aim. Although there is no doubt whatever that such a
striking change of views must have had its origin in some deeper cause
than that which is to be explained by artistic and technical
development, yet I think that for our immediate purpose we shall find a
sufficiently good lesson in comparing the visible results of the two
methods. Broadly speaking, then, the medieval carver cared more for
general effect than for possibilities of technique. He therefore chose
only such natural forms as were amenable to his preconceived
determination to make his work telling at a distance. He had no
botanical leanings, and rejected as unfit every form which would not
bend to his one purpose--that of decoration on a large scale--and which
he aimed at making comprehensive at a glance, rather than calling for
attention to its details. He invented patterns which he knew would
assist in producing this result, and here he further handicapped his
choice by limiting it to such forms as would repeat or vanish at
regulated intervals, reflecting light or producing shadow just where it
was wanted to emphasize his pattern.

The more modern carver, on the contrary, offered an all-embracing
welcome to every form which presented itself to his notice. He rejected
nothing which could by any possibility be carved. Nothing was too small,
too thin, or too difficult for his wonderful dexterity with the carving
tools. His chief end was elaboration of detail, and it was often
carried to a point which ignored the fact that nearly all of it would
become invisible when in position, or, if seen at all, would only appear
in confused lumps and unintelligible masses.

Now, for many reasons, I think we had better take the medieval method as
our model up to a point, and make a certain selection of material for
our studies, based upon some relation to general effect, but not
necessarily imitating a medieval austerity of rejection, which would be
the merest affectation on our part. Upon these principles, and taking
somewhat of a middle course, I shall here note a few types of foliage
which I think may be useful to you in the work upon which you are

Leaf forms, with their appropriate flowers or fruit, afford the carver a
very large proportion of his subject material. They serve him as
principal subject, as bordering or background to figures of men or
animals; they occur as mere detached spots, to break the monotony of
spaces or lines; and in a thousand other ways give exercise to his

As a general rule, those leaves with serrated, or deeply cleft and
indented edges, lend themselves most readily to decorative treatment.
Large, broad leaves, with unbroken surfaces, and triangular or rounded
outlines, are less manageable. Those most commonly taken as models are:

_The Vine, with its Grapes._--This was freely used by medieval carvers,
at first for its symbolic significance, but afterward even more on
account of its rare beauty of form. The play of light and shade on its
vigorous foliage, the variety of its drawing in leaf, vine, and tendril,
and the contrast afforded by its bunches of oval fruit, caused it to be
accepted as a favorite subject for imitation in all kinds of carving. It
lends itself kindly to all sorts of relief, either high or low, in
almost any material. It is so recognizable, even in the rudest attempts
at imitation, that its popularity is well deserved.

The hop-vine shares some of these qualities, though much less strongly
marked in character.

_The Acanthus._--This leaf was first adapted for the purpose of ornament
by the workmen of classical Greece. The inspiration was one of the few
which they took directly from nature's models. It was also freely used
by medieval carvers, but with an insistence upon the flowing and
rounded character of its surface forms; and again by the Renaissance
artists, with a return to its classical character of fluted and formal
strength of line. The graceful drawing of its elaborately articulated
surface, and the extraordinary accentuation of its outline, provide an
endless source of suggestion. It has been adapted in all manners,
according to the fancy of the carver--sometimes long and drawn out, at
others wide and spreading. Altogether it has been more thoroughly
"generalized" than any other natural form.

_The Oak, with its Acorns_, appears in early medieval work, but without
much attempt to represent its form with anything like individual
character. In later work it has more justice done to its undoubted
merits as a decorative feature by a clearer recognition of its beauty in
clumps and masses. Fruit, other than the grape and a nondescript kind of
berry, was seldom represented by medieval craftsmen; it formed, however,
a marked feature in Renaissance ornament, where pomegranate, apple, fig,
and melon were in constant requisition.

_Flowers_ in general were very little used in early times, and then only
in a highly abstract form corresponding to that of the foliage. The rose
and lily were the two most frequently seen, but they seldom had more
individuality about them than was sufficient to make them recognizable.
During the Renaissance flowers were treated with much more regard to
their inherent beauties, and were represented with great skill and power
of imitation, although often carried beyond legitimate limits in this
direction. When dealt with as ornaments, rather than botanical details,
they form a rich source of suggestion to the carver, and offer a ready
means of contrast with masses of foliage. The rose and lily are such
conspicuous flowers that they should, in modern times, be used in a way
consistent with our demands for individual character and likeness. They
should be fairly well defined and easily recognizable. It is quite
possible to treat these flowers in a very realistic way, without
endangering their effect as decorative details: they have both such
distinguished forms in flower and foliage.

Flowers should be chosen for their _forms_; color should not be allowed
to deceive the eye in this respect, unless the color itself is
suggestive of lines and contours.

_Foliage_ should always be studied at its prime, never when it is dried
and contorted in its forms.

Here is a short list of subjects, including those I have mentioned, all
having a sufficiently pronounced character to make them valuable as
stock in trade. Many more might be named, but these are chosen as being
commonly familiar, and as being representative types of various forms.

_For their Leaves and Fruit._--The grapevine, hop-vine, globe artichoke,
tomato, apple, plum, pear, bramble, and strawberry.

_For Fruit and Vine-like Growths (leafage too massive and smooth to be
of much value without adaptation)._--The melon, vegetable-marrow,
pumpkins, and cucumber.

_For Leafage, Flowers, or Seed Vessels._--The acanthus, oak, thistles,
teazle, giant hemlock, cow-parsley, buttercup.

_Of Garden Flowers._--The rose, lily, larkspur, peony, poppies,
columbine, chrysanthemum, tulip, Christmas rose, Japanese anemone.

_For Close and Intricate Designs._--Periwinkle, winter aconite,
trefoils of various kinds.

Many valuable hints on this subject may be gleaned by a study of
Gerrard's Herbal, which is full of well-drawn illustrations, done in a
way which is very suggestive to the designer.

A careful study of the outline forms of leaves is a schooling in itself,
so much may be learned from it. It teaches the relation between form and
growth in a way which makes it possible to use the greatest freedom of
generalization without violating structural laws. The same causes which
govern the shaping of a tree are present in the leaf, settling its final
outline, so that, however wandering and fantastic it may appear, there
is not the smallest curve or serration which does not bear witness to a
methodical development, and to every accidental circumstance which
helped or hindered its fulfilment.

You could not do better than make a collection of suitable leaves, press
them flat and trace them very carefully, keeping the tracings together
in a book for reference. Accompanying this you should have in each case
a drawing of the leaf as it appears in its natural state, always being
careful to do this from a point of view which will accommodate itself to
carving the leaf if you should have occasion to use it.



     Furniture Constructed with a View to Carving--Reciprocal Aims of
     Joiner and Carver--Smoothness Desirable where Carving is
     Handled--The Introduction of Animals or Figures.

[Illustration: FIG. 53.]

You will find in the illustrations, Figs. 53 to 62, certain suggestions
for various pieces of furniture. They are given with the intention of
impressing upon you the fact that very little carving can be done at all
without some practical motive as a backbone to your fancies. To be
always carving inapplicable panels is very dull work, and only good for
a few preliminary exercises. It is much better to consider the matter
well, and resolve upon some "opus," which will spread your efforts over
a considerable period. When you have decided upon the piece of furniture
which is most likely to be useful to you, and which lies within your
powers of design and execution, then make a drawing for it, and have it
made by a joiner (unless you can make it entirely yourself), to be put
together in loose pieces for convenience of carving, and glued up when
that is finished. You should certainly design the piece yourself, as you
should make all your own designs for the carving. The two departments
must be carried on in the closest relation to each other while the work
is in progress, otherwise their association will not be complete when it
is finished. Take, for instance, the head of the bed in the
illustration. Why should it stand up so high, like the gable of a house?
It is for no other reason than to give an opportunity for carving. A
plain board of half the height would have been just as effective as a
protection to the sleeper. Useless as carving may be from this practical
point of view, it must nevertheless be amenable to utilitarian laws. It
must be smooth where it is likely to be handled, as in the case of the
knobs on top of the posts; and even where it is not likely to be
handled, but may be merely touched occasionally, it should still have an
inviting smoothness of surface. As a matter of fact, all carving on a
bed should be of this kind, with no deep nooks or corners to hold dust.
Here, then, are a number of conditions, which, instead of being a
hindrance, are really useful incentives to fresh invention. Just as the
construction of joiner's work entails concessions on the part of the
carver, so the carver may ask the joiner to go a little out of his way
in order to give opportunities for his carving. A little knowledge of
this subject will make a reasonable compromise possible.

You will find a further advantage in undertaking a fairly large piece of
work. As it is almost certain to be in several parts, each may thus
receive a different treatment, by which means you not only obtain
contrast, but get some idea of the extraordinary power with which one
piece of carving affects another when placed in juxtaposition. Whatever
designs you may decide upon, should you undertake to carve the panels
for a bed, let them be in decidedly low relief. The surface must be
smoothly wrought, doing away with as much of the tool marking as you
can, but this smoothing to be done entirely with the tools, not by any
means with glass paper. Great attention must be paid to the drawing of
the forms, as it is by this that the impression of modeling and
projection will be expressed. A very pleasant treatment of such low
relief when a smooth and even appearance is wanted, is to carve the
ground to the full depth, say 1/8 in., only along the outlines of the
design, and form the remainder into a kind of raised cushion, almost
level in the middle with the original surface of the wood. The whole
design need thus be little more than a kind of deepish engraving,
depending for its effect upon broad lights defined by the engraved
shadows. See Fig. 54 for an example of this treatment applied to

[Illustration: FIG. 54.]

Now I expect you to make a fresh design. The illustrations in all such
cases are purposely drawn in a somewhat indefinite way, in order that
they may suggest, without making it possible to copy.

[Illustration: FIG. 55.]

Now we come to the mirror frame, Fig. 55. I should suggest that this be
done in some light-colored wood like pear-tree, which has an agreeably
warm tone, or if a hard piece of cedar can be found, it would look well,
but in no case should polish be added except that which comes from the
tool. The construction need not be complicated. Take two 3/4-in. boards,
glue them together to form the width, shape out the frame in the rough.
Put behind this another frame of 3/4-in. thick stuff, and make the
cornice out of wood about 1-1/2 in. thick. The parts to be kept separate
until the carving is finished, and afterward glued or screwed together.
The carving on the body of the frame, that is, in the gable above and
the front of bracket below, should be in very low relief, the lower
part being like the last, a kind of engraving. The fret above may be
sunk about 1/16 in. and the ground slightly cushioned. The carving on
sides and cornice is of a stronger character, and may be cut as deeply
as the wood will allow, while the cornice is actually pierced through in
places, showing the flat board behind. The design for this cornice
should have some repeating object, such as the kind of pineapple-looking
thing in the illustration, and its foliage should be formed with plenty
of well-rounded surfaces, that may suggest some rather fat and juicy

[Illustration: FIG. 56.]

In Fig. 56 you have a suggestion for carving a bench or settle, the
proportions of which have been taken from one found at a Yorkshire
village inn. The actual measurements are given in order that these
proportions may be followed. It is a well-known fact, that chairs, or
seats of any kind, can not be successfully designed on paper with any
hope of meeting the essential requirements of comfort, lightness, and
stability. Making seats is a practical art, and the development of the
design is a matter of many years of successive improvements. A good
model should therefore be selected and copied, with such slight
changes as are necessary where carving is to be introduced. The main
lines should not be interfered with on any account, nor should the
thickness of the wood be altered if possible. The carving on this settle
is intended to be in separate panels, about two inches apart. These
panels will look all the better if no two are quite alike; a good way to
give them more variety will be to make every alternate one of some kind
of open pattern, like a fret. These piercings need not extend all over
the design in the panel in every case: some may have only a few shapely
holes mixed up with the lines, others again may be formed into complete
frets with as much open as solid. (See Fig. 57.)

