View Full Version : Carving on Chest

Chris Matthews
10-24-2009, 9:55 PM
Had a client who wanted a blanket chest and a carving of sea grass on the front. Took a month to figure out how to carve sea grass and then two months to do it on the brazilian cherry front. Since this was my third carving (the other two were quite small) I didn't think I did to bad. Unfortunately the pic does not show the background very well (dirt, waves, sky) but the grass does stand out. Any suggestions on how to photograph this to get a better pic - lighting, hiring a professional, etc - would be welcome.

Phillip Bogle
10-25-2009, 2:48 AM
Which beach did your sea grass get copied from?????
Had to needle you a bit! That is really a nice looking job! If you were from the coast like me you could tell some sort of story about the native sea grass and how the natives made blanket chests for trading -------:D

How was the Brazilian Cherry to carve? It looks like it takes detain very nicely. True? I have used some wood like Basswood and have a miserable time with splintering and chipping off. How was the BC? Is the background textured in?

You built the chest and did the carving?

Chris Matthews
10-25-2009, 11:22 PM

The seagrass is from the Oregon coast. They gave me a pic they took and I worked from that.

The Brazilian Cherry is pretty hard wood, but it has a nice grain to it, so the carving was all mallet work but I did not have to do any finish sanding which was nice.

I did design and build the chest. This is the first time I put a carving on a piece of furniture and it was a bit scary hoping all the parts came together and I didn't glue the carved panel in upside down!

Christopher Fletcher
10-26-2009, 2:53 AM
That is a beautiful chest. I would be very proud of that work!

Cody Colston
10-26-2009, 3:11 AM
That's a beautiful chest and a great design. I like it a lot and I really like the carving. The G&G touch with the lifts is a good feature, too.

If I were you, I'd have professional photos taken. They aren't expensive and I think would show the detail much better.

How about some more info on the chest...dimensions, finish, are the legs ebonized or ebony?

Yitah Wu
10-26-2009, 8:00 AM
Best lighting to show the detail would be with no flash and sunlight at an acute angle.

Fantastic carving BTW

Phillip Bogle
10-26-2009, 3:28 PM
Chris: That is a very high quality piece. You should if you can have someone shoot pro photos. Still sets are my favorites. You take your time and get creative on the shot. I know that Bend has several good photographers and you might get a really good deal if you can have him shoot as a fit in on his schedule. You may have to leave the chest with him for a few days. As a retired graphic artist and professional photographer, I will agree that a good pro should be able to capture the detail in your photo. I know that there is a bit of expense involved in a studio shoot, but you never know when you will really want some high quality shots to submit. Ten years down the road you might end up kicking yourself, if you do not.

This is a good point for the rest of us. If you need to document an item that was lost due to theft or calamity, a set of good photos can mean a big difference in financial settlement, and even proof for recovery.

Chris -- is that Yaqunia Head in the background? I live about 16 miles south of Cannon Beach, and I KNOW there is no beach grass in Bend. That is why I was teasing you. I figured that you had a photo or a sample of the grass. I just wanted to poke some fun about you folks that live in the high desert. My cousin owns the Harley Davidson dealership in Bend, so couldn't pass up the chance for fun.

Skip Spaulding
10-28-2009, 8:12 PM
Chris, that chest is a real work of art. It must be a great feeling to not only design something that beautiful, but also build it.

Chris Matthews
11-23-2009, 11:28 PM
Sorry to be so long in responding, but have been busy being busy.

Here are the plans for the chest. The legs are Wenge, the frame is Cherry and the panels are Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry). The chest was lined with cedar after an oil finish ala Sam Maloof. Have fun if you decide to build it!


Mike Henderson
11-23-2009, 11:55 PM
That's some terrific carving. You have real ability.


Mike Cruz
12-03-2009, 10:59 AM
Wait a minute...you carved the piece and THEN put the chest together? WHAT?!?!?!?!?

No, no, no! You are supposed to build a beautiful chest (and you did!), put it together, rest it on its back, screw up on the carving, and end up with a "prototype" that you get to keep for yourself. Geesh, do I really have to spell it out for ya? :)

Really nice job on both the chest and the carving. I think pro pics are in order. Especially if there was a profit margin that warrants it. Home pics just don't usually do any justice to pieces of art like this.

Jim Paulson
12-03-2009, 8:12 PM
Hi Chris,

Thanks for posting such a beautiful piece. Like some others have mentioned many of us work mostly in softer woods when we carve. I usually carve in basswood or butternut. Hopefully, I'll be carving in mahogany or cherry in the next year or two when I work into some period pieces. But as you show here, you captured some awesome detail with chisel and mallet in harder woods. I personally like the combinations of woods that you combined into your design. I'd love to see more pictures too.

Take care,


Jim Kountz
12-03-2009, 8:30 PM
Chris, that is a beautiful job, you really have a gift for carving!! When I first read the posts title however I winced a bit thinking about someone carving on my chest. That sure would hurt!! LOL

Faust M. Ruggiero
12-05-2009, 7:02 PM
The relief is very nice, especially since you say this is only your third carving. The best way to photograph carvings is with the use of side light. You need to get your light source coming at an angle so the photo shows shadows. It's kind of the same way you light your carving bench. Move a work light around at different angles and heights. Avoid lighting straight on, it washes out the depth. It's OK to photograph straight on, the trick is to make the light come from a place that benefits the photo.

I am curious about the comment you made about poor results in basswood. Most carvers love basswood. It's grain is limited and though soft enough to carve easily, it holds detail really well. I can't help but think you may have had a bad piece or maybe your chisels may have been sharpened at too steep an angle or not honed to a polished edge. A good test is to take a freshly sharpened #7 or #9 and push out a cove and look see if the cut surface shines. It should.
If not, use your preferred honing method, and try again. I hate to see you miss the enjoyment of carving in such wonderful wood.

Dave McGeehan
12-11-2009, 8:25 AM
This is only your third carving? Obviously, you're a natural. Beautiful design and execution!