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Mike Henderson
01-05-2009, 6:13 PM
There are almost as many variations of the carved fan as there are shells. This one is very simple but elegant and easy to carve - a beginning carver should be able to carve this fan.

These fans were used on early American furniture, often on the center drawer of a lowboy. A drawer pull (almost certainly a round knob) was placed in the lower center of the fan. So when you look at the fan we're carving, try to imagine a drawer pull as part of the fan.

I'm using a piece of 3/4" Honduras mahogany about 6 1/2" wide. This piece is longer, but a piece about 10" in length will work well.

The first thing we'll do is the layout. I draw a vertical line 5" from the end (if the piece was 10" long, I'd split it in half), and a horizontal line about 1 1/2" from the bottom (edit: if I was doing it over, I'd use 1 1/4" from the bottom). Using the intersection of those two lines as the center point, I draw a half circle with radius 4", and another with radius 3 3/4". Finally, I draw a small circle with a 3/4" radius.

If you were doing this on a real piece of furniture, you'd have to scale these measurements to fit your drawer.
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We begin our carving by making a downward cut with a #7/25 gouge to outline the lower half circle. Note that I didn't cut exactly to the line - I cut just a bit away from the line. As I do the rest of the carving, I'll "damage" the side of that half circle. As the final carving, I'll trim back to the line and remove that damage.
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Next, I begin cutting away the wood on the outside of that half circle so that it stands proud by about 1/4".
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Next, I need to lay out the flutes. I actually should have done this as part of my original layout, but I forgot to do it then. I can do it now with no problems to the carving. I want about 12 flutes across the fan, which means 6 on each side. I use the dividers and adjust until I get six even spaces.

There's nothing magic about having 12 flutes - you can use as many or as few as you choose - but 12 is a good compromise. If you use a lot more than 12, the flutes get too narrow at the bottom and they're hard to carve. And if you use a lot less than 12, the flutes are too wide at the top. You can use an odd number instead of an even, but then you have a bit more of a layout problem since the center flute will be on the center line, instead of the center line being a cut between two flutes. An odd number will look fine, however.
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Mike Henderson
01-05-2009, 6:19 PM
You can see the six spaces on each side of the center line in the picture below.
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Then draw a line from the center point to beyond the outer circle. It's important that the line extend beyond that outer circle.
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Using a #5/16 (many other gouges will do) I cut the wood down so that it slopes smoothly from the outside to the small half circle. At the bottom of the fan, there's a straight section on each side of the small half circle that needs to be cut. I used a wide #1 gouge because I had it, but a regular bench chisel will work just as well.
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I then took a #3/20 and smoothed down the tool marks from the #5/16. You don't have to do this step but it's nice to have everything smooth.
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Then, using the marks from when you drew the lines before, re-draw the lines for the flutes.
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Mike Henderson
01-05-2009, 6:27 PM
Use your V-tool to cut along the lines, from the outside circle to the inner half circle.
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Next, we'll start on the scallops on the ends of the flutes. We have a problem here because the bottom of this cut is curved. I took a #2/8 and made the plunge cuts, with the cut in the center being deeper than the cuts on the side. You can slant your gouge when making the cuts on the sides to get a deeper cut on the inside than on the outside.
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Now we cut the actual scallop. I'm using a #7/25. If you don't want your scallops to be as "bold" use a #5/25.
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When you make these cuts, try to hold the gouge at approximately the same angle for each scallop. That's actually not hard to do because you naturally hold the gouge about the same each time.
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Mike Henderson
01-05-2009, 6:35 PM
Note that when you make this cut with the #7/25, the outside edges of the gouge will hit the plunge cut before the center of the gouge. You could modify a gouge by cutting back the sides, but that gouge would not be useful for other cuts - so we're going to make do with what we have.