The carving should be shallow, and not too fine in detail, as it will
get a great deal of rubbing. The material should be, if possible, oak;
but beech may be used with very good effect--in neither case should it
be stained or polished.

[Illustration: FIG. 57.]

Fig. 58 is a clock case. Something of this kind would make an excellent
"opus" such as I have alluded to, and give plenty of scope for
invention. As clocks of this kind are generally hung on a wall, the
brackets, from a practical point of view, are of course unnecessary, but
as it is important that they should _look_ as if they were supported and
to satisfy the eye, something in the way of a bracket or brackets is
generally added. A bracket like the one in the illustration, not being a
real support constructively speaking, but only put there to give
assurance that such has not been overlooked or neglected, becomes a kind
of toy, and may be treated as such by adding some little fancy to make
it amusing, and give an excuse for making a feature of it. This will be
a good place to try your hand at some modest attempt at figure work. In
designing your bracket, should you wish to introduce a little figure of
man or beast, I think you will find it more satisfactory if the figure
is separated from the structural part by a slight suggestion of solid
surroundings of its own. Thus the little roof over, and the solid bit of
wood under, the figure in the illustration serve this purpose, lending
an appearance of steadiness which would be wanting in a bracket formed
of a detached figure. At any rate, never make your figures, whether of
man or beast, seem to carry the clock; you may hunch them up into any
shape you like, but no weight should be supposed to rest upon them.

[Illustration: FIG. 58.]

For sake of the carving, oak will be the best wood to employ in making
this clock, or one like it, but Italian walnut will do equally well. The
size should be fairly large, say about three feet over all in height.
This will give a face of about ten inches in diameter, which face will
look best if made of copper gilt, and not much of it, perhaps a mere
ring, with the figures either raised or cut out, leaving nothing but
themselves and two rings surrounding. This should project from the wood,
leaving a space of about one inch.

[Illustration: FIG. 59.]

If you are inclined to try a heavier piece of work, the bench or
settle-end in Fig. 59 may give you a suggestion. In this there is a bird
introduced in the shape of a cock roosting on the branch of a tree. It
would require to be done in a thick piece of wood, say 3 ins. thick, and
would be best in English oak. The idea will be, to cut away the wood
from the outer lower portion, leaving only about 1-1/4 or 1-1/2 in.
thickness, but at the top retaining the full thickness; in which the
bird must be carved, the outer edges being kept full thickness in order
to give the structural form and enclose the carving. The inside of this
upper part, toward the seat, should also be carved, but with a smooth
and shallow pattern of some kind, as both may be seen together, and in
contrast to each other.

[Illustration: FIG. 60.]

The introduction of figures leads me to a subject which it will be
better to discuss in the next chapter, i.e., the question as to how far
it is possible or consistent with present conditions to attempt
anything that may bear the character of humor. But in the meantime here
are three more subjects upon which fancy and ingenuity may be expended
with profit. In Fig. 60 you have a heraldic subject. In all such cases
the heraldry should be true, and not of the "bogus" kind. This shield
represents a real coat of arms, and was done from a design by Philip
Webb, being finally covered with gesso, silvered and painted in
transparent colors.

Figs. 61 and 62 are suggestions for wooden crosses, oak being the best
material to use for such a purpose. The carving should be so arranged as
to form some kind of pattern on the cross. In Fig. 62 the black trefoils
are supposed to be cut right through the thin pieces of wood forming the
center portion, and the carving on that part is very shallow.

[Illustration: FIG. 61.]

[Illustration: FIG. 62.]



     Misproportion not Essential to the Expression of Humor--The Sham
     Grotesque Contemptible--A True Sense of Humor Helpful to the

The dullness which comes of "all work and no play" may be said to affect
the carver at times. He tires of carving leaves and ornaments: what more
natural than to seek change and amusement in the invention of droll
figures of men or animals? The enjoyment which we all feel in
contemplating the outcome of this spirit in ancient work, leads us to
the imitation of both subject and manner, hoping thereby that the same
results may be obtained; but somehow the repetition is seldom attended
with much success, while of original fancies of the same sort we are
obliged to confess ourselves almost destitute. Who can behold the
fantastic humors of Gothic carvings without being both amused and
interested? Those grotesque heads with gaping mouths recall the stories
of childhood, peopled with goblins and gnomes. It is all so natural, and
so much in keeping with the architecture which surrounds it, the carving
is so rude and simple, that it seems absurd when some authority on such
matters makes a statement to the effect that all such expression of
humor has become forever impossible to ourselves.

This important part of the question must be left to your own meditation,
to settle according to your lights; experience will probably lead you
ultimately to the same opinion. Meantime, the point I wish to impress
upon you is this, that until you feel yourself secure, and something of
a master of various branches of your craft, you should not attempt any
subject which aims at being decidedly grotesque. There are very good and
practical reasons for this; one is, that while you are studying your
art, you must do nothing that may tend to obscure what faculties you
have for judging proportion. Now, as all grotesque work is based more or
less on exaggeration, it forms a very dangerous kind of exercise to the
beginner, therefore I should never allow a pupil of mine to so much as
attempt it. Do not think that I wish to discourage every effort which
has not an ultra-serious aim. On the contrary, I am but taking a rather
roundabout way to an admission that the humorous element has, and must
have at all times, a powerful attraction for the wood-carver; and to the
statement of an opinion that it should not be allowed to take a
prominent place in the work of a student; moreover, that it is quite
possible to find in nature a varied and unfailing source of suggestion
in this respect (more, in fact, than we are ever likely to account for),
and which requires no artificial exaggeration to aid its expression.
Some tincture of the faculty is absolutely necessary to the carver who
takes his subjects from birds or beasts, in order that he may perceive
and seize the salient lines and characteristic forms, of which the
key-note is often to be found in a faint touch of humor, and which, like
the scent of a flower, adds charm by appealing to another sense.

The same argument applies to the treatment of the human figure. Let no
student (and I may include, also, master-carver) think that a grotesque
treatment will raise the smile or excite the interest which is
anticipated. The "grotesque" is a vehicle for grim and often terrible
ideas, lightly veiled by a cloak of humorous exaggeration; a sort of
Viking horse-play--it is, in fact, a language which expresses the mixed
feelings of sportive contempt and real fear in about equal proportions.
When these feelings are not behind the expression, it becomes a language
which is in itself only contemptible.

[Illustration: FIG. 63.]

If, carried away by fancy, you must find vent for its impulses, and
carve images of unearthly beings, at least make them cheerful looking;
one can imagine such demons and goblins as being rather nice fellows
than otherwise. A grim jest that fails is generally a foolish one--at
least its perpetrator neither deserves nor receives sympathy for his
discomfiture. Now, I shall show you one or two examples which may make
this matter a little clearer to you, if you are at all inclined to argue
the position. I think, at any rate, they will prove that the expression
of humor does not always depend upon exaggeration, and may exist in a
work which is, one may say, almost copied from nature. Fig. 63 is an
example to this effect. The little jester just emerging from a flower,
one of the side-pieces to a Miserere seat carving, is undoubtedly a true
portrait, carved without the slightest attempt at exaggeration. The
quiet humor which it evinces required only sympathy to perceive and
skill to portray on the part of its carver. He had nothing to invent in
the common acceptation of the word. The carving of the mendicant, which
comes on the other side, is equally vivid in its truth to nature. It is
so lifelike that we do not notice the humorous enjoyment of the artist
in depicting the whining lips and closed eyes of the professional
beggar. Observe the good manners of it all--the natural refinement of
the artist who leaves his characters to make all the fun, without
intrusion from himself other than to give the aid of his skill in
representation. Now, subjects of this class will, in all probability,
present themselves until the end of the world; but artists like this
Gothic one are not so likely to be common. Great technical skill, a
large fund of vitality, and many other controlling qualities are
necessary to the production of such an artist; but he gives a clue to
the right action, which we may with safety accept, even if we can not
hope to equal his performance.

[Illustration: FIG. 64.]

[Illustration: FIG. 65.]

The center-piece, Fig. 64, tells a little story of Samson. It is
noticeable in these medieval picture subjects, how, when a story has to
be told, the details are treated in a broad and distinct fashion, as if
the story could take care of itself, and only required to be stated
clearly as to facts. The detached ornamental parts, on the contrary,
receive a degree of careful attention not given to the picture,
seemingly with the object of making their loneliness attractive.

The broad-humor characteristic of the companion picture of medieval
life, in the little domestic scene, Fig. 65, is equally free from forced
exaggeration or intentional misproportion. Scale and anatomy, to be
sure, have had little consideration from the carver, but we readily
forgive the inaccuracies in this respect, on account of his quick wit in
devising means to an end.

Before we leave this subject, look at Plate II, in which you will see a
curious use of misproportion--intentional, too, in this case--and used
for quite other than humorous purposes. This is a little ornamental
figure from the tomb of Henry IV, in Canterbury Cathedral. You will see
that the body is out of all proportion; too small for the head which
surmounts it, or too big for the feet upon which it stands. Now, what
could have induced the carver to treat a dainty little lady thus? It
certainly was not that he considered it an improvement upon nature, nor
was it a joke on his part. It could only be done for some practical
reason such as this: that the little figure does part duty as a bracket,
hence, more appearance of solidity is required at the top, and less at
the foot, than true proportions would admit. It is all done so
unostentatiously that one might look for hours at the figure without
noticing the license. Not that I should advise you to imitate this
naive way out of a difficulty. The childlike simplicity of its treatment
succeeds where conscious effort would only end in affectation.

[Illustration: FIG. 66.]

[Illustration: FIG. 67.]

In Fig. 66 you will see another little figure doing duty in connection
with a stall division in the Lady Chapel at Winchester Cathedral. Its
smooth roundness of form is very appropriate to the position it
occupies; while its polished surface bears ample testimony that it has
given no offense to the touch of the many hands which have rested upon

Fig. 67 shows another example of the same sort, but perched on a lower
part of the division. This one is from the cathedral at Berne, each
division of the stalls having a different figure, of which this is a



     The Introduction of Animal Forms--Rude Vitality Better than Dull
     "Natural History"--"Action"--Difficulties of the Study for
     Town-Bred Students--The Aid of Books and Photographs--Outline
     Drawing and Suggestion of Main Masses--Sketch-Book Studies,
     Sections, and Notes--Swiss Animal Carving--The Clay Model: its Use
     and Abuse.

Nothing enlivens or gives more variety of interest to wood-carving than
the introduction of animal forms. They make agreeable halting-places on
which the eye may rest with pleasure. They are, in general, both
beautiful in their shapes and associated with ideas which appeal
strongly to the imagination, thus affording in masses of abstract
ornament the pleasantest kind of relief by adding to it points of
definite lineament and meaning.

To carve animals as they ought to be carved, one must have something
more than a passing interest in their forms; there must be included also
an understanding of their natures, and some acquaintance with their
habits. A cattle-drover is likely to know the salient points of a
bullock, a horse-breeder all those connected with a horse, and so on. We
students, however, not having the advantage of such accurate and
personal knowledge, must make shift in the best way we can to discover
and note the points so familiar to trained eyes. To see animals in this
way, and, with knowledge of their forms and habits, treat their
sculptured images according to the laws of our craft, is no light task.
If choice were to be made between a rude manner of carving--but which
familiarity with the subject invested with lively recognition of
character--and a more cultured and elaborate, but lifeless study in
natural history, there should be no hesitation in making choice of the
former method, because animal forms, without some indication of
vitality, are the dullest of all dull ornaments.

