Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 134, October 2016 Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
Here's My Woodcarving!
By Dilo Márcio Fernandino
Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil

EDITOR'S NOTE: We featured Dilo's workshop in our Wood News Online, January 2009 issue .

When I opened the July 2016 issue of the Wood News Online Magazine , I immediately saw Mr. Chris Bagby's smiling face just staring at me and challenging me again... He recalled me to December 2008 when I accepted the Wood News challenge of submitting my workshop in the January 2009 issue . At that time the extraordinary response to my shop led me to a global following of woodworkers, especially from the USA.

I am a 68-year old Brazilian retired executive who lives in an apartment of a metropolis named Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil. My amateur workshop is a 7 ft x 6 ft service closet which has physical limitations that imposed me the motto "minimum of minimum" concerning the purchase of tools. Therefore, I replaced most of the usually mechanized woodworking operations with the single specialty of woodcarving. Thus, I believe I have been working exactly the same way it was done in the 18th century.

During the past 8 years I listened to many American woodworkers' opinions and I got to the personal conclusion that the American society respects the woodworker as a professional. I also concluded that there is a national obsession in preserving its traditional woodworking techniques, as well as a consistent technological improvement in all American hand tools.

Unfortunately, I have been experiencing an opposite sensation in my birth country. Brazil used to have a magnificent artistic past in the 18th century with artworks that demonstrated the high craftsmanship level of our ancestors', who mostly came from Portugal and Italy. However, all those traditional techniques have completely vanished. It seems to me that the Brazilian society tried to induce the myth that all handicrafts were fashionable only at the regrettable times of colonial slavery. As a consequence, the local woodworker's activity is now reduced to MDF cabinetmaking only. Very few woodworkers know how to deal with solid wood and almost none of them know woodcarving technique. In addition, it is virtually impossibile to buy quality hand tools at the national market. Despite this negative social environment, I boldly decided to show my amateur woodcarver's secret face by building my own website in 2010: www.carving-in-wood.com .

During the following 6 years many Brazilian internet users demonstrated their appreciation to my skill but none of them dared to hire my services because of that social prejudice. However, only half a dozen Brazilian "nuts" overwhelmed said prejudice and commissioned me some exquisite projects, the most recent of which I will describe below, including the respective work-in-progress photos.

At the beginning of 2016 a well-educated art collector invited me to his home and showed me a large room full of fine paintings and sculptures. At the center of the main wall there was a rectangular niche where he proudly displays an antique and precious crucifix carved in ivory and brought to Brazil by his European ancestors. Then, he challenged me to create a wood-carved border to be applied around the niche, inspired on a rococo style shrine.

I first developed a full-size sketch depicting the requested shrine and observing the exact dimensions of the niche by doing a change on the overall geometric shape, since the shrine is vertical and the actual niche is horizontal. That draft got the client's immediate approval and I started to draw the precise details for each one of the building sections: Pediment, Horizontal Molding, Two Inner Small Borders and Two External Large Borders.

Once I surpassed this hard creational and technical step, I started the pleasant step of woodcarving in my micro domestic workshop. It is necessary to say that many of my woodworking methods are quite personal and unusual, since most of them were developed to counterbalance the lack of appropriate tools. I mention as an example, the act of gluing a paper photocopy of a carving detail upon the board, instead of drawing it directly by hand, in order to avoid any transcription mistake. Another example is the act of drilling a series of holes in a line that contours any irregularly shaped piece, in order to use the bow-saw in an easier way. Another unusual method is to drill many depth-limited holes, in order to excavate a flat bottomed recess. I also use to perform a sequence of different carving operations in order to carve a molding, for example. For this particular goal, I have built a customized hand saw inspired in the idea of a stair-saw improved with a side fence, so that I can cut a kerf parallel to the edge with a previously determined depth. All these operations can be seen in the photos below.

The chosen wood for this project was the Spanish cedar (Cedrela odorata) and the finishing was done with a layer of synthetic sealer plus an artisanal wax prepared with bee's wax and carnauba wax. The dimensions are, wide: 43", high: 41".

Now that I am idle again, I hope I have made a good use of my free time to express my sincere feelings to the fellows somewhere.

Pediment Construction

Finished Pediment

Horizontal Molding

Finished Horizontal Molding

Two External Large Borders

Two External Large Borders

Two Inner Small Borders

Two Inner Small Borders

Complete Project Assembled Together

The assembly sequence of the carved sections was the following: the inner arcade and the two inner small borders were fixed in place by pressing them very tightly inside the masonry inner space. The horizontal molding and the two external large borders were glued to the wall with the help of some steel pegs. Finally, the pediment was put in place by gluing on its back a wood block with a protrudent steel peg, since the pediment was fixed 2" above the wall. Attending my client's posterior request, I also lined the interior of the niche with plywood.

Complete Project Assembled Together

Dilo can be reached directly via email at dilofernandino@gmail.com . You can also visit his website at www.carving-in-wood.com .

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