1846 Nauvoo Temple Relief

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Project by freddy1962 posted 04-19-2014 12:26 AM 935 views 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Carved in black walnut with mallet & knives. Trimmed in white oak, mahogany and poplar. Finish is 28 coats of lacquer. 42” x38” x 2.75” A very long story, I will keep it short. In 1999 or so I read an article about the Mormon Religion (LDS) announcing plans to rebuild one of their original Temples, on the original site in Nauvoo, IL. The article had a pic and I thought the building was cool. The original Temple was destroyed by a tornado and later a mob from a neighboring community burnt the Temple and drove the Mormons out of the area.

Their wasn’t any real pictures that the LDS would release to the public and the internet was in it’s infancy at the time. The LDS sent me a 3” x 5” post card, that is the only thing I had for reference for layout. I started carving as the building itself was being constructed. I had a store that was going to take it on a consignment basis. I carved along until I couldn’t continue anymore. I had caught up to where I needed to wait and drive up and take pics to get details where I could continue. I put the piece in storage. Well I was 75% complete and the piece sustained major water damage where I had it stored. It cupped badly, blowing all the mitres apart and had terrible staining. I corrected the damage and put it in storage out of frustration.

Last year, or 10-11 years later, I pulled it out of storage and completed it. Mentally it was a good thing to finish. I put it in a gallery for sale in Nauvoo after completion. After about 4 weeks a child tried to climb up the thing and it almost tipped it over. The gallery owner and I decided to pull it out. So now it was recrated and put back in storage for maybe another 10 years. LOL

-- JEFF Illinois (Banks of the Mississippi)

13 comments so far

View Kelly's profile


51 posts in 598 days

#1 posted 04-19-2014 12:37 AM

Thats awesome! I’m a member to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and this is one temples I really want to visit.

View NDakota's profile


34 posts in 335 days

#2 posted 04-19-2014 01:32 AM

Man I wish I had that kind of talent! very immpressive

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


919 posts in 423 days

#3 posted 04-19-2014 03:59 AM

Impressive carving.

Impressive that you were able to correct the water damage too. Maybe you could explain how you did that, it might be useful some time.


-- Jeff NJ

View freddy1962's profile


910 posts in 338 days

#4 posted 04-19-2014 05:56 AM

Thanks for the nice comments. To answer your question Jeff. This piece had cupped probably 2” if I recall. Meaning, if you threw a string line on it, the center was out from the ends 2”. The water had soaked in the top pretty bad and left a dark stain. I flipped the piece over and placed 2×4s along the ends. I then put a few 8” concrete blocks on top, in the center on a board running across. I then took a mist bottle and watered it down pretty good every other day or so. It slowly corrected itself, after about a month if I recall. It’s been awhile. I over-corrected it a bit and then cut red oak strips 3/4” x 3/4” and glued them up into on large panel. The panel was a snap fit from the top to the bottom and 2 or 3 inches in from the sides to allow for movement. I then glued the piss out of it and set the panel in the back and put maybe 4 blocks on it. It has held good.

I do high relief or go deep with the background. When you do this the wood WILL move. Over the years I learned a lot by trial and error or screwing up. On this piece, I had to go real deep or probably 1/8” from going through the walnut by the steeple. I had to go deep to get the steeple to set back. I carved the radius line above the building to get the depth and if the light hits the finish right, it looks like a glow coming off the top of the building. Or at least in theory,haha. Also to prevent cupping I use multiple layer of trim around the main carved piece. I hose it down with glue and finish nail the same way everytime. Being 10+ years now, I would have laid out and carved this differently now. I was basically committed to the way I did things then.

To fix the water stain I sanded the exterior frame with a random orbit until the stain was gone. This meant I had to retap all the lines in the details. I call these diamonds and triangles. On the inside detail of the frame it takes 4 triangles to make a diamond initially. Then you go to the right and jump over the to be diamond and carve 2 triangles and you have the diamond behind you. Then go around until you’re done. This was all done with a 1/8” double bevel chisel. To get a triangle you make 3 taps (cuts) down in with your chisel and then flip towards the center. Tap, tap, tap and flip the piece you carved out. The larger detail on the exterior of the frame was done with a 1/2” double bevel chisel. I believe their are 16 triangles to make a diamond and their is an illusion of a different pattern within the pattern. I really don’t remember myself without looking, haha.

The frame was laid out with a 6” metal engineers rule, an awl and a very sharp pencil. To get started you need straight lines. Basically this whole piece is parallel lines. You lay it out with a pencil and then use a 2” chisel to begin. Tap the chisel in and then while the chisel remains in the groove you made, slide the chisel to the right about half way, tap again, move to right and tap again. Continue this and you’ll have a straight line across the piece everytime. This cut line then can be used to guide to your smaller width chisels. Walking the dog baby. Sorry to ramble and hopes this may help someone.

-- JEFF Illinois (Banks of the Mississippi)

View freddy1962's profile


910 posts in 338 days

#5 posted 04-19-2014 09:23 AM

-- JEFF Illinois (Banks of the Mississippi)

View aussiedave's profile


3014 posts in 613 days

#6 posted 04-19-2014 11:00 AM

WOW! that is amazing piece of carving. At first glance I thought it was a CNC engraved carving but when I saw the enlarged pics I could see it was hand carved. Awesome carving thanks for sharing.

-- Dave.......Keep calm and make more sawdust....

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


919 posts in 423 days

#7 posted 04-19-2014 02:18 PM

Thanks Jeff, that might knowledge come in handy some time.
Amazing after all that, how good it looks.

Bet it feels great to finish it. Things that I don’t finish always way heavy, and once I do finish it, it just feels good to get off the list.

-- Jeff NJ

View a1Jim's profile


113015 posts in 2366 days

#8 posted 04-19-2014 03:35 PM

Impressive carving great job.

-- Custom furniture

View John Olsen's profile

John Olsen

29 posts in 380 days

#9 posted 04-19-2014 11:41 PM

That’s quite a long-term project, and very well done. Have you thought about consignment shops or galleries in Utah? If you had a chance to visit the Nauvoo Temple during the public open house right after it was built, you may have seen the extensive woodworking on the inside. If I remember right, it’s all either dark stain or walnut.

View jakeprater's profile


89 posts in 378 days

#10 posted 04-20-2014 02:48 AM

Great work, really impressive, both in scope and detail.

Thanks for sharing!

-- All this sawdust.......wait........ what happened to my board???

View freddy1962's profile


910 posts in 338 days

#11 posted 04-20-2014 02:17 PM

Thanks Dave, Jim, John and Jake. John I did try briefly to get it out in Utah. That is probably my best option. I missed the open house at the Temple. The man who custom built the doors and windows for the Temple was also the man who was going to display the piece in his store. He died about 5 years ago. I used to go to his shop and watch him work using hand tools.

-- JEFF Illinois (Banks of the Mississippi)

View helluvawreck's profile


16135 posts in 1656 days

#12 posted 04-20-2014 02:30 PM

Impressively detailed carving.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4441 posts in 2751 days

#13 posted 04-20-2014 11:37 PM

I’m LDS and have been in the Nauvoo Temple. The wood work on the inside is incredible. Most of it is dark. A very nice depiction of the temple.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

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