It is quite impossible to describe in words the kind of "action" which
is most appropriate to sculpture, it being much more a question of
treatment, and the guiding spirit of the moment, than a subject which
can be formulated. As a broad and general principle which may be taken
for guidance, you will always find yourself on surer ground in the
attempt to indicate the _capacity_ for energy and the suggestion of
_movement_, than you will if your aim is the extremity of action in any
direction. You may, with some justice, point to the illustration given
in Fig. 65, and which appears to contradict this statement, as being an
example in which violent action is the key-note. You must notice,
however, that the two figures, although struggling, are for the moment
still, or may be supposed so. There is enough suggestion of this
pause to excuse the attitudes and save the composition from
restlessness--even the raised hands may be supposed to remain in the
same position for a second or two. This imaginary pause, however
infinitesimal, is essential to the dignity of the sculptor's art, as
nothing is more irritating to the mind than being forced to recognize
the contradiction between a motionless image and its suggestion of
restless action. It is necessary to observe the same rule in the
expression of actual repose, as some clue must be given, some completed
action be suggested, in order to distinguish dormant energy from
downright inertia. I should like to impress upon you the importance of
making a special study of the characteristic movements of animals. You
will in time become so far familiar with them that certain standards of
comparison and contrast will be established in your mind as aids to
memory. Thus you will be all the better able to carve with significance
the measured and stately action of a horse, if you have in your mind's
eye at the same time a picture of the more cumbrous and slower movements
of a cow; and you will be helped in the same way when you are carving a
dog, by remembering that the movements of a cat afford a striking
contrast, in being stealthy where the other is nervous and quick.

For the unfortunate town-bred student or artist, who has had few
opportunities to study birds and beasts familiar to the country
schoolboy, there is no other way but to make the best of stuffed birds,
photographs, etc. Much may be done with these aids if a little personal
acquaintance with their habits and associations is added like salt, to
keep the second-hand knowledge sweet and wholesome.

In the absence of opportunity for study from the life, no pictures of
animals can compare in their usefulness to the carver with those by
Bewick. They are so completely developed in essential details, so full
of character and expressive of life, that even when personal
acquaintance has been made with their various qualities, a glance at one
of his engravings of birds or beasts conveys new meaning, either of
gesture or attitude, to what we have previously learned. Every student
who wishes to make a lively representation in carving of familiar beast
or bird should study Bewick's engravings of "Quadrupeds" and "Birds."

Drawings made for the purpose of study need not be elaborate: indeed,
such drawings are only embarrassing to work from. The most practical
plan is to make a drawing in which the main masses are given correctly,
and in about the same relative position that they will occupy in the
carving. I give you in Plate VII an example of this in a drawing made by
Philip Webb, who, by the study of a lifetime, has amassed a valuable
store of knowledge concerning animals, and acquired that extraordinary
skill in their delineation and the expression of character which is only
to be attained by close observation and great sympathy with the subject.
The drawing in question was made for myself at the time I was carving a
lion for the cover of a book (given in Plate VIII). It was made, in his
good-natured way, to "help a lame dog over a stile," as I had got into
difficulties with the form. This drawing is all that a carver's first
diagram should be, and gives what is always the first necessity in such
preliminary outlines--that is, the right relationship of the main
masses, and the merest hint of what is to come in the way of detail; all
of which must be studied separately, but which would be entirely
useless if a wrong start had been made. In Fig. 68 I give you tracings
from some notes I made myself while carving the sheep in Plates V and
VI. The object was to gain some definite knowledge of form by noting the
relation of planes, sections of parts, projections, etc., etc. The
section lines and side-notes are the most valuable part of the
memoranda. In the same manner the illustration, Fig. 69, shows diagrams
made from a heron, giving section lines of beak, etc.

The side-notes about the colors are valuable, as, although not
translatable into carving, they do to some extent influence the manner
of interpreting forms.

Photographs must not be despised, but they are only of use if read by
the light of previous knowledge. For this reason you can not make too
many notes of sectional structure through heads, necks, and legs, which
will help to explain the mystery common to all photographs.

The bear shown in the frontispiece is traced from a photographic
illustration which appeared in the Westminster Budget some time ago. By
the merest accident it is suggestive of a subject almost ready for the
carver's hand.

[Illustration: FIG. 68.]

[Illustration: FIG. 69.]

Until tourists began to explore the beauties of Switzerland, there were
no better carvers of animals than the serious but genial craftsmen of
that noble country, more especially of such animals as were familiar to
their eyes. This preeminence shows distinct signs of soon becoming a
thing of the past in the endeavors to meet the demands created by
thoughtless visitors. Still, it is possible to obtain a little of the
traditional work, uninfluenced by that fatal impetus originating in
modern commerce. A piece of this kind is shown in Fig. 70, bought by a
friend only a year or two ago in the Grindelwald, and which, although
forming part of the usual stock of such things made for tourist
consumption, was picked out with judicious discrimination from a number
of stupid and trivial objects which displayed neither interest of design
nor other than mechanical skill of carving. This little bear, a few
inches in size, is carved in a way which shows long experience of the
subject, and great familiarity with the animal's ways. The tooling of
the hair is done with the most extraordinary skill, and without the
waste of a single touch. Now, a word or two more on studies from the
life before we leave this subject. I have given you examples of
diagrams made for this purpose, but much may be done without any
drawings, further than a preliminary map of the general masses. In the
case of such an animal as the horse, which can be seen in every street,
I have myself found it useful to follow them in my walks, taking mental
note of such details as I happened to be engaged upon, such as its legs
and joints, its head or neck; another day I would confine my attention
to eyes, ears, mane, etc., always with reference to the work
immediately in hand, as that is the time to get the best results from
life study; because the difficulties have presented themselves, and one
knows exactly what to look for. Five minutes spent thus after the work
has been started (provided the start has been right and involves no
mistake in the general masses) is more valuable than hours of labor in
making preliminary drawings.

[Illustration: FIG. 70.]

The use of experimental models in clay or wax has, of course, its
advantages, but it will be well to know just how far such an aid is
valuable, and at what point its use becomes hurtful to one's work. It is
a common practise in large carving shops for one man to design the
figure or animal subjects in clay, while another carves them in stone or
wood. Now, apart from the difference in material and the unnatural
"division of labor," which we have discussed before, it is beyond
question that a model of this kind has even a more paralyzing effect on
the actual carver than a drawing would have. Of course, the work is more
certain to reach a recognized standard, and the risk of total failure is
reduced to a minimum, but there is literally nothing left for the
carver to invent; who, if he is a man with a turn for that kind of
thing, and of a nervous temperament, must suffer untold irritation in
its execution. The good and bad results of the use of a modeled pattern
attend in a modified degree even where both are done by the same hand,
but for all that it is a useful and convenient way of making experiments
in doubtful passages of the work. The "how far" a model is to be carried
must be regulated by the amount of confidence the carver has in his own
foresight, but in any case it is always well to remember the difference
of treatment required in plaster, clay, and hard wood, which lead to
such different results that often fresh difficulty arises in having to
translate the one manner into the other. For the purpose of roughing out
the general scheme, the clay, if it must be resorted to, should be used
in soft masses, then a drawing in outline made from this; but all
doubtful detailed work should be carved, not modeled, and for this
purpose the clay should be allowed to harden until it is nearly dry.

The opinions of the well-known wood-carver, Mr. W. Aumonier, on this
subject, will be of value to you; he says with regard to the best
method of going to work: "A fresh piece of wood-carving executed without
a model is distinctly a created work," and that much good work may come
by "chopping boldly at a block without any preconceived design, but
designing as you go on." But he thinks it is best to work from drawings;
"rough, full-size charcoal cartoons, which give the effect wanted by
their light and shade." He also says that he "strongly protests against
the too frequent use of clay or plaster models, because they are often
worse than useless, and not infrequently absolutely immoral in their
tendency, because they absorb time and money, which ought more
legitimately to be spent on the carving itself."



     Intelligible Background Outline Better than Confused
     Foreshortening--Superposition of Masses.

I have spoken of the necessity for careful balance between the outlines
of subject and background: that both should be agreeable in shape. This
becomes complicated and more difficult to arrange when we admit into our
design anything resembling what painters call foreshortening, and the
awkwardness is felt even in the placing of such a small thing as an
apple-leaf, which may be treated in such a way that the intention of the
drawing is entirely lost in the confusion which arises between the
inferred and the actual projection.

In designing such subjects it will be good to bear in mind as a guiding
principle that no matter what excuse there may be in the nature of the
inferred position of the leaf or limb, the outline against the
background must be at once agreeable and explanatory.

Every kind of work in relief develops a species of compromise in the
expression of form, lying somewhere between the representation of an
object on a perfectly flat ground, as in a painting, and the complete
realization of the same form, copied from nature in some solid material,
without any background whatever. In proportion to the amount of actual
projection from the background, of course the necessity diminishes for
that kind of foreshortening which is obtained by delineation. It might
be inferred, therefore, that in very low relief--which is more nearly
akin to the nature of a picture--more liberty may be taken in this
direction. It is not so, however, for where actual depth or projection
exists, as in carving, be it only so much as the depth of a line, it
makes foreshortening well-nigh impossible, except to a very limited
extent. There must be, of course, _some_ appearance of this quality, so
a certain conventional standard has been set up, beyond which one only
ventures at one's own risk. Thus, care is taken that every object
composing the subject lies with its _longest lines_ parallel to the
background. In this way the least possible violence is done to the
imagination in completing the picture. As an example, no single leaf
should be represented in relief as turning or coming forward more than
it would do if plucked from the tree and laid loosely down upon a sheet
of paper. A, Fig. 71, is an outline of an apple-leaf pressed out flat. B
is an attempt to present it in violent foreshortening, showing its back
to the spectator, while its point is supposed to be buried in the
background. C is the same leaf turned the other way, and supposed to be
projecting forward; both are exceedingly awkward and unintelligible as
mere outlines, and if expressed in relief would not be any more
convincing as portraits of the thing intended--rather less so, in fact,
than the diagram, which has no projection to interfere with the drawing.
So we must turn our leaf until it presents its long side more or less to
the spectator, as in D; but even here part of the edge is so thin at _a_
that it will be better to turn it a little farther, as in E, showing
more of its surface, as at _b_.

[Illustration: FIG. 71.]

Again, if we take as another example two apples, one partly covering the
other, as in _a_, Fig. 72, where one apple is supposed to be behind the
other, and so implies distance. There is no means of expressing this
distance in carving. Lowering the surface of the hindmost apple would
merely throw out the balance of masses without giving a satisfactory
explanation of its position, while to cut a deep groove between the two
would be an equally unsightly expedient. The difficulty should, whenever
it is possible, be avoided by partially separating the two forms, as in
_b_, where the center of the hindmost apple clears the outline of the
other; thus making it possible to get a division without awkwardness.

[Illustration: FIG. 72.]

[Illustration: FIG. 73.]

