Publication dates are random and unpredictable and often filled with helpful information for wannabe Calligraphers and Engravers…as well as those who already are!  Your input is welcomed and appreciated in the Comments block at the end of each piece.  Let me hear from you.

Along the theme of how basic pen & brush Calligraphy can, and often does, play a major part of a project where the drill is the final rendering tool, here is a project a young minister, who shall go unnamed, asked me to do for his brand new north Texas home about to be finished in mid-2011.  I worked with and dearly loved the young man’s grandfather 40 years prior, so I offered to do the piece, gratis, with the understanding I’d get an invitation to come view it in the new home when mounted above a gorgeous fireplace.  All agreed.  We were both anxious for the project to be completed.


In the previous post, I showed you my adjustable table, now on the right side of the photo.  I’m at the other stationary table where I do smaller pieces, although this is a much larger finished piece than usual, done in smaller sections and taped together.  I’m using a 3/4″ flat, chisel-edged lettering brush and india ink on lined graph paper.


Since my lined graph paper were individual sheets in a pad, I taped the pieces together for the finished quote.  The composite became my pattern. When the four words, each on a different sheet, were lined up, properly spaced, and taped together, my pattern was complete and ready for placement.


To save some of you uninformed folks…as I was!…the trouble of looking it up, Cruce, dum spiro, fido has nothing to do with a stupid dog. It means: When I breathe, I trust the cross.


With a long metal ruler, I carefully trimmed off the excess paper at the top so the pattern would fit my piece of wood. Since my days as a layout draftsman and circuit designer at TEXAS INSTRUMENTS (1963-1966) I’ve used a surgical scalpel with non-sterile surgical blades for my intricate trimming and cutting.  You could call it a ‘Rolls Royce-grade EXACTO hobby knife’….but…it’s really a scalpel!

IMG_0712I found the center-line of the heavy chunk of cedar, then found the center-line of the Calligraphed words, and lined them up.  Each end was taped to secure its position on the wood.

IMG_0714Recently, I posted a short video entitled STIPPLING that showed the process of outlining a pattern with the drill to create the outline of the letter.  When the outline is finished, the pattern is pulled away and the letters are filled in with a touch-and-lift, all inside the letter’s pattern to create the complete letter.  This is usually done on metal, glass, and crystal. Seldom is the process used on wood, though it certainly can be.  Here, I’m simply defining the letters with the dots with a #4 round carbide bur.  The drill must be kept vertical; this photo was snapped an instant before the drill was completely vertical for the deep dot.

IMG_0722The letters are not being stippled, but the drill is pushed, vertically, through the outline of each letter to create the total shape of it in the wood.


Here, the first three letters are revealed showing the dots outlining the pattern.  Note that when there is a thin part of the Calligraphy stroke, there is only a single line of dots to maintain the integrity of the thicks and thins of the original hand-lettering.  The space between the dots is generally about the width of a dot.


All letter outlines are dotted and now I’m ‘connecting the dots.’  Good light is so important; I’m using an OTT LIGHT here.

mantleWhen a letter is completely outlined with the shallow dots into the wood, they are then blended together with a solid line.  The bur is put into shallow dot and pushed deeper; the drill is then pulled, or pushed, toward the next dot, cutting the space between them.  The drill is kept in a vertical position so not to ‘undercut’ the edge of the letters.  Without lifting the drill until the need to reposition the hand for a more comfortable position or direction, a steady and deep cut is made along the dots.  Note that this one began about 1-1/2 inches from the top of the d, on the left side.  The portion of the e at left shows all the dots to be connected with the deep cut between them.  Often I’ll skip portions of a letter to move on, maintaining a comfortable hand position, then go back and finish part of a previous letter.


The outline of each letter is now cut about 3/16 inch deep into the wood by connecting the dots.


When all the letters have all the dots connected with a deep cut around the outline of every one, the same #4 bur is used to ‘chew’ out the wood inside each letter.  In the thin strokes, I must be careful to maintain that thinness of the original letter by keeping the deep cut no wider than the bur.  In the ends of some of the strokes with a sharp termination, a smaller bur is sometime used to keep the stroke very thin.  Only in the wide, open areas of the letters I’ll sometimes use a #6 or # 8 round carbide to remove the wood faster.


As I remove the wood from the inside of the letters, I keep a wide brush to constantly keep the letters clean of the dust and small debris so I can see where I need to take out more wood.  The process generates a lot of dust as you see on the large table.


Finished!  The young minister requested no color in the letters.  Best to leave natural and I agreed.  Total project time was about 5 hours.


This will look great, gracing the top of a rustic, rock fireplace in a brand new home.


The young minister was all smiles the day he came back for the finished piece.  That was July 15, 2011.  Have no idea where the new home is, or if there really is one, but I’m still listening and watching for my invitation to come see it.

After four years, wonder if the piece went up on eBay instead?

-Ken  •  214.250.6958

The November Workshop will touch on wood…just a bit…and have lots of glass, metal, and ceramic items.  Still have 4 seats open.

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