When you pop out the chip, there will be an area that has not been cut in the bottom of the scallop.
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Use a small gouge - I used a #3/5 - to cut away the wood that was not cut by the #7/25.
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Do all the scallops.
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We can now round over the flutes. You have to be careful in doing this because of the way the grain runs. On the top of each flute, I used the #2/8 and cut inward. But on the other side of the flute, I used the #2/25 and cut downward.
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Once you have all the flutes rounded with the gouges, take some P150 sandpaper and sand the tool marks out.
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Mike Henderson
01-05-2009, 6:43 PM
Sand all the flutes so that they're smooth.
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Finally, trim back to the original line of the lower half circle, and round off the arris around the top just for looks. I used the #3/5 for that, and then sanded it.
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The final step is to sand with fine sandpaper - P220.
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Just to show what it would look like finished, I put some oil on it.
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That's all there is to doing a fan. Although I used carving tools, you can substitute regular bench chisels and a carving knife for many of the cuts, so almost anyone can do a fan, even if you don't have a lot of carving tools.

Mike

Dave Redlin
01-05-2009, 8:38 PM
Mike, Thanks for the tutorial. Have ever thought of doing a shell carving dvd? If so, let us know.

Thanks again,
Dave

Mike Henderson
01-05-2009, 8:49 PM
Mike, Thanks for the tutorial. Have ever thought of doing a shell carving dvd? If so, let us know.

Thanks again,
Dave
Sure, I've thought of that, but I don't have any video production equipment. Maybe one day.

BTW, what kind of shell are you interested in? A Newport shell - or a simple shell?

Mike

Dave Redlin
01-05-2009, 10:11 PM
Mike,
Maybe its a challenge or a glutten for punishment....but since you're asking.:)

Dave

http://www.andersenandstauffer.com/HL104.html

Mike Henderson
01-05-2009, 10:20 PM
Mike,
Maybe its a challenge or a glutten for punishment....but since you're asking.:)

Dave

http://www.andersenandstauffer.com/HL104.html
There's a couple of shells on that piece. I could do the shell on the drop (in front) but the main shell is much too complex to do in a tutorial.

Mike

Dave Redlin
01-05-2009, 10:36 PM
Mike,
That sounds good to me! Or maybe the concave Newport Shell from your Townsend Bureau?

Thanks,
Dave

Mike Henderson
01-05-2009, 10:45 PM
Okay, let me see how my time goes.

Mike

Seth Poorman
01-06-2009, 1:22 AM
Hey Mike
I enjoyed the tutorial, I did this fan several years ago from a carving book that I have and it came out almost as good as yours. Although they didnt use sandpaper I remember,maybe mine would have looked a little closer to yours if I would have used it...:o
Great Job!!! I look forward to seeing more.....Heck! Keep this up and us creekers wont have to ever buy a carving book again....:D
Seth.....

Mike Henderson
01-06-2009, 1:45 AM
Hey Mike
I enjoyed the tutorial, I did this fan several years ago from a carving book that I have and it came out almost as good as yours. Although they didnt use sandpaper I remember,maybe mine would have looked a little closer to yours if I would have used it...:o
Great Job!!! I look forward to seeing more.....Heck! Keep this up and us creekers wont have to ever buy a carving book again....:D
Seth.....
What's the old saying? "No picture, didn't happen"?:) Please post a picture of fan you did.

Thanks for your kind words. I'll try to keep doing the tutorials as I have time. Hopefully I'll get a lot more busy in 2009 with paying projects.

Just a comment about sandpaper - sandpaper is just another tool to be used appropriately. I teach beginners to use sandpaper because it improves the look of their project. And having a project come out nice encourages them to keep carving.

Carving is mostly self taught - meaning that you can be taught the basics, but getting good comes from doing carving - a lot of it.

Mike

Seth Poorman
01-06-2009, 1:57 AM
Im not sure if I have shell anymore but I think I have a rose in the shop that I did . Ill see if I can find them..

Charlie Schultz
01-06-2009, 6:40 AM
Hi Mike,
Thanks again for the tutorials.

Did you use the v-tool on the horizontal edges too (the ones initially cut with the #1 chisel)?

Other than the number of flutes, are there any other things to watch out for when scaling the overall size up or down?

Mike Henderson
01-06-2009, 10:55 AM
Charlie - I do not use the V-tool on the horizontal edges. I use a chisel (or #1 gouge) to set the line and once you get any depth the V-tool doesn't work well. The reason is that the "wall" forces you to turn your V-tool sidewards much more than you ordinarily would, which takes too much off the flute that's there - so that side of that flute would be flattened much more than you'd round the other flutes.