A good expedient, where leaf or scroll forms are to be carved, and when
very truthful drawing is necessary to explain their convolutions, is
that adopted by Professor Lethaby at the Royal College of Art. It
consists in cutting the leaf out of a piece of stiffish paper, and with
a knife or pen-handle curling it into the required form. The main lines
will thus be seen in true relation to one another, and all the
distortion avoided which arises from disconnection of parts; not only
that, but it is a useful aid to the invention, as much variety can be
hinted at by a skilful manipulation in curling its lobes. Fig. 73 was
drawn from a paper model of this kind. Of course, it is quite without
the necessary veins or minor articulations, but is useful as a
suggestion of main lines. With regard to subjects containing figures of
men or animals, the same principle governs the placing of the whole body
in the first instance, then of the different members, so that heads,
arms, and legs take up a position as nearly as may be with a piece of
background all to themselves. Thus, no two bodies should be
super-imposed if it can be in any way avoided. (I am speaking now of
moderate and low relief, although even in high relief the best masters
have always respected the principle.) The temptation to imitate effects
of foreshortening for its own sake is not without some excuse, as it is
quite possible to make presentable pictures in this way. A horse, for
instance, may be carved in low relief, presenting either its head or
hindquarters to the spectator, and yet not look absolutely absurd.
Again, a front face may be carved in the same way, notwithstanding the
difficulty presented by the projection of the nose. Neither of these
experiments can ever be said to prove entirely successful. It is not so
much that they are either difficult or impossible, as that a more
suitable method, one more natural to the technique of the carver, is
being neglected, and its many good qualities sacrificed for sake of an
effect which can never be fully realized in sculpture. To so dispose the
various masses, great and small, that they fall easily into groups, each
having some relation to, and share of the background, is a true carver's
artifice. A skilful use of this arrangement makes it quite unnecessary
to encroach upon the domain of another art in the imitation of an
effect which may be successfully rendered with the pencil, but only so
to a very limited extent with the carving tools.

You have all seen the actors, when called before the curtain at the
close of the play, how they pass before it one by one, and perhaps
joining hands make their bows _in line_, to all appearance, on a very
narrow platform. The curtain is your background, while the footlights
may stand for the surface of your wood. In illustration of this
principle, let me call your attention to the arrangement of the animals
in Plate VI, where economy of space, and a desire to display each detail
to advantage, are the leading motives. I give it as the readiest example
to hand, and because it fairly illustrates the principle in question.
You must excuse the apparent vanity in making choice of one of my own
works to exemplify a canon of art. The sheep at the top is supposed to
be scampering over rocks; the ram below may be any distance from the
sheep that you choose to imagine--the only indication of relative
position is _separation_, by means of a ridge that may pass for a rock.
The head of the ram is somewhat foreshortened, but there was enough
thickness of wood contained in the big mass of the body to allow of
this being done in the smaller mass of the head, without leaving too
much to be supposed. The heads of the sheep in the fold have been as
closely packed as was consistent with showing as much of each as
possible, as it was considered better to give the whole head and no body
than to show only a part of both: most of the bodies, therefore, are
supposed to be hidden behind the wall, only one showing in part.

It is a general axiom of the craft, that every mass (be it body or leaf)
must be made as complete in itself as the circumstances will allow; but,
if partly hidden, the concealment should be wilful, and without
ambiguity. Thus, a dog's head may be rightly carved as being partly
hidden in a bucket, but ought not to be covered by another head if it is
possible to avoid it.



     Undercutting as a Means and as an End; its Use and
     Abuse--"Built-up" Work--"Planted" Work--"Pierced" Work.

By undercutting is meant the cutting away of the solid portions of
projections in such a manner as to make them invisible, thus throwing
the carved surface work into more complete relief by detaching it from
the background. This device has often been carried so far, where the
projection was sufficient, that entire groups of figures and foliage
have been practically detached from the background, like pieces of
separate sculpture carved all round. This desire for completeness of
relief was more or less a departure from the orthodox aims of the
carvers' craft, and led ultimately to what is known as "built-up"
work--that is to say, work in which the projecting parts were composed
of many different pieces of wood, each carved separately, and afterward
glued or pinned together to form the composition. Many of the most
elaborate carvings by Grinling Gibbons are of this kind; they have a
charm of their own, but it is one of quite separate interest, and
belongs to a category entirely removed from the art of carving objects
in a solid piece of wood. Apart from this distinction, the difficulty of
the method requires the most accomplished mechanical skill and a highly
trained eye to either carve or compose such work in a way to command
respect. I shall therefore dismiss this branch of the subject as being
outside of our present limits.

Undercutting, on the other hand, is an expedient distinctly
characteristic of solid wood-carving, and some experiments ought to be
made by you in designing work in which it can be used. It may be either
partial or complete--complete, of course, only up to a point; that is to
say, the connection with the background must in every case be not only
maintained but visibly demonstrated. Partial undercutting applies to
such portions as the sides of leaves, the receding parts of heads,
wings, etc., where the wood between the object and its background is cut
away on an inward bend, either completing the projecting form, as in
the case of a head, or merely to hide the superfluous wood in the case
of a leaf. All this presupposes a certain amount of elevation in the
relief; indeed, it is only in such cases that the process is necessary
or can be carried out. The use of undercutting of this kind is like
every other technical process, liable to abuse through too much being
made of its effects. Fortunately the time it consumes is a safeguard
against any tendency to run riot in this direction. The point at which
it should in all cases stop, and that relentlessly, is where it begins
to cause a separation between any entire mass of ornament and its
background. If _portions_ are thus relieved almost to complete
detachment, but visibly reconnect themselves in another place, a certain
piquancy is gained which adds charm without destroying character. A
curious use is made of undercutting in the bunch of leaves given in
Plate XI from a Miserere seat in Winchester Cathedral; it may be said to
be completely undercut in so far that the whole bunch is hollowed out
under the surface, leaving from 1/4 to 1/2 in. thickness of wood, in
which the leaves are carved, so that you may put your finger in at one
hole and see it at the bottom of another. The only end all this extra
labor seems to have attained is that of changefulness in the shadows of
the holes between the leaves, in which one sees dark rims with light at
the bottom, a condition which certainly adds a mysterious lightness to
the whole mass. It is a very refined and appropriate use of
undercutting, but would only be possible where time could be spent to
secure a variant of such epicurean delicacy, as all the superfluous wood
must be taken out through the spaces between the leaves, and in this
case they are not overlarge for that purpose.

Work which has its background entirely cut away, and which is afterward
glued or "planted" on a fresh background to save labor, can not be
called "undercut"; this method has generally a cheap look, as it is used
with the object of saving time and expense. Carving which is treated in
this way, but instead of being "planted" close to the background, is
fixed at a little distance from it (as is the case with the lace-like
designs fitted into the hollow moldings of fifteenth-century
choir-screens), is of quite a different order, although even in this
case it can not be strictly described as undercut: it is more nearly
akin to pierced fretwork. It has, however, all the general effect of
undercut work, and is the only possible way of obtaining this effect in
wood where a large quantity of such ornament is required. The face of
such carving is generally a little convex, while the back is hollowed
out to give an equal thickness of section. The ornaments in Figs. 75,
76, and 77 are of this description, and are calculated to give great
play of light and shade, and be seen well at a considerable distance.

Undercutting in the strict and more laborious sense must be reserved for
occasions where the labor is repaid by the additional charm. It must be
considered in the light of a _tour de force_, which, on account of its
cost in the matter of time, should only be used under exceptional
circumstances, care being taken to make it clear that it is _an
exception_ to the general rule of solid carving on a solid background.



     The Limitations of an Art not Safely Transgressed--Aerial
     Perspective Impossible in Relief--Linear Perspective only Possible
     in a Limited Way.

Those vague and shadowy boundaries which separate the domains of the
different arts are being perpetually called in question. By what
landmarks such indefinite frontiers may be distinguished, and how far
they may be extended or transgressed, will always be a matter of
dispute. Excursions of conquest are continually being made, and
conspicuous among these, one which animates the hopes of many sculptors
and modelers. Its aim is the appropriation of those charms which are the
peculiar property of the graphic arts, more especially their power of
expressing the effects of distance by means of linear and aerial

The background of a piece of carving is so obviously solid and
impenetrable that any attempt to imitate an appearance of distance is
sure to defeat its own ends, the loss being greater than the gain. If
there are limits to be observed in the foreshortening of a single leaf,
how much more must they apply to the representation of whole landscapes?
Properly speaking, there is no _distance_ available in the carver's art;
its whole interest lies near the surface, and in the direct rays of the
light which illuminates it. There is even a distinct pleasure to be
derived from the sense that it is all carved out of a block of such and
such thickness, pointing to the reasonable conclusion that this
thickness should never be lost sight of, the carving ever and anon
returning to the surface as a measure of music does to its key-note.
This is exemplified in all the great works of antiquity, among which the
Parthenon frieze may be quoted as evidence. On the other hand, all
pictorial sculpture, such as carved landscapes with figures diminishing
both in scale and projection, necessarily fail to uphold this sense of
solidity, as there must occur large spaces which are hollowed out far
below the surface to give another plane on which to carve the more
distant objects in low relief, in the vain hope of making them appear to
recede. Work in which perspective of this kind is used must be viewed
as nearly as possible from the point of vision produced by its
vanishing-lines; this point is intelligible enough in the case of a
painting, but when it comes to be carved into relief, if it happens to
be seen from any other point of view, it necessarily looks all wrong,
because every part is thrown into false relationship.

All this, of course, forms no argument against the use of explanatory
landscapes with trees, buildings, etc. It only means that all such
features must be treated in a way entirely different to that adopted by
the painter--that is to say, in detached groups, each having some due
relation to the original surface of the wood, and only very little to
their perspective positions. In Fig. 74 are two diagrams of a landscape
composition. The one is appropriate to a painted picture and the other
to carving; both have pretty nearly the same number of features, except
that in the carving there is no _effect_ of distance attempted, whereas
in the painting everything leads to this one particular distinction. The
road goes _into_ the picture, the bridge is seen end on, the house and
mill are diminished in size, and the horizon is strongly enforced by a
shadow echoed in the sky. The carving looks ridiculous beside the
painting, but it is a severe test, as it is not a subject which should
be carved at all in that condensed way.

[Illustration: FIG. 74.]



     The Necessity for Variety in Study--A Carver's View of the Study of
     Architecture; Inseparable from a Study of his own Craft--Importance
     of the Carpenter's Stimulating Influence upon the
     Carver--Carpenter's Imitation of Stone Construction Carried too

That the study of wood-carving should be confined to the narrow field of
its own performances would be the surest way to bring contempt upon an
art which already offers too many temptations for the easy embodiment of
puerile motives. Such a limited range would exclude all the stimulating
lessons to be derived from the many other kinds of carving and
sculpture; forgetful that they are, after all, but different forms of
the same art, differing only in technique and application. It would take
no note of the stately sculptures of Greece--the fountain-head of all
that is technically and artistically perfect in expression of form--or
of the splendor of imagination displayed in the ivories of Italy. Many
another source of inspiring impetus would be neglected, including the
greatest of all, the influence of architecture, and through it, the
dignified association or the carver's art with all that is noble in the
life of mankind.

The dry and uninviting aspect which a serious study of architecture
presents to some minds is such that it is too often avoided as both
useless and wearisome. Much of this diffidence is due to a misconception
of the aims which should govern the student of decorative design in
making an acquaintance with its principles. The study should not be
looked upon as pertaining exclusively to the functions of an architect,
nor as having only an accidental connection with particular crafts. It
must be remembered that in the old days mason and carpenter were both
craftsmen and architects, and the sculptor and wood-carver had an equal
share in creating every feature which gives any distinction of style to
the buildings that were the outcome of their united efforts. So,
instead of looking upon the subject as only a study of dates for the
antiquary, and rules of construction for the architect, the carver
should take his own view, and regard architecture for the time being as
what in some sense it really is: a very large kind of carving, which
includes and gives reason for his own particular branch. The importance
of the subject is proved by the experience of centuries; history showing
plainly how the two arts grew in strength and beauty only when closely
associated, and shared each other's fate in proportion to their

In this place I can say but very little upon such a vast subject; all I
can do is to call your attention to one or two examples of carved work
combined with structural carpentry, in order that you may see for
yourselves what a power of effect lies in that union, and how by
contrast it enhances the value and interest of both. I do this in the
hope that it may possibly lead you to a more complete study of
architecture, for which there is no lack of opportunity in books and
museums, but more especially in what remains of the old buildings
themselves, with which a familiar and personal acquaintance will be
much better than a theoretical or second-hand one.

