Mary May's on line wood carving lessons ***AND turning blanks for carving a Philly Highboy rosette #1: Basic beginnings for a new carver...

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Blog entry by xraydav posted 10-06-2014 10:25 PM 2169 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Mary May's on line wood carving lessons ***AND turning blanks for carving a Philly Highboy rosette series Part 2: Moving beyond the first 13 online lessons.. »

Have been selling these deck cooler cabinets pretty well this summer. My twist is to carve on the front of them. Team logos, peoples names, company logos… etc. But my carving skills were defined by he sharpness of the Knack knife I was using. Went to Woodcraft in Walpole MA and saw Andrew Teixeira do a carving exhibition a month or so ago. Got the bug, but the first class was not until November. So I googled wood carving lessons and found Mary May ! And that was a very very good thing. You can pay the 100 and change up front or pay by the month, $10 or so a month. The first 6 videos I watched took me from pretender to hungry to learn. Videos on selecting gouges and chisels, Sharpening same, and basic classes that show step by step how to carve things.. was right up my alley. Soon I was on eBay and looking for deals. Good chisels are $35-$55 each new (woodcraft). Or you can find them used for 18-30 on ebay. There is a big turn over check back often. Mary May taught me if its German, Swiss or English, its going to make you happy. I have a blend of Pfeil, Sorby and Addis at the moment with some cheap chineese tools I bought years ago and ripped of their stubby round handles and made some nice longer ones for that are good because you will spend a lot of time sharpening them and getting your sharpening skills down. The better tools hold an edge much better.

Any way I am just beginning, done the kindergarten stuff and am having a ball and moving on at the pace of about 2 lessons a week right now.

SECOND ENTRY 10/10/2014 9:50am

It has been 3 weeks since I started this and I feel like I am growing daily in carving. I am having problems getting to things like mowing the lawn and finishing projects on my work bench because I want to carve wood…

The lessons are so well thought out. If you start with #1 and work your way through #14 you will find you have developed so many skills that will keep you from getting into too much trouble. I skipped a a couple and went to carving a “Rosette for Philadelphia Highboy” This project so intrigued me, I just had to give it a shot. I have a lathe and was able to turn my blanks on the lathe which gives you a nice start when your going to carve. Without a lathe 1/3 of your time will be in shaping the block and that is after using the template you can down load and cutting your 4×4 blank on your band saw. So I see the lathe as a good companion for this project. I will post on how I did the lathe work next entry, but now I want to show off my rosette.

THIRD ENTRY 10/10/2014 10:22am

Safety First – ALWAYS I keep these four lines framed over my lathe.
1. safety glasses – roll up sleaves – no loose clothing
2. rotate you workpiece by hand before starting the motor and make sure your on the right speed
3. Keep tool rest within 1/4” of work piece
4. Always introduce your lathe tool to the workpiece with your hand low so that the dull part rubs softly and then slowly raise your hand till your just starting to cut. Tearing out? Lower your hand.

Turning the blank for Mary May’s Philadelphia Highboy rosette
You can save yourself a lot of shaping before you begin carving by using the lathe to prepare the blank. Here is how.

Download the template from Mary’s site and print it out. Transfer it to your 2” thick block of wood. Make sure you dimension the block first to get front and back parallel. Before continuing, X front and back corner to corner to find center on both sides. Now cut out the pattern on your bandsaw or with a coping or scroll saw.

Install your tapered center

Adjust the tail stock to make sure its centered in your lathe and turning true

Mark out your dimensions, I write on the highest point to I know where my rest needs to clear. The left 7/8’s inch is for the tenon. Do not scrimp on the tenon size you don’t want your chuck jaws to bite into your finish work.

Turn your tenon to 2 1/2 inches

Load it in your chuck and your ready to turn. Get the back profile out of the way. Later I thought if I turned my tenon to 2” I would have had enough clearance to not worry about getting my lathe tools too close to the chuck.
But this works just fine.

Now go back to the template and set your calipers to 1/2 the width of the center of the rosette.

Now use your calipers to scratch a line, then improve the line with a pencil once your start.

Also measure from the outer edge to your flower center and mark 1/2 between… now you have a high center mark.

Work outside first

Then define your center circles outer edge to 1/4” deep and work from outer high spot to this 1/4 deep

Round off your center… and make sure to check with your caliper to be sure of dimension

Now you have a nice surface to carve on, you also have a center hole if you use a carvers screw to attach your work to your bench. If your into double sided tape and denatured alcohol like my teacher so be it. And if there slight imperfections in your turning, don’t worry, your going to carve it up anyway!


After the rosettes, I started to feel cocky. I was working on a blanket chest and it was rail and style construction with poplar panels. So with my new found confidence… and a request from the customer for a sea shore theme..

I really wanted to make the sand dollar look realistic with the 5 raised patterns they usually all have…

I made this the center panel of the chest…

It is not complete yet and I will show completed pics as soon as the finish dries… but in the mean time, I think the panel is not bad…

-- David, Norwood Mass,

4 comments so far

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 1708 days

#1 posted 10-06-2014 11:29 PM

Thanks for the information. I bought several of Mary May’s DVDs before she opened this new format—they are all excellent! The lady really knows what she’s doing when it comes to carving and teaching carving.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 1708 days

#2 posted 10-10-2014 11:05 PM

Very nice work, and great follow up with today’s two entries. Great photography and well written. Thanks for you labor of love.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View a1Jim's profile


115166 posts in 2993 days

#3 posted 10-11-2014 12:27 AM

Very interesting blog ,and super photo work up. Mary May has to be good even Charles Neil has taken one of her classes.

-- Custom furniture

View Bob Easton's profile

Bob Easton

1 post in 3087 days

#4 posted 10-12-2014 12:59 PM

Thanks David! Good tutorial. Lots of pictures help.

and YES, that’s a great looking rosette!

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