IT seems a natural transition to pass to this simple and effective style of wood-carving after some preliminary exercises in the Dragon or Viking manner. The Byzantine style of decoration dates from the early half of the sixth century to the conquest of the Eastern Roman Empire by the Crusaders, a.d. 1204. Among its characteristics are the extremely pointed treatment of the acanthus, and much veining the leaves. In Byzantine architecture, the round arch and dome are conspicuous features.
The design for a picture frame (given on this page) is so simple that it may easily be enlarged, or extended by a repetition of the motive. The frame may be of oak or mahogany, half an inch thick. Get well-seasoned wood, nicely squared, so that no filing or sand-papering will be necessary later on; lay a sheet of blue transfer paper on the wood; over this place the design, and trace it off carefully, using a point of medium sharpness. Clamp the wood firmly to the table with an ordinary iron clamp. Be sure that the grain of the wood is perpendicular in the frame. A rabbet, a quarter of an inch deep, should be left all around the back, for the insertion of the picture or photograph.
Take a large veining tool and go around the outside of the lines of the design, making a groove. In the corners, where two lobes of a leaf meet, put the veining tool or fine gouge straight down, so as to get a sharp corner; then, beginning at the tips of the lobes, cut away the wood, of the back ground, close to the leaf, shading it down into the sharply cut corners.
In pursuing this order, do not chip the outlines of the leaf. Remove the background to the depth of one-sixteenth of an inch. Do not leave it perfectly level, but take the flattest gouge next to the chisel, and, turning the concave side down towards the wood, sweep along the groove made by the veining tool. Then turn the tool convex side downward, and go over the background, in order to obtain irregular hollows – in a word, make the background wavy. After this is done, take a gouge of the third curve from the chisel, one that will fit the outline of the leaves, and, beginning at the tip or apex of the leaf, hollow it out along the midrib toward the stem, making it deepest half way from apex to stem, and, as the stem is approached, bear on very lightly and fade the hollow midrib into the stem. When the stem is reached, take the flattest gouge next to the chisel, and, turning the concave side downward, round the stem a trifle on the top.
Repeat this process on all the side veinings in each lobe of the leaf. Take whichever tools fit the various parts of the outline of the leaf; hold the one used straight up and down, slanting slightly toward the ornament, for undercutting, and make the outlines very crisp, sharp, and clean, and be very careful that the sharpness of the tips is not lost. Choose the tool according to the flatness or roundness of the outline curves, and be sure to keep the corners between the lobes clear and a trifle deeper than any other part of the carving. The background must also be cut considerably deeper close to the ornament than anywhere else, so that the background rolls down toward the ornament. After that is done, take the same tool – flat-curved gouge – as was used for the outline, and follow the midrib and the other veins on the leaf, modelling the ridges between them smoothly into the hollowed-out veins. Be careful to preserve good sweeps to the surfaces. The veining must disappear towards the stem, being heaviest, as pre-viously stated, half way from apex to stem.
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