No carver with a healthy ambition can long continue to make designs and
produce them in wood without feeling intensely the want of some
architectural occasion for his efforts. Had he only a barge-board to
carve, or the canopy of a porch, it would be such a relief to turn to
its large and general treatment after a course of the panels and
ornaments peculiar to domestic furniture. Look, for instance, at the
carved beams of the aisle roof in Mildenhall Church given in Plate III,
and think what a fund of powerful suggestion lay in the bare timbers
before they were embellished by the carver with lion, dragon, and
knight. Even the carpenter became inspired with a desire to make
something ornamental of his own department, and has shaped and carved
(literally carved) his timbers into graceful moldings. Then, again, in
the roof of Sall Church, Norfolk, shown in Plate IV, you have a noble
piece of carpentry which is as much the work of an artist as the carved
figures and tracery which adorn it--indeed it is all just as truly
carved work as those figures, being chopped out of the solid oak with
larger tools, ax and adze, so that one knows not which to admire most,
carved angels or carved carpentry.

Plates XI and XII are details of the carvings which fill the spandrels
of arch and gable in the choir stalls and screen at Winchester
Cathedral. There are a great many of these panels similar in character
but differing in design, some having figures, birds, or dragons worked
among the foliage. They are comparatively shallow in relief, and this
appears less than it really is owing to the fact that many parts of the
carving dip down almost to the background, giving definite but not deep
shadows. The main intention seems to have been to allow only enough
shadow to secure the pattern, and then to emphasize this by means of a
multitude of little _illuminated_ masses. The leading lines run through
the pattern as continuously as possible, but the surface of the leafage
is divided up into numbers of little hills and hollows. The sides of
these prominences catch and reflect light more readily than they produce
shadow, so that it is possible to trace the pattern at a considerable
distance by means of the lights alone. Unfortunately for all believers
in the historical evidence of ancient handicrafts, this work was
overhauled some half century ago, and in parts "_restored_." The old
work has been imitated in the new with surprising cleverness, but for
that, no one who has a clear sense of the true function of the carver's
art, or of the historical value of its witness to past modes of life,
will thank those who carried out the "restoration," so confusing is it
to be unable to distinguish at a glance the old from the new, so
depressing to find such laborious efforts wasted in pleasing a childish
desire for uniformity of treatment when it could only be achieved at the
cost of deception, and, I may add, so irritating to find oneself for a
moment deceived into accepting one of the "restored" parts as genuine
old work. To add to the deception, the whole of the old woodwork, as
well as the new, was smeared over with a black stain in order the better
to hide the difference of color in old and new wood, thus forever
destroying its soft and natural color, as well as the texture of its
surface, so dear to the wood-carver.

The fifteenth century in England was a period of great activity among
wood-carvers, and many beautiful choir-screens were added about this
time to the existing churches, all in the traditional Gothic manner, as
the Renaissance influence was a full century at work in other countries
before its power began seriously to affect the national style. The West
of England (Somerset and Devon in particular) is rich in the remains of
this late Gothic carving, some details of which are shown in the
accompanying illustrations, Figs. 75, 76, 77.

[Illustration: FIG. 75.]

[Illustration: FIG. 76.]

[Illustration: FIG. 77.]

As a general rule the supporting carpentry of these screens bears a
strong resemblance to stonework; so imitative is it in treatment, that
it is only by the texture of the wood and its lightness of construction
that the distinction is made evident. Now a certain degree of modified
imitation, where one craft models its forms of design upon those of
another, using a different material, as in the case of woodwork
imitations of arches, tracery, etc., is not only legitimate, but very
pleasing in its results. To attain this end, the carpenter need only be
true to his own ideals--there is no occasion to abandon the methods of
his own craft in order to copy the construction which is peculiar to
another. The resources of carpentry offer an infinite field for the
invention of new and characteristic forms, and these may be made all the
more attractive if they show, to some extent, the influence of an
associated craft, but never fail to become wearisome if essential
character has been sacrificed for the sake of an ingenious imitation.
The structural parts of some of these screens are composed of elaborate
imitations of stone vaulting and tracery, so closely copied as to be
almost deceiving, therefore they can not be taken as good examples of
suggestive opportunity for the wood-carver.

The carved work, on the other hand, is marked by a strong craft
character, essentially _woody_ both in design and execution. The
illustrations referred to are typical examples of this kind of work,
and, although the execution can not be indicated, they at least give the
disposition of parts, and some idea of the contrast obtained by the use
of alternate bands of ornament differing in scale, or, as in some cases,
the agreeable monotony produced by a repetition of almost similar
designs, varied slightly in execution.

Another prominent feature of church woodwork, which developed about this
time into magnificent proportions, was the font cover and canopy. Many
of these were, however, more like glorifications of the carpenter's
genius for construction than examples of the carver's art, as they were
composed of a multitude of tiny pinnacles and niches, the carver's work
being confined to a repetition of endless crockets, tracery, and
separate figures or groups. However, in Plate XIII an example is given
of what they could do when working together on a more equal footing;
although much mutilated, enough remains to show how the one craft gains
by being associated with the other in a wholesome spirit of rivalry.



     Tool Marks, the Importance of their Direction--The Woody Texture
     Dependent upon Clearness of Cutting and Sympathetic Handling.

The term "texture" is sometimes applied to the quality of finish which
is characteristic of good carving; it has a somewhat misleading sound,
which seems to suggest that the final treatment of the surface is the
work of a separate operation. However, it is a right enough word, as the
texture which wood-carvers aim at is that of the wood in which they are
carving. One might naturally think that this texture must necessarily
appear when the work was finished, but that is not the case, as it is
only rescued by the most skilful use of the tools, and easily disappears
under the mismanagement of clumsy or unsympathetic hands.

Texture in carving is in some respects on a parallel with tone in
painting--it depends upon a right relation of many qualities. As in the
painting good tone is the outcome of the combined effects of truth in
color and a right balance of what are called the "values," together with
decision in the handling of the brush, so in carving, texture depends
upon, first, having a clear idea of what is being carved, and making it
clear to others; that if it be round, hollow, or flat, it must be so
indeed; that edges and sharpnesses be really where they were intended to
be, and not lost in woolly confusion. Then again, as with the painter's
brush, the tool must be moved by a hand which adapts itself to every
changing plane, to all manner of curves and contours, with touches
sometimes delicate and deliberate, at others broad and sweeping, or
even, at times, brought down with the weight and force of an ax-blow.

A good quality of finish may exist in the most divergent kinds of work,
each having its own characteristic texture. Thus a broad treatment on a
large scale will make much of the natural texture of the wood, enforcing
it by crisp edges and subtle little ridges which catch the light and
recall the momentary passage of the sharp tool, while elaborate work in
low relief may have a delicate texture which partly imitates that of the
details of its subject, and partly displays the nature of the wood. In
either case, the texture must be consciously aimed at by the carver as
the last but by no means least quality which is to give vitality to the
work of his hands. A sense of the capabilities of his wood in this
respect is one of the best aids to the carver, as it reacts on his sense
of form and compels him to precision.

Manual dexterity alone may succeed in making its work clearly
intelligible, but that is all, and it generally leaves a surface in
which there is little indication of any feeling for the material in
which the work is carved, nothing, in fact, that marks it specially as
carving in wood, or distinguishes it from a casting in metal.

The technical operation which is most immediately answerable for the
making or marring of texture is the disposition and nature of the final
tool marks. These should be so managed that they help the eye to
understand the forms. They should explain rather than confuse the
contours of the surface. Just as in a good chalk drawing the strokes and
cross-hatchings are put in with method, and if well done produce the
effect of something solid, so in carving, the tool marks should
emphasize the drawing without in any way calling attention to

It is quite impossible to explain in words that will not be open to
misconstruction the subtle commingling of qualities which make all the
difference between good and bad texture. We may succeed better by
describing those conditions which are unfavorable to it. Thus work which
is very much cut up into minute detail, and which lacks a proper
contrast of surface, or, for the same reason, work which is too
generally bald and smooth, rarely exhibit a good surface texture. Again,
work which is overlabored, or where delicate details have been attempted
on a coarse-grained wood, or finally, work which, although done with
success in the matter of mechanical dexterity, is deficient in feeling
for its woody possibilities, are all likely to fail in the matter of

Punch-marked backgrounds have undoubtedly a legitimate place among the
expedients of the carver for obtaining contrast, but on the whole, as
such, they are of a somewhat meretricious order, and in almost every
case their use is fatal to the charm of fine texture, as this always
depends on an appreciation of the homogeneous connection of carving and
background. If they are used at all they should be made to form patterns
on the background, and not put down promiscuously. Little gouge marks
are still better, as they are not so mechanical.

I shall conclude this part of my subject with a quotation from the words
of Mr. W. Aumonier, in a lecture delivered at the Royal Institute of
British Architects.

"_All carving to be treated according to the position it is to occupy._
Not only the design, but the actual carving itself, should be considered
with a view to the position it is to take and the light it will receive.
Thus, even if quite close to the eye, where, of course, its position
warrants or demands a certain amount of finish, it must be remembered
that real finish rather means perfection of form than smoothness of
surface, so that even there it should still show its cuts and its tool
marks fearlessly, and be deepened in parts to make it tell its proper
tale in the combined scheme of decoration; while if it is going a great
height or distance from the eye it should be left as rough as ever you
can leave it. The only points that have to be regarded are the outlines,
varieties of planes, and depths, and if these be properly considered
everything else will take care of itself, and then the whole work can
not be left too rough. Its very roughness and choppy cuts will give it a
softness and quality when in its place that no amount of smoothing or
high finish can possibly attain to."

Beware of putting a wrong interpretation upon the word "rough"--refer to
what he says of the points to be regarded, i.e., the "varieties of
planes, and depths." If they are right the "roughness" is not likely to
be of the offensive kind.

Nothing so effectually destroys the quality of texture as polish applied
to carving. If furniture _must_ be polished it should not be carved. The
only polish that improves carving is that which comes of use. On hard
woods, such as oak or Italian walnut, the pressure of the tools leaves a
pleasant polish, which is all that is necessary; the _most_ that should
be allowed may be given by a little burnishing with the handle of the



     The Country Craftsman of Old Times--A Colony of Craftsmen in Busy
     Intercourse--The Modern Craftsman's Difficulties: Embarrassing
     Variety of Choice.

The present revival of interest in the arts, especially with regard to
those of a decorative kind, is based on the recently awakened esthetic
desires of a small section of the general public, who owe their activity
in this direction to the influence of men like John Ruskin and William
Morris. The first of these, by his magic insight, discerned the true
source of vitality which lay in the traditions of medieval workmanship,
i.e., their intensely _human_ character and origin. His fiery words
compelled attention, and awakened a new enthusiasm for all that betokens
the direct and inspiring influence of nature. They raised the hope that
this passion might in some way provide a clue to the recovery of a
fitting form of expression.

