Tower and Stars: Carving A Family Shield

I recently completed a commissioned carving of a large shield with a family emblem consisting of a tower with three stars. It is one of the larger sized commissions I have done, measuring 19″ wide by 25″ high and 2″ inches thick – carved from a single piece of old growth Honduran mahogany. I purchased the board from someone who had stored it in an old warehouse since the 1980s, and it was difficult to tell at first what it would look like – rough sawn and covered by decades of dust. I hand planed the board, as it was too wide for my planer, and the glow of the warm grain that emerged from the dingy exterior was a very welcome sight. This turned out to be one of the more beautiful pieces of mahogany I have carved, and I feel honored to have been able to create something from such a magnificent old tree.

The shield is more of what I would call heraldish than heraldic – I started by looking at traditional depictions of heraldic castles and towers but did not adhere to the strict rules of heraldry when creating the design. I incorporated a high level of detail in the stonework of the castle – something I knew the mahogany wood would be particularly suited to. The beveled edge of the shield features a dovetailed meander, another design detail borrowed from traditional heraldry, but adapted to add movement and interest to the border of the carving. Additionally I carved a fine rippled texture into the background, to catch the changing light and to compliment the texture of the tower stones.

The oil and wax finish on this piece brought the mahogany wood to life – it is always a magical transformation that brings out the deeply hidden beauty of the wood grain. Now it is in its new home, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to create this celebration of family history.

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