Thursday, 20 September 2018

Carved Viking Headboard

This post details the processes undertaken in this personal project, from beginning to completion.
It is made from five different timbers - Hardwood Plywood (WMP) and Redwood Pine for construction with a Cerejeira veneer, Lime wood for the carving and Sapele for the frame.
Lime wood is also known as Bass wood or Linden wood.
Finished headboard

Stage 1 - Veneering

Firstly I tacked the central panel of the headboard. It's made from a Cerejeira Teardrop Veneer on a Hardwood plywood and Redwood Pine substrate. From what I researched, Cerejeira is a Portuguese cherry tree. The Veneer had to be flatten first due to the teardrop cut. Not an easy veneer for a rookie like myself. It wasn't far from a burl veneer, in that it was difficult to get totally flat, due to the irregularity of the grain direction.

For this I used the press technique, as I had no access to any vacuum presses. Veneer softener was sprayed onto the fragile raw veneer and placed between two weighted flat sheets of plywood and paper. It was left for a couple of days until it was completely dry.

Veneer flattening attempt 1 - not enough weight

Veneer flattening attempt 2 - more weight added
After the veneer was sufficiently flattened and dry, the next stage was too seamlessly join the two sections of veneer to cover the panel size required. To do this the two veneer sheets were laid on top of each other and the sides taped. A straight edge was clamped and the veneer was trimmed with a Stanley blade. (see pic below). Once this was done, more tape was added to the side that was cut to form a hinge. Then the other tape that was on the side was removed to allow the veneer to be opened like a book and glued onto the substrate without the join moving.
Trimming veneer

The PVA wood glue was rolled onto the plywood substrate and the veneer placed on top. Again the piece was weighted down until firmly stuck and any overlap trimmed off. After fully drying the surface was checked for any lumps that didn't glue down. These where cut along the grain with a blade and glue was injected using a syringe, and a weight was reapplied to that area.
Gluing the Veneer onto face of the Plywood panel

Thinner cuts of the softened veneer were used for the lipping on the sides of the panel.
Gluing the lipping onto the sides

Stage 2 - Carving

I chose to use the late viking Urnes style for the carving, based on this wonderful carved door.


A sketch for the design of the carving was done in Affinity Photo, as it allowed for easy adjustments and placement of reference points. Afterwards it was sliced into A4 sections for edge-less printing.

Some tweaks were done during the carving stage itself, around the top panel section. It was done too improve the flow of the design and too add more subtle detail variations, like moving heads, feet,  adjusting curves and adding flourishes.

Blue carbon paper was used to transfer the printed designs onto the Lime wood for carving. The reference points were used to realign the separate A4 sheets to the correct location for tracing.


All carving was done by hand with Henry Taylor carving  chisels and a Morakniv, except on the last last two panels. A mini router was used for the first stage to reduce the amount of work, which it didn't time wise, as the router took several passes to remove that much material. But it did save the hands from any more blistering :)

The above GIF helps illustrate the 3 passes that I broke the carving down into.

1) The depth material was removed first.
2) Then the overlapping areas were carved too the required heights and the large basic shapes were also carved.
3) The final details were then carved.

The fourth frame of the GIF shows the final finish, obviously wasn't done until very near the end ;)
Also the area of joints were not carved until after the panels were fixed together with six wooded dowels. This allowed for a seamless transition between the panels.

The carved Lime wood panels completed
Close up 1
Close up 2

Above are two closeup images of the carvings to illustrate the level of detail achieved.

Carved panel assembly:

Unfortunately and unavoidably, the thin, but wide Lime wood timber cupped and bowed a little. The affected panels had to be planed to remove any deformation and the sides re-squared before they could be assembled. Below was my solution too not having a bench vice to hold the timber for planing. Four F clamps and two blocks of timber were used as an ad-hoc a bench vice.

Ad-hoc bench vice
Off-cuts of the plywood were glued to the back of the Lime wood to increase its thickness to the same thickness as that of the veneer panel. This in turn also helped strengthened the Lime wood against any future warpage.

The 3 panels were then glued together using six wooden dowels.

Staining and sealing:

The carving was then sealed with two coats of different varnish/turps mix.
The first coat being a more fluid 3:2 (60% varnish and 40% turps) making sure the wood absorb a lot of the mixture. I let it dry for 24 hours before a light sanding.
The next more viscous coat was 4:1 (80% varnish and 20% turps) again drying for 24 hours.

A mixture of artist oil paints was applied, coating the whole carving. It was let dry and then I started the arduous task of scrubbing and applying paint stripper to wear down the paint in a natural looking way.
I'll be honest, this was the most painful part, but was worth it for the natural ageing look. Any other method I tried look too fake or Disney'esque. Too seal the oil paint, three coats of beeswax was applied.