William Morris, with no less power as a craftsman, was the first to
give practical embodiment to this newly awakened impulse by a modified
return to the older methods of production. His rare knowledge of
medieval history, and manly sympathy with all that is generous in modern
life, made it impossible for him to become a superficial imitator. His
work is an example of what may be achieved by a union of high artistic
instincts with a clear understanding of the conditions of modern life.

Cheering as is the present activity in its encouragement of endeavor,
the difficulties of establishing anything like an efficient system of
education for the artist, more especially the sculptor, or carver
artist, is only being gradually realized. The difficulties are not so
much academic as practical. It is less a question of where to study than
one of knowing what direction those studies should take. Before any
genuine development in the art can be looked for, continuity of effort
must be established, and that in a single direction, undisturbed as it
is at present by differences of public taste.

Opportunities for study are now afforded to an extent never before
dreamed of: in books and schools, and in museums; but division of
opinion mars the authority of the two first, while the last is
confessedly but a kind of catalogue, which may only be read with profit
by the light of considerable experience.

A certain amount of success has undoubtedly attended the progress of the
new system, but it must always be more or less at a disadvantage;
firstly, by reason of its divided aims; secondly, because the system is
more theoretic than practical, and is often based on the false
assumption that "design" may be learned without attaining a mastery over
technique, and _vice versa_.

Until students become disillusioned on this latter point, and are at the
same time permitted to follow their natural bent with as little
interference as possible from the exigencies of public taste, uniformity
of aim will be impossible, and consequently the system must remain
artificial. It can never, under any circumstances, entirely replace that
more natural one adopted by our ancestors. How can its methods compare
for a moment with the spontaneous and hearty interest that guided the
tools of those more happily placed craftsmen, whose subjects lay around
them, of daily familiarity; whose artistic language was ready to hand
and without confusion, affording an endless variety of expression to
every new and individual fancy. Many of these craftsmen were, owing to
their invigorating surroundings, gifted with a high poetic feeling for
their art--a quality which gives to their work a transcendent value that
no learning or manual cleverness could supply. They acquired their
technical knowledge in genial connection with equally gifted members of
other crafts, and in consequence expressed themselves with corresponding
and justly proportioned skill in execution.

Conditions that can not be altered must be endured while they last, but
the first step toward their improvement must be made in gaining a
knowledge of the facts as they are. This will be the surest foundation
upon which to build all individual effort in the future.

Who that has felt the embarrassing doubts and contradictory impulses,
peculiar to modern study, can have failed to look disconsolately away
from his own surroundings to those far-off times when craft knowledge
was acquired under circumstances calculated to awaken the brightest
instincts of the artist? The imaginary picture calls up the ancient
carver at his bench, cheerfully blocking out images of leaves and
animals in his busy workshop, surrounded with the sights and sounds of
country life. His open door frames a picture of the village street,
alive with scenes of neighborly interest. From the mill-wheel comes a
monotonous music making pleasant cadence to his own woody notes, or the
blacksmith's hammer rings his cheery counterpart in their companionable

Short as is the distance between workshop and home, it provides a world
of beauty and incident; suggesting to his inventive mind the subjects
suitable for his work. Birds, beasts, and flowers are as familiar to him
as the tools with which he works, or the scent and touch of the solid
oak he handles daily. There, among the aromatic chips, he spends the
long working hours of a summer day; varied by the occasional visits of a
rather exacting Father from the neighboring monastery; or perhaps some
idle and gossiping acquaintance who looks in to hold a long parley with
his hand upon the latch. Or it may be that the mind turns to another
carver, at work in one of the many large colonies of craftsmen which
sprang up amid the forest of scaffolding surrounding the slow and
mysterious growth of some noble cathedral. Here all is organized
activity--the best men to be found in the country have been banded
together and commissioned to do their best, for what seems, in modern
eyes, a ridiculously small rate of pay. Some are well known and
recommended; others, as traveling artists, are seeking change of
experience and daily bread. Foreigners are here, from France, Italy, and
the East. All have been placed under the direction of competent masters
of their craft; men who have long since served their apprenticeship to
its mysteries, and earned an honorable position in its gilds.

Here the carver works in an atmosphere of exhilarating emulation.
Stone-carver and wood-carver vie with each other in producing work that
will do credit to their respective brotherhoods. Painter and decorator
are busy giving to the work of their hands what must have appeared to
those concerned an aspect of heavenly beauty; the most precious
materials not being considered too costly for use in its adornment.

What an interchange of artistic experience!--interchange between those
of similar craft from different countries, and the stimulating or
refining influence of one craft upon another--sculptors, goldsmiths,
wood-carvers, and painters, all uniting in a sympathetic agreement to do
their utmost for the high authorities who brought them together; with a
common feeling of reverence, alike for the religious traditions which
formed the motives of their work and the representatives of that
religion in the persons of their employers.

What an endless variety of interruptions must have been common! all of a
kind eminently calculated to stimulate the imagination. Municipal
functions, religious festivals with their splendid gatherings and
processions, the exciting events of political contest, often carried to
the point of actual combat, to say nothing of the frequent Saint's day
holidays, enjoyed by the craftsman in jovial social intercourse. All and
every scene clothed in an outward dress of beauty, ranging from the
picturesque roughness of the village inn to the magnificent pageantry of
a nobleman's display, or the majestic surroundings of an archi-episcopal

From dreams of the past with its many-sided life and background of
serious beauty, we turn with feelings almost bordering on despair to the
possibilities of the present. Not only has the modern craftsman to
master the technicalities of his business, but he must become student as
well. No universally accepted form of his art offers him a ready-made
language; he is left fatally free to choose style, period, or
nationality, from examples of every conceivable kind of carving, in
museums, photographs, and buildings. As proud but distracted heir to
all, he may cultivate any one of them, from Chinese to the latest style
of exhibition art. For his studies he must travel half a dozen miles
before he can reach fields, trees, and animals in anything like
inspiring conditions. He must find in books and photographs the
botanical lineaments of foliage and flowers, of which he mainly seeks to
know the wild life and free growth. With but one short life allowed him
in which to make his poor effort in a single direction, he must yet
study the history of his craft, compare styles, and endeavor with all
the help he can get to shape some course for himself. Can he be assured
of selecting the right one, or out of the multitude of counselors and
contradictory views, is there not a danger of taking a false step? No
wonder, if in the cloudy obscurity of his doubts, he sometimes feels a
tired desire to abandon the problem as too intricate to be resolved.



     The Infinite Multiplicity of Styles--The "Gothic" Influence:
     Sculpture an Integral Element in its Designs--The Approach of the
     so-called "Renaissance" Period--Disturbed Convictions--The Revival
     of the Classical Style--The Two Styles in Conflict for a Time;
     their Respective Characteristics Reviewed--Carvers Become Dependent
     upon Architects and Painters--The "Revival" Separates "Designer"
     and "Executant."

The prevailing architectural fashion of a time or country, known as its
style, has generally been determined by the influence of more advanced
nations on those of a ruder constitution; each modifying the imported
style to suit its own climatic and social conditions, and imbuing it
with its own individual temperament. The foreign idea was thus developed
into a distinct and national style, which in its turn bore fruit, and
was passed on as an initiative for other nations and new styles. The
current of this influence, generally speaking, trended from east to west
as though following the course of the sun, upon whose light it depended
for the illumination of its beauties.

There are so many styles of architecture, and consequently of carving,
both in wood and other materials, that a history of such a subject would
be a life study in itself, and be quite barren of results except those
of a professional kind. It would include the characteristics of carvings
from every country under the sun, from the earliest times known.
Engravings on boars' tusks found in prehistoric caves, carvings on South
Sea Island canoe paddles, Peruvian monstrosities of terror, the refined
barbarity of India and China, the enduring and monumental efforts of
Egyptian art, and a hundred others, down to times and countries more
within reach. In fact, it would only be another name for a history of
mankind from the beginning of the world.

Nothing could be better for the student's purpose than to begin his
studies of history at that point where the first indication of the
Gothic or medieval period of architecture makes its appearance. For it
was from this great and revolutionary change in the manner of building
that all the subsequent variety of style in carving as well as building
in medieval Europe took its origin. The first rudiments of the great
school of art, which has been broadly classified as having a "Gothic"
origin, began to make their appearance in Byzantium some three or four
centuries after the birth of Christ. This city, said to have been
founded by a colony of Greek emigrants, became the seat of Roman
government in their eastern empire, and is now known as Constantinople:
it contains a noted example of ancient art in the great church of St.
Sophia. From the date of the building of this church in the sixth
century A. D. to the beginning of the fifteenth century in Italy, and
about a hundred years later, more or less, according to distance from
that center, we have roughly the period during which the "medieval"
spirit ruled the arts of Europe.

The work of this long period is distinguished beyond all others by the
varied beauty and interest of its carvings, a preeminence it owes in
part to the strong bias in this direction which was given by its early
founders, but still more to the unbroken alliance maintained between
builders and carvers throughout the entire period. An inherited talent
for sculpture, handed down, no doubt, from their classical forefathers,
distinctly marks the commencement of the era; but from that time until
the appearance of the "Renaissance" influence, builder and carver are no
longer conceivable as being independent of each other. Sculpture of one
kind or another not only played an important part in the decoration of
its buildings, but became a necessary and integral element in every
architectural conception, be its importance little or great. The masons
designed their structural features with a view to the embellishments to
follow from the hand of the carver; they were in full sympathy with the
artistic intention of the decoration, therefore their own ideas were in
complete conformity with those of the sculptor, while even in some cases
they did this part of the work themselves. The sculptors, restrained by
the severe laws of structural design, never transgressed the due limits
of their craft, or became insistent upon the individuality of their own
work. Hence, throughout all the successive changes of style brought
about by time and difference of country, climate, or material, the art
of carving steadily progressed hand in hand with the art of building.
The changes were so very gradual, and grew so naturally from the
conditions and requirements of social life, that ample time was allowed
for the education of public feeling, which became in this way identified
with the inventive progress of the craftsmen. As a happy result, one aim
and desire governed alike builders, carvers, and people, and one style
at a time, enjoyed and understood by all, was the wholesome regimen by
which the architectural appetite of the period was sustained. Cathedral
and cottage differed only in their relative grades of importance; each
shared in due proportion the advantages of an architectural style common
to all forms of building, and adaptable in the highest degree to every
varying purpose of design, from the simplest piece of walling, with the
barest indication of style, to the most elaborate arrangement of masonry
and carving which could be devised to distinguish a stately and
important structure.

Time was, however, preparing a revolution which was destined to sweep
away many old beliefs and established institutions, and with them those
familiar motives and habits of thought, which had long formed the
bountiful source of medieval inspiration and invention. The period
between the beginning of the fifteenth century and the Reformation was
like a fiery furnace, in which the materials for a new world were being
prepared; it was no time for the leisurely enjoyment of the pleasures of
art, which presupposes settled convictions and imperceptible

About this time many new forms of intellectual activity began to engage
the minds of the more gifted. Speculative philosophy, the opening fields
of science, the imaginative literature of the ancients; these were among
the subjects which, while they enlarged the sphere of individual
thought, destroyed that social ideal which had its roots in a common
belief, and with it, the secret source of all past development in
architecture. With the deep-lying causes and far-reaching effects of the
unrest which disturbed this period, we are not here concerned, beyond
the point where it touches our interest in architecture and sculpture.
That drastic changes were in progress affecting the popular regard for
these arts is undeniable. Educated and illiterate minds became alike
indifferent to the authority of established religion--either they
succumbed to the tyranny of its powerful but corrupt ministers, or stood
out in open rebellion against its disputed dogmas. In either case, that
architecture which had formerly been regarded as the chief symbol of
united faith, shared the neglect of one section or the abhorrence of the
other. That strong sense of beauty, once the common possession of
builders, sculptors, and people, was now between the upper and nether
millstones of fate, being ground into the fine dust which has served for
centuries as the principal ingredient in the manufacture of an endless
succession of moral puddings and pies, known in modern times as "art

To earnest minds in all classes at that time, any enthusiasm for
architectural styles, old or new, must have appeared as futile as an
anxiety about appearances while one's house was burning.