What I do is use a flat gouge (maybe a #1 or a #2) to cut downward at an angle to round the flute and deepen the cut at the wall. A gouge with some sweep works better than a #1 because you're cutting along the grain. A #1 could cause splitting, but with a bit of manipulation, you can use it.

I only have 60* V-tools. Maybe if you had one with a smaller angle it would work. They make 45* V-tools.

I can't think of any other scaling issues on the fan but I haven't tried to make really big or really small fans. If you were going to put a drawer pull in the center, you might be forced to make that center half circle a certain size which might make if proportionally larger on a really small fan - but I'm just guessing here.

Mike

[That's one problem with tutorials. I would not have thought to discuss that particular cut but a beginner could have problems there. If I was teaching it in person, I'd demonstrate the cut or see that the student was having problems and demonstrate/discuss it.]

Zahid Naqvi
01-18-2009, 11:58 PM
well, I finally got my fan started. got the center round made up and shaped it to the 1/4" dept. I have started sloping the back ground from the edges of the out circle inwards. Lot more work than I thought it would be, but it's on going. Depending on how much time I get during the week, this may end up waiting until the next weekend.

Rusty Elam
01-22-2009, 8:46 PM
Mike I am trying to do this fan and am wondering if the plunge cut with the 2/8 on the outside of the flute is straight or angled back to the center, its hard to tell from the picture.
Rusty

Mike Henderson
01-22-2009, 9:38 PM
Mike I am trying to do this fan and am wondering if the plunge cut with the 2/8 on the outside of the flute is straight or angled back to the center, its hard to tell from the picture.
Rusty
Rusty, what you're trying to do is make a cut straight down (perpendicular to the face of the blank), but with a curved bottom. So I hold the gouge "upright" but I angle it so that I cut more in the center of the flute than on the outside of the flute. The gouge is not angled towards or away from the center, but is angled side-to-side.

I hope that explains it. This would be easy to demonstrate but it's hard to describe. Think about what you want the final thing to look like and my explanation may make more sense.

Mike

David Keller NC
01-23-2009, 10:06 AM
A comment here about the v-tool question. I do, in fact, use a v-tool to do the outline cuts on fans, but as Mike stated, you really need a 45 degree v-tool to do this, for the reasons he stated.

From the standpoint of historical accuracy (i.e., how was it done?), some of you might be interested that most of the Queen Anne fans from the period (1740 - about 1780) that I've been able to examine have curved ends on the rays, which would indicate a technique and tool as Mike's described.

One related question about this is whether or not v-tools were common to carver's kits in the 18th century. As some of you might be aware, carver's tool kits that survived intact from the 18th century are exceptionally rare. I know of only one that's in the Colonial Williamsburg collection, and there's a unhappily brief description of it in "Working Wood in the 18th Century". It does not appear that a v-tool was included in this kit, and I've heard supposition that a v-tool would not have been a commonly manufactured item during that time period because of the difficulty of getting a consistent thickness on the two wings. Instead, there's substantial evidence that carver's used "veiners" as we would use v-tools today - as outliners and groovers. Typically, a "veiner" would be about #9 sweep in the sheffield system, in about a 2-3mm width.

Jim Kountz
04-09-2009, 10:32 PM
From the standpoint of historical accuracy (i.e., how was it done?), some of you might be interested that most of the Queen Anne fans from the period (1740 - about 1780) that I've been able to examine have curved ends on the rays, which would indicate a technique and tool as Mike's described.

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Dave, can you elaborate on this for me, or maybe post a picture of what you mean? I think I understand but I just want to make sure.

Mike, thanks a million for taking the time to do this, I have one of these to do on the lowboy Im working on and this tutorial is just what I needed.

Thanks!!

Dewey Torres
04-09-2009, 10:42 PM
Dave, can you elaborate on this for me, or maybe post a picture of what you mean? I think I understand but I just want to make sure.

Mike, thanks a million for taking the time to do this, I have one of these to do on the lowboy Im working on and this tutorial is just what I needed.

Thanks!!

Holy cow folks...he's gonna do it!

Classic Lowboy Away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!