Ribbon and bow

This bow and ribbon is an example of what is known as applique work — a posh way of saying ‘stuck on’. The carving can be glued to a fire surround, mirror frame or box, for example, pinned discretely in place through the central knot and the deep junctions.

This is a simple design, especially in its surface treatment. However, it’s worth exploring the many other ways of carving and decorating ribbons and bows; you’ll find them joined together or with complicated rucks and folds in their surfaces.

Orientate the grain across the design; this will give the most strength. Nevertheless there are still weaker elements; in the short ‘tails’ hanging down the middle and the loose ends at either side, so be gentle carving these. Note how other parts of the design gain strength from being tied to each other.

Things you will need..

• 8mm, No.3

• 14mm, No.3

• 10mm, No.4

• 8mm, N0.6

• 14mm, N0.6

• 10mm, N0.7

• 3mm, No.10

• 7mm, No.10

• 10mm, No.10

• 10mm, 60° ‘V’ tool

• 10mm, skew chisel

Wood: Use a fairly bland timber with a Jot of strength that will take detail, such as lime or Brazilian mahogany.

Dimensions: 180 along the grain x 120 x 20mm.

1. Begin the project by attaching or gluing a full sized drawing to your prepared wood — i.e. make sure it is planed both sides. You will be cutting out the ribbon and bow so you will need to bore starter holes in the main bow and what will be a space between the bow and the ribbon.

2. The next step is to cut out the bow and ribbon with the aid of a scroll saw or coping saw. Be sure to keep the cut edges square and cut ‘fat’ — a little to the outside of your drawn line. You can then rub the pierced workpiece on a piece of flat, fine sandpaper to remove any torn fibres from around the sawn edges.

3. The best way to hold this carving is by making a ‘paper sandwich’. Glue the cut-out bow and ribbon to a flat board of waste wood with thick paper -such as a piece of watercolour, crepe or even newspaper — in the join. Use wood glue diluted 20% with water. Once this is done, you can brush the glue onto of the all wood and paper surfaces; clamp the sandwich together; check you have squeeze out all around, and leave to dry thoroughly.

4. Create a blank centre boss for the knot. Line in around the knot first with a ‘V’ tool, then set in and round over with your gouge turned ‘upside down’. Slope down the surrounding wood to meet the boss at a depth of about one-third from the back.

5. The carving so far: the knot-to-be is shaped almost to a hemisphere by the sweep of the carving gouge with the sides of the bow and ribbon sloping cleanly and smoothly into a neat junction, Mark the high spots, i.e. those parts that lie at, or close to, the surface.

6. With a ‘V’ tool, separate the various parts of the carving on each side: the lower edges of the bows from the folding side ribbon; the hanging tails from the start of the side ribbons; and the tails themselves. Begin removing wood with a flat gouge to establish relative changes in plane between the ribbon parts.

7. One important change of plane is the folding ribbon which, in effect, ‘scrolls’ or loops back and behind the lower edge of the bow. With a flat gouge, cut back what will be upper edge of the scroll at 45° from the surface.

8. Remove wood from between the lower edge of the bow and the back of the scrolling ribbon with a narrow No.9 or No.10 gouge. You can reduce the wood here to about 3mm from the back of the carving. Slope in from both left and right sides of the scroll. Don’t undercut.

9. Shape the two main outside edges of the bow itself. Turn a flat gouge upside down and, working with the grain where you can, slope down from the top high corner to the boss. Tilt the blade so you angle the cut down towards the backing board. One of the benefits of the paper sandwich is that you can cut right into the backing board if you so choose; the very edges of the carving are always supported.

10. With a deep gouge, excavate the upper and lower inside edges of the bow. You can undercut a little at the top. For the tight curves, you may need to switch to a shortbent — spoon — gouge. These are finished surfaces so make sure you have cut cleanly and leave only a lightly faceted surface without tears or scratches.

11. You can now turn again to the scroll part of the ribbon. Finish off the outer fold as it abuts the bow with a neat junction. Leave a distinct edge 1 or 2mm thick at the top edge; this helps better give the illusion of the ribbon passing behind the bow. Carve the very end of the ribbon — see also step 12 — in a similar way with a reverse turn. There is no need to undercut.

12. The inner fold of the ribbon scroll is trickier because of the restricted access. To some extent you can approach the lowest surface from below but you may well have to resort to using a selection of flat shortbent — spoon — gouges.

13. The carving so far: note that there are no planes lying parallel to the original wood surface. Also note how cuts in the outline pass through the paper and into the backing board. The bow on either side is well defined and, again, has a delicate but visible edge to guide the viewer. The ribbon on the right is more complete than the left.

14. Clean up the ribbons as they rise to the knot. Slice with flat gouges to carve smooth flowing edges. As a rule, all parts of this carving should flow — after all, it is ribbon.

15. As you can see, the tails and ribbons meet the knot in a tight little junction. Use a small, narrow skew chisel or the tip of a sharp knife to finish off here. The wood fibres across the tails are short and thus weak, so take care not to break them off by exerting too much side pressure.

16. There are many ways of carving knots, some quite complicated. A straightforward, classical approach that gives an excellent impression of a knot starts with two lines that wrap round into each other, rather like a Yin-Yang symbol.

17. Take out a curving’V’groove with gouges, slicing at an angle first from one side of the ‘V’, then the other. Sweep the groove right round to the back of the knot. Don’t use a ‘V’ tool: the curve is too tight not to bind the key! and you’ll not get a sharp root to the ‘V’. You can leave a lozengeshaped centre to the knot, as here, or cut it away entirely. Clean up and finish the knot.

18. Add some interest to the knot with a couple of narrow deep grooves. Flow these round to add movement to the knot.

19. The carving is nearly completed; aim for freshness and movement through clean flowing lines. The surfaces of the ribbon and bow should be well finished — so try changing the lighting and check again. There is no need to undercut more than slightly, especially around the ribbon ends, which can be left square — see step 20. Undercutting will weaken what you’ll find is a delicate carving when taken off the backing board.

20. Add a couple of tapering lines to the ribbons and tails where they meet the knot and would naturally ruck up. Taper these lines and avoid parallel lines. With this the carving is complete, Finish with thin clear beeswax while the carving is still attached to the backing board.

21. Remove the carving from the backing board by sliding a thin spatula in between, splitting the paper. Keep the blade flat to the backing board; don’t lever, especially around the weak ribbon and tail ends. Tidy up any junctions in the openings by backcutting with a sharp knife. Clean off residual paper from behind the carving by brushing on white — mineral — spirits and leaving a few minutes.

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