To the art of this period the title "Renaissance" has been foolishly
applied. When used in association with the arts of architecture and
sculpture, it is essentially a misnomer. For these arts it was merely a
time of revival, not in any sense one of rebirth, as the word implies.
In no way can this period claim to have conferred vitality along with
the resuscitation of outward form. The revival of a classical style in
architectural design, which began in the early years of the fifteenth
century, was the sequel to a similar "revival" in the study of Greek and
Roman literature, then occupying the interests of cultivated scholars.
It was but a step further to desire also the realization of those
architectural splendors which were associated with these studies. Such
dilettante dreams can not be supposed to have deeply interested the
general public, with whose concerns they had but a remote connection; so
under these circumstances, probably the classical style was as suitable
as any other, chosen on such narrow and exclusive grounds. There was
even a certain fitness in it, a capability of much expansion on
theatrical and grandiose lines. Its unbending demeanor toward craft
talent of the humbler kind at once flattered the vanity of the cultured,
and cowed uneducated minds.

The Duomo at Florence was finished early in that century, and was one of
the first buildings in which the new style was adopted. In this case it
was used mainly in the completion of a building already well advanced on
lines based upon the older traditions. The character of its design,
although not of a strictly imitative kind, was distinctly based on a
classical ideal. Imitations followed, mingling, as in the case of the
Duomo, Gothic and classic elements, often with fine effect. It is quite
possible to believe that, had this intermarriage of the two schools
continued to bear fruit, some vertebrate style might have resulted from
the union, partaking of the nature of both parents; but the hope was of
short duration. Its architects, becoming enamored by the quality of
scientific precision, which is the fundamental principle of classical
design, soon abandoned all pretense of attempting to amalgamate the
native and imported styles. They gave themselves up wholly to the
congenial task of elaborating a scholarly system of imitation; so that,
by the middle of the sixteenth century, no trace whatever remained of
native feeling in the architecture of its important buildings.

During the progress of this revolution in style, the old medieval habits
of cooperation between master mason and sculptor were slowly being
exchanged for a complete dependence upon a special architect, who was
not necessarily a craftsman himself; but whose designs must be carried
out line for line with the most rigid adherence to measurements.

For a moment in history, the rival spirits of the two great schools of
architecture stand face to face like opposing ideals. The classical one,
recalled from the region of things past and forgotten, again to play a
part on earth with at least the semblance of life; the Gothic spirit,
under notice to quit and betake itself to that oblivion from which its
rival is reemerging.

In the heyday of their power, the first had shown a distinctly
autocratic bearing toward its workmen; offering to its sculptors of
genius opportunities for the exercise of highly trained powers, and to
the subordinate workmen only the more or less mechanical task of
repeating a limited number of prescribed forms. The other, a more genial
spirit, had possessed the largest toleration for rude or untrained
workmanship, provided that in its expression the carver had a meaning
which would be generally understood and appreciated. If skill could be
commanded, either of design or technique, it was welcomed; but it gave
no encouragement to work which was either so distinctive as to be
independent of its surroundings, or of a kind which could have no other
than a mechanical interest in its execution. The abrupt contrasts, the
variety and mystery, characteristic of Gothic architecture, had been a
direct and irresistible invitation to the carver, and the freest
playground for his fancy. The formality of the classical design, on the
other hand, necessarily confined such carving as it permitted to
particular lines and spaces, following a recognized rule; and except in
the case of bas-relief figure subjects and detached statues, demanded no
separate interest in the carvings themselves, further than the esthetic
one of relieving such lines and spaces as were otherwise uncomfortably

Some modification of this extreme arrogance toward the decorative carver
was only to be expected in the revived style, but the freedom allowed to
the individual carver turned out to be more apparent than real. A new
race of carvers sprang up, imbued with the principles of classical
design; but being no longer in touch with natural and popular interests,
nor stimulated by mutual cooperation with their brother craftsmen, the
mason builders, they adopted the fashionable mode of expression invented
by the new architects and the painters of the time. Elaborate
"arabesque" and other formal designs gave employment to the carvers, in
making an infinite repetition of fiddles, festoons, and ribbons, in the
execution of which they became so proficient, that their work is more
often admired for its exquisite finish than for any intrinsic interest
in the subject or design.

Judged by its effects upon the art of carving, without the aid of which
a national style of architecture is impossible, the revival of classical
architecture never had a real and enduring life in it. Strictly
speaking, no organic style ever grew out of its ambitious promises; the
nearest approach to such a thing is to be found in those uncouth
minglings of Gothic tradition with fragments of classical detail which
distinguish much of the domestic architecture during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Amusing in their quaint and often rich and
effective combinations, humanly interesting in proportion to the
predominance of the Gothic element, association has grown up around
these homely records of a mixed influence, until they have come to be
regarded with affection, if not with the highest admiration.

The "revival" brought nothing but harm to the carver himself--that is,
to the carver who found it impossible to reach the elevation of a
sculptor of genius. He sacrificed his own small but precious talent as a
creator of pleasant images for the attainment of a finesse in the
execution of other people's ideas. To the "Renaissance" must be
attributed that fatal separation of the craftsman's function into the
hands of designer and executant which has so completely paralyzed the
living spirit of individual invention. It has taken close upon four
centuries to open the eyes of our craftsmen to this inconsistency, and
"revive" the medieval truth that invention and execution are strictly
but one and the same thing. Let us hope that the present awakening to
the importance of this fact may yet lead to what will be truly worthy of
being called a "Renaissance"; not merely of outward forms, but of that
creative energy which alone justifies the true meaning of the word.


PLATE I.--_Old Carved Chest in York Cathedral._ The front of a chest of
almost similar design, only reversed, is to be seen in South Kensington
Museum, which looks from its resemblance both in design and technique to
be the work of the same carver, or at least to have been done about the
same time. Note the absence of any attempt at elaborate perspective, and
the "decorative" aspect of houses, rocks, trees, etc., also the
distinctive treatment of the Knight and Princess who appear in the
picture several times, representing various incidents of the story.

PLATE II.--_Figure from the Tomb of Henry IV in Canterbury Cathedral._
This figure is one of the corner ornaments on the canopy. The whole of
the upper structure is of wood, painted in colors with parts picked out
in gold.

PLATE III.--_Aisle Roof, Mildenhall Church, Suffolk._ This is one of the
many beautiful carved roofs which abound in Norfolk and Suffolk. The
nave roof is enriched with carvings of angels with wings outspread.

PLATE IV.--_Nave Roof, Sall Church, Norfolk._ This is another very
beautiful timber roof showing the union of practical carpentry with
carving to perfection.

PLATE V.--_Portion of a Carved Oak Panel. The Sheepfold._ The other part
is shown in Plate VI, as, owing to the proportion of this panel and the
necessity for keeping the scale of the plates as large as possible, it
has been divided and shown in two portions. It was begun without any
premeditated intention as to use, the sloping end being the shape of the
board as it came into the author's hands, the other end being sloped off
to match it.

PLATE VI.--_Portion of a Carved Oak Panel. The Sheepfold._ See
description of Plate V.

PLATE VII.--_Preliminary Drawing of a Lion for Carving._ This plate is,
as explained in the text, from a drawing by Philip Webb, the well-known
architect. It was done by him to explain certain facts about the pose of
a lion when the author was engaged in carving the book covers which are
shown in Plates VIII and IX.

PLATES VIII and IX.--_Book-Covers carved in English Oak._ These were
done by the author for one of the "Kelmscott Press" books, Tale of Troy,
at the instance of Mr. Cobden-Sanderson. The relief is very slight, and
is rather exaggerated by the light and shade of the photograph. The
carved portion only of these covers is shown, the size of which is
11-1/2 x 5-3/4 ins.

PLATE X.--_Book-Covers carved in English Oak._ These were done by the
author for Mr. F. S. Ellis's translation of Reynard the Fox. The size of
the carved part is 8-3/4 x 5-1/4 ins.

PLATE XI.--_Carvings from Winchester Cathedral._ This plate is from
sketches made by the author at Winchester Cathedral. The upper one is a
spandrel piece from the traceried arcading of the stalls. The lower one
is a part of one of the carved Miserere seats. The spandrel carving is
pierced; that is, has the ground cut right through. The other piece is
elaborately undercut.

PLATE XII.--_Carving from Choir-Screen, Winchester Cathedral._ This
plate is from a sketch done for the purpose of noting the general effect
of a large mass of carved foliage with particular reference to the
distribution of lighted surfaces in the design.

PLATE XIII.--_Font Canopy, Trunch Church, Norfolk._ The plate gives the
upper portion only of this beautiful canopy; it is supported upon six
posts richly carved on all sides, of which there are five to each post.
The height of the whole canopy is about fifteen or sixteen feet--it
presumably dates somewhere toward the end of the fourteenth century or
beginning of the fifteenth.

PLATE XIV.--_Designs for Carving, by_

_Philip Webb._ This plate gives two examples of designs for carving by
Philip Webb. The upper one is part of a richly carved cornice which was
done for a chimney-piece; the carving was executed by Mr. Laurence
Turner, from whom the author got his first lesson in wood-carving. The
other example is a design on paper for carving to be done in oak. This
was carried out in the paneling of the dining-room at Clouds House,
Salisbury, and looked exceedingly effective. Much of the articulation on
the surface of the leaves, it will be noticed, is got by sharp facets
produced by the intersection of gouge cuts.

PLATE XV.--_Leg of a Settle carved in English Oak._ This was begun by
the author as forming part of a large oak seat or "settle," but has
never been completed. The wood out of which it is carved came out of an
old house at Tewkesbury and was full of cracks which were filled up with
slips of oak glued in and carved over.

PLATE XVI.--_Pew Ends in Carved Oak, Brent Church, Somersetshire._ The
three bench ends shown in this plate are from Brent Church,
Somersetshire. Although rude in execution, they are extremely effective
in design. The bounding form of the molded edges and gracefully shaped
top are worth noticing; the whole evidently the outcome of a nice and
inherited sense of design, without any particular technical knowledge or
experience. The termination of the finials was unfortunately omitted in
the photograph, hence the abrupt line at the top.


[Illustration: I. Old Carved Chest in York Cathedral.]

[Illustration: II.--Figure from the Tomb of Henry IV. in Canterbury

[Illustration: III.--Aisle Roof--Mildenhall Church, Suffolk.]

[Illustration: IV.--Nave Roof--Sall Church, Norfolk.]

[Illustration: V.--Portion of a Carved Oak Panel--The Sheepfold.]

[Illustration: VI--Portion of a Carved Oak Panel--The Sheepfold.]

[Illustration: VII.--Preliminary Drawing of a Lion for Carving. By
Phillip Webb.]

[Illustration: VIII.--Book Cover Carved in English Oak--"Tale of Troy."
(only carved portion shown.)]

[Illustration: IX.--Book Cover Carved in English Oak--"Tale of Troy."
(only carved portion shown.)]

[Illustration: X.--Book Cover Carved in English Oak--"Reynard the Fox."
(only carved portions shown.)]

