Bone carving by Nick Pantelides

Today we had a presentation and a variety of topics from one of our long-standing members – Nick Pantelides

Nick’s morning session wasa discussion on carving in other media such as Bone, Alabaster, Soapstone, Ivory, animal horn and Antler.

Bones need a lot of preparation to ensure all the marrow is removed. this includes first boiling the bones in water, then boiling the bones in bleach and finally boiling the bones with salt and vinegar.

To cut bone Nick uses a hand fret saw, holding the pieces in mole grips or a piece of wood with a V-shaped rest.

It goes without saying that you don’t want to be breathing in bone dust – Always wear a mask.

Nick uses ground down chisels or a dremel for bone carving. When using chisels he uses a scoring action.

To finish off his work he sands to get a smooth finish and there are buffing waxes available.

For staining bone he has used concoctions such as onion leaves and coffee.

When asked about identifying bone versus ivory Nick sent around examples of both to illustrate that? bone has fine black spots and that ivory has a grain.

There was then a discussion Scrimshaw which is a form of carving developed?on whaling vessels and involves carving on bone or ivory and then using the soot from lamps to define the carving patterns.

Again ground chisels or a ground nail is used in a scraping fashion.

To replace the soot Nick has used black boot polish which is put on and then buffed off or black ink, the surface is then sanded to remove the ink from the raised surfaces.

Life sized elephant sculptures

I came across a story of these sculpted elephants that are travelling around the world to increase awareness of the plight of elephants in India.   I wondered how these life sized elephants were made?  The best I could find, initially was in The Hindu newspaper

The sculptures have been crafted from Lantana camara, a plant introduced to Asia where it has become a notorious weed; toxic to grazing animals and outcompeting native species leading to a reduction in biodiversity. Sculptures made with invasive plant draw attention to the threats elephants face.”

Each sculpture sculpture is based on an individual elephant and they are made by artists and indigenous Adivasi tribespeople in the Nilgiri Hills of the Indian province of Tamil Nadu.  The villagers normally supplement their income by making furniture using lantana in the style of cane furniture.  It is as good as the cane furniture and half the price

I eventually found a website of the designer that has a video I could not copy, so I took some screen prints of the process.










1 Drawing the animal full size and showing how the armature should be made










2 Using drawing to bend reinforcing rod to shape to make armature










3 Welding the reinforcing rod to make armature










4 Armature with some of the lantana rods attached










5 The structure showing armature and wooden blocks to which lantana will be nailed











6 Preparing the lantana be stripping the bark.   I don’t want to be sexist, but again it is the women doing the boring hard labour.








7 Fixing more lantana to the armature to near full size and shape








8 Nailing on the outer layer of lantana








9 Trimming the lantana









10 Trimming the elephant’s nails









11 Detail of the finished work


The BBC’s web page gives dates of when and where the elephants can be seen

Bob Burton – Journey to being a carver

Bob is a new member and told us about his first adventures in carving.   One day, he had amazing luck, and found an advert in a carving magazine for a Furniture Making school that was only yards away from his front door.  There he could make what he wanted with the guidance of Peter Shepherd, use professional tools and just soak up information.  His first piece was a pie crust table. The top was made out of a solid wood, i.e. the crust was not carved separately and added to the table top.   The detail especially round the central column and the legs and feet is impressive.   He took 12 months to complete the work, time well spent in creating an impressive job, and in learning everything he could














Under the guidance of Peter Shepherd, Bob made a long case clock.   More fine furniture making than carving with lots of fruit wood and laburnum veneers.   The curly edges of the clock face were first turned to be narrower at the top and then carved into the twisted format,











Unfortunately Peter Shepherd left the country and Bob was left to his own devices, but he soon met up with a local group of artists and experimented with all sorts of materials.










This is an array of experiments that may one day be made in a bigger and better form.   The heads are plasticine.   The bird skull is real, and there is a version in wood.   The two bits of wood and plywood, were made using the drawing and plasticine model.









The jaguar head is a traditionally made sculpture, starting with a clay or plasticine master, a flexible mould, and cast in cement mixed with SBR ( SBR is more formally known as Styrene Butadiene Rubber. … When added to a standard mortar or concrete mix, SBR significantly enhances its adhesive strength ).









This gull has a wire armature with a builders expanded foam body, which has been shaped and coloured.


Michael Painter- Master Carver

On Saturday 18th August 2018 Michael Painter gave us another fantastic insight into his carving expertise. He had his career chosen for him by helpful Job Centre employee who volunteered to ring for an appointment. He served his apprenticeship, but did not know that a huge stone heraldic carving was to be his apprentice piece until it was completed. There was 40 employees in the workshop which was designed to give constant north light on work, to avoid the variation in shadow caused by the movement on sunlight during the day. The master carver had the best light and then the journeyman , with the apprentices having the poorest light. The master carver naturally chose the most interesting, challenging work for himself but avoided working in stone where ever possible. Life is not fair?

Drawing of design for client, working drawing and wood prepared for carving












Drawing of design for client, working drawing and wood prepared for carving
The basic aim of master carver is to work efficiently as it is the only way to stay in business. Michael visits his clients to make sure that he knows what they want and that it is possible to carve it. He also sees where the work is to be placed, taking in the prevailing light, the height above the floor level, and whether the audience will be sitting or standing when viewing the work, as all this effects the design of the work. The client receives a drawing of the design or a plasticine model for approval and authorisation. The joiner gets a cutting list and diagram of how the carving block is to be constructed. The carver gets a carving blank made up of kiln dried wood planks glued together as per the drawing. He is down to the basic shape and has less waste wood to carve off. The work proceeds. The most difficult areas are targeted first. With a figure carving, the eyes are the most difficult. Michael leaves the work for a few days to see if the eyes are right. If not they can be recarved slightly further into the wood. The back of the head and the back of another part of the work, are not carved until Michael is happy with the front, as this allows him space to move the work further back into the wood. He says that the face should never be life-size as it is too real and the viewer is confused. A 90% or 110% head is recognised as a piece of sculpture and not real. The level of detail varies with the height of the work above the viewer, the higher the work the bolder the detail.

Michael painter carving an eye











Michael painter carving an eye
Michael went into some detail about carving a face. He gave us the usual proportional measurements for the elements of the face and body, eyes in the middle of the head ( not face), etc , which can be found in any drawing or painting book on portraiture. What is not in those books, is that the eye ball is about the size of a ping pong ball and we only see the front of it. If the carving is a portrait, then these “usual proportions” have to be carefully checked against the model. Michael started to carve an eye. He started with a fairly large fluter, roughing out where the eye should be, then using smaller fluters he defined the eye, a closed eye at this point. The eye is opened cautiously with a small fluter,to look half asleep. Then when he is sure that is right, it is opened to up to the full extent, remembering that sad eyes slope down on the nose side and happy eyes slope the other way. Only when this looks right is the eyelid defined with a bull nose gouge. The pupil is carved, remembering that it tends to rest on the lower eyelid. He does not hollow out the pupil which is a practice that seems to come from Greek and Roman carvings, which if fact had the hollow filled in with a colour stone.










Michael finally showed us how to carve hair. He drew overlying leaf shapes and cut them at the top to look like tiles on a roof. Working through various fluters from a middling one to the smallest, defined the lazy S shape of hair