Stage 3 - Runes (Younger Futhark)

I felt that the central veneer panel was too plain compared to the carvings, so I decided to put Runes around border to help soften the transition between details.

For authenticity, the Runes were translated from English into Old Norse, and then written using the 'long branch' (Danish) version of the Younger Futhark alphabet.

The Younger Futhark was the alphabet used during the Viking age, containing only 16 runes. It evolved from the more aesthetically popular Elder Futhark alphabet (2-8th centuries) which was Proto-Norse, so came before the Viking Age (8th-12th centuries). It has 24 runes making it slightly easier for translation.
The Medieval Runes (12th-16th centuries) a 27 rune alphabet, later evolving from the Younger Futhark at the end of the Viking age.

Although the 2 top below images the runes are written in the later Medieval Runes, chosen for aesthetic reasons. These were rewritten back into the more authentic Younger Futhark Runes before carving.

Written on masking tape to gauge the spacing between runes. The Runes were written directly onto the Veneer for carving.

Showing Medieval Runes, later rewritten into Younger Futhark Runes

A mini router was used to cut the long straight lines either side of the hand-carved runes

Extreme close-up of  carved Runes

Stage 4 - Gilding

Later I decided further the theme the headboard by dedicating it to the main Viking healer goddess named 'EIR' onto the center of the veneer panel, as this sort of linked to the meaning of the surrounding Runes.

The Runes were gilded using a high grade copper leaf gilding sheets, as copper was the metal associated with healing and with the goddess 'EIR' by the Vikings.

The Runes were filled with wood filler to smooth out the roughness of the wood grain and for a better ground for the gilding to adhere too. I chose not to use a bole, due to the amount of detail in the Runes, instead opting for faster drying PVA based glue since I wasn't going to be able too burnish at that small detail anyhow.

Once the gilding was cured, all panels were sealed with 2-3 coats of beeswax. Which did dull the metallic of the copper a little, but not by much. Too much sheen and the copper could look like gold leaf, so the beeswax worked out for the better :)

Stage 4 - Construction and Framing 

The frame is made from Sapele hard wood. The top two corners were mitered and the bottom ones butt jointed as according to the style of of viking door construction.

I use the router too cut a trench along the frame that I would later gild with copper.

Pine dowel to support screw fixing
A dowel had to be inserted into the back of the frame at the bottom to allow a screw to gain purchase in the end grain (illustrated above).

FRONT - W.1415 mm x H.799 mm x D.30 mm
BACK, showing headboard construction.
The frame was attached with recessed brackets, that were screwed onto the plywood back. .

close-up detailing the copper edge trench of the frame

The trench was gilded using a copper metallic paint. The paint worked better than the copper leaf as it produced a more smoother finish. If I wanted to use the copper leaf I'd have to use bole and burnish it using a agate stone tool, which I didn't have. I'm pretty happy with the metallic paint though.

The frame was then finished with an oil/wax based varnish as it brought out the colour of the Sapele timber better than beeswax would of.

Two heavy duty picture brackets have to be added yet, that will attached the headboard directly to the wall

All in all, a really fun project to do, well... apart from removing the oil paint on the carving part :)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Colour studies

These where done with the colour mixing principals of VHC - Value, Hue, Chroma.

First of all you choose the nearest tube (local) colour and then mix it to the right level. After that you adjust the hue and then the chroma/saturation. Mixing this way you don't muddy your colours as much and therefore retain a higher chroma as your mixing to the highest chroma until the last step. To remember this steps I use vhs same as the old video tapes, makes it easier.

Tip: also when adjusting the hue of a colour always mix to the nearest hue i.e. if you want an orange don't mix yellow and red as they are too far from each other on the colour wheel, but mix yellow with cadmium scarlet.

Her are a list of colours that are evenly spaced around the colour wheel:
Primaries: Cadmium Yellow Light - Phthalo Blue - Alizarine Crimson
Secondary: Phthalo Green - Ultramarine Violet - Cadmium Scarlet
Tertiary: Permanent Green Light - Phthalo Turquoise - Ultramarine Blue - Magneta - Cadmium Red Medium - Cadmium Orange

You can start off with just the primaries and secondary colours then expand later to the Tertiaries.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Ceramic gyrus

Notebook - Ceramic designs 2

Link to the post with finished pieces: Ceramics

Notebook - Ceramic designs 1

Here are some of the design from my notebook that were later made into the ceramic pieces from the earlier post: White ceramic pieces

Map of a phone

This piece came about during my map series but I didn't use it in the end. Thought it post it for prosperity.
A2 heavy cartridge with mixed media