[Illustration: XI.--Carving from Choir Stalls in Winchester

[Illustration: XII.--Carving from Choir Screen--Winchester

[Illustration: XIII.--Font Canopy--Trunch Church, Norfolk.]

[Illustration: XIV.--Two designs for Carving, by Philip Webb. One
executed, one in drawing.]

[Illustration: XV.--Leg of a Settle, carved in English Oak.]

[Illustration: XVI.--Pew Ends in Carved Oak--Brent Church,


Acanthus, the, 156

Aims and conditions of work, 25

American woods, 48

Animal carving, 161, 191

Animal carving, Swiss, 191

Animals, or figures, in carving, 161, 191

Apprentice and student, their aims and conditions of work, 25

Architectural carving, 223

"Arkansas" slips, 44, 58

Arms, coats of, 177

Aumonier, W., 204, 238

Background, patterned, 96

Bas wood, 48

Beads and moldings to be carved, 119

Beam, carved, in South Kensington Museum, 140, 142

Bear, drawing of (frontispiece), 197, 200

Beast and bird studies, 191

Bed, design and carving for a, 163

Beech wood, 49

Bench or settle, design and carving for, 168, 174, 269, 302

Benches, 44

Bench screw, 48

Berne Cathedral, carved figure from, 191

Bevels, tool, 52

Bewick, studies from, 195

Bird and beast studies, 191

Book-covers in oak, 267, 288, 289, 291

Books, aid of, 191

Boxwood, 51

Brackets, 172

Bread plates, 116

Brent Church, pew ends in, 269, 304

Brier-wood, 51

Builder and carver, notes on the importance of cooperation between, 249

"Built-up" work, 214

Byzantine design, 96

"Candle," 56

Canopy, Font, 233, 268, 298

Canterbury Cathedral, carved figure from, 188, 275

Carpenter's imitation of stone construction, 223

Carpenter's influence on carver, 223

Cartoons, charcoal, 204

Carver and builder, notes on the importance of cooperation between, 249

Carver and joiner, reciprocal aims of, 161

Carving and sculpture, 249

Carving, architectural, 223

Carving, "chip," 63

Carving, heraldic, 176

Carving, Icelandic, 143

Carving, New Zealand, 63

Carving, Norse, 143

Carving, South Sea, 63

Carving, stone, 96, 223

Carving, Swiss, 191

Cedar wood, 166

Chair, sketch of, etc., 145

Character, works viewed as records of, 149

Charcoal cartoons, 204

Cherry wood, 51

Chest, carved, from York Cathedral, 147, 265, 273

Chestnut wood, 50

"Chip" carving, 63

Chisels, 31, 34, 35

Choir-screens, 227, 229, 267, 295

Choir-stalls at Winchester Cathedral, 227, 267, 293

Classical style, revival of, 249

Clay models, 191

Clips, 47

Clock, suggestion of design and carving for, 174

Clock case, suggestion of design and carving for, 170

Coats of arms, 176

Cock, suggestion for carving a, 174

Collotype plates, 273-304

Collotype plates, notes on the, 265

Colors noted on diagrams, 197, 199

Colors of woods, 48

Contours of surface, 103

Corner cupboards, 119

Cornice, design for, by Philip Webb, 268, 300

Craft schools, past and present, 240

Craftsmen, old-time and modern, 240

Cramps, 42, 47

Cross, design for, 177

Cupboards, corner, 119

Cutting, clearness of, 52, 69, 235

Design, 71, 88

Design, application of, 72

Design, Byzantine, 96

Design, factors in the arrangement of, 82

Design, outline, and suggestion of main masses, 191

"Designer" and "Executant," 88, 249

Designs, adaptation of old, to modern purposes, 103

Designs, humor in, 180

Designs, list of fruit, flower, and vegetable subjects, 159

Designs, necessity for every carver making his own, 88

Designs, transferring, 72

Detail, economy in, 84

Diagrams, colors noted on, 197, 199

Distance and light in design, 82

Drilling and sawing, 110

Duomo, the, at Florence, 257

Ebony wood, 51

Economy in detail, 84

Edges of tools, 52

Environment as important as handicraft, 149

Execution and design, 88, 249

Exning, chair at, 145

Figures, or animals, in carving, 161, 191

Finish, surface--texture, 234

Florence, the Duomo at, 257

Flowers as subjects, 158

Foliage, 115, 153, 159

Font canopy, 233, 268, 298

Foreshortening as applied to work in relief, 205

Forms, imitation of natural, 82

Forms, plant, list of, 153

Forms, rounded, 88

Free rendering, 96

Fruit subjects, 94, 157, 159

Furniture, carving on, 161

Gerrard's "Herbal," a source of design, 160

Gibbons, Grinling, 62, 85, 153, 215

Glass paper, 107, 164

Gothic capital in Southwell Minster, 96

Gothic carvings, 96, 180, 229, 249

Gothic influence, 249

Gouges, 31, 34, 35

Gouges, sharpening, 56

Grain of the wood, 48, 69

Grapes, 115, 156, 159

Grindelwald, carved bear from, 200

Grotesque in carving, 180

"Grounders," 34, 37

Grounding, 69

Handling tools, 27, 52, 78

"Hard" wood, 48, 51

Hardwood carving, 115

Henry IV, figure from tomb of 188, 265, 275

Heraldic carving, 176

"Herbal," Gerrard's, a source of design, 160

Heron, drawing of a, 197

Holdfasts, 48

Hollywood, 49

Hop-vine, the, 156

Humor in designs, 180

Icelandic carving, 143

Imitation of natural forms, 82

"India" oilstone, 42

Japanese work, a characteristic of, 125

Joiner and carver, reciprocal aims of, 161

Joiner, the amateur, 115

Joiner's tools, 41

Kauri pine wood, 48

"Kelmscott Press," carved oak covers for, 267, 288, 289

Lance-wood, 51

Landscape in carving, 221

Leather for stropping, 55

Leaves, expedient for explaining convolutions, 209

Leaves, list of, 159

Letters, carved, 165

Light and distance in design, 82

Lime wood, 48

Lion, preliminary drawing for carving a, 196, 267, 286

"Maccaroni" tool, 35, 38, 59

Mahogany wood, 48

Mallets, 44

Masses, right relationship of, 196

Masses, suggestion of main, 191

Masses, superposition of, 205

Medieval and modern choice of form compared, 153

Memoranda, methodical, 137

Memoranda, sketch-book, 137

Method, 137

Mildenhall Church, aisle roof, 226, 266, 277

Mirror frame, suggestion of design and carving for, 166

Miserere seats, 139, 142, 185, 186, 187, 216, 293

Miters, 77

Models, clay, 202

Morris, William, 240

Moldings, to be carved, 119

Museums, 137, 140, 145, 149

Natural forms, imitation of, 82

Nature, studies from, 153, 191

New Zealand carving, 63

Norse patterns, 143

Notes on cooperation, 249

Oak, 48, 157

Oilstones, 42, 52

Old work, 137

Originality, 108

Outline drawing, 191

Panel, carved, "The Sheepfold," 197, 212, 266, 282, 284

Paneling, design for, by Philip Webb, 268, 300

Panels, 72, 125, 170, 197

"Parting" tool, 34, 36

Paste for stropping, 52

Pattern and free rendering compared, 96

Pattern, background, 110

Pattern, importance of formal, 96

Pattern, medieval choice of natural forms governed by a question of, 96

Pattern, Portuguese, 145

Patterned background, 96

Patterns, 121

Patterns, Icelandic, 143

Patterns, New Zealand, 63

Patterns, Norse, 143

Patterns, pierced, 110, 145

Patterns, South Sea, 63

Pear-tree wood, 51

Period "Renaissance," revival of the classical style, 249

Perspective, 127, 205, 219

Pew ends, 269, 304

Photographs, aid of, 191

Picture subjects and perspective, 219

Pierced patterns, 110, 145

"Pierced" work, 214

Pine wood, 48, 71

Pine wood, yellow, 48, 71

Plant forms, list of, 153

"Planted" work, 214

Plums, 91

Polish, 138, 164

Portuguese pattern, 145

Position of tools, 27, 52

Practise and theory, 25

Preamble, 25

Relief, work in, 205

"Renaissance," the, 249

"Reynard, the Fox," carved oak book-cover, 267, 291

"Rifler," 41

Rounded forms, 88

"Router," 41

Ruskin, John, 240

"S," pattern, 121

St. Sophia, church of, 251

Sall Church, nave roof, 226, 266, 279

Sandalwood, 51

Sawing and drilling, 110

Schools, craft, past and present, 240

Screens, choir, 227, 229, 268, 295

Sculpture and carving, 249

Settle or bench, design and carving for, 168, 174

Settle, carved leg of, 269, 302

Sharpening stones, 42

Sharpening tools, 52

Sheep, drawing of, 197, 212, 266, 282, 284

Sheepfold, the, collotype plate, 266, 282, 284

Sketch-book, use of the, 137, 191

Slips, 43, 58, 61

"Soft" wood, 51

South Kensington Museum, carvings from, 140, 141, 142

South Sea carving, 63

Southwell Minster, Gothic capital in, 96

Spoon tools, 59

Stalls, choir, 227, 267, 293

Stone carving, 96, 223

Stones, sharpening, 42

Stones (sharpening), case for, 42

Stropping, 54

Student and apprentice, their aims and conditions of work, 25

Students, the, opportunity lies on the side of design, 25

Studies, beast and bird, 191

Studies from nature, 153, 191

Study, necessity for variety in, 249

Style, 249

Subjects, animal, 161, 191

Subjects, choice of, 82

Subjects, flower, 158

Subjects, foliage, 159

Subjects, fruit, 159

Subjects, in perspective, 219

Subjects, picture, 219

Subjects, still life, 83

Subjects, vegetable, 159

Surface contours, 103

Surface finish, 234

Swiss carving, 191

Sycamore wood, 49

"Tale of Troy," carved oak book-cover for, 267, 288, 289

Tempering tools, 39

Texture and surface finish, 234

Theory and practise, 25

Thimble pattern, 121

"Throwing about," 106

Time, carvers the historians of their, 149

Tool marks, the importance of their direction, 234

Tools, 31

Tools, average number, 31

Tools, blunted or broken, 40

Tools, description of, 27

Tools, handling, 27, 52, 78

Tools, joiner's, 41

Tools, position on oilstone, 52

Tools, position when in use, 27

Tools, sharpening, 52

Tools, spoon, 59

Tools, stropping, 54

Tools, tempering, 39

Tracing, 72

Trunch Church, font canopy at, 233, 268, 298

"Turkey," oilstone, 42

Turner, Laurence, 269

Undercutting and "built-up" work, 214

"V" tool, 31, 34, 36, 59

Vegetable designs, 159

"Veiner," 31, 34, 36, 58

Vines, the, 115, 156, 159

Walnut wood, 48, 50

"Washita" oilstone, 42

Wave pattern, 121

Webb, Philip, drawings and designs by, 177, 196, 268, 286, 300

Winchester Cathedral, carvings from, 190, 216, 227, 267, 293, 295

Wood, hard, 48, 51

Wood, soft, 48, 51

Woods, 48

Woods, American, 48

Woods, colors of, 48

Woods, grain of, 48, 69

Woods, list of, 48

Woods, "soft" and "hard," 48, 51

Work, critical inspection of, from a distance, as it proceeds, 103

Yellow pine wood, 48, 71

York Cathedral, old chest in, 265, 273

Yorkshire settle, 168


Transcriber's Note: Minor corrections were made to normalize spelling
and punctuation. Small caps were replaced with all-caps.

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