Carving Animals on Pine Pillars archive

Friday 19 March 2010

Margaret Williams receives an unusual request to carve an array of animals onto a pair of turned, pine pillars


The doorbell rang one evening and I was faced with a man brandishing two turned pine pillars, each about 900mm long by 50mm in diameter. This kind of thing doesn't happen often, so I asked him in. He explained that he has a market stall which he takes round to game fairs, and the pillars were to be the uprights for the sign over his stall. The requirement was for lurchers, terriers, pheasants, hares and rabbits to be carved around the four main sections and top of each pillar.


This was a challenge I could not refuse. There were so many obstacles, not least of which was that I had never before carved pine! The carvings had to be very shallow relief or the pillars would have ended up too thin to support the sign, and yet they also needed to be seen from all angles. Then there was the technical conundrum of how to hold the pillars in order to carve all of the sections without damaging them. The waste at the ends had been removed after turning, so there was nowhere to which I could attach a clamp.

I devised a way of nestling the bottom of the pillar inside a piece of plastic drainpipe and tying the pillar to my angled Workmate. This was very successful, as I could alter the height to enable me to carve even the lower sections, and I avoided raging backache by sitting on a stool.

Despite all of the difficulties, the pillars were a pleasure to carve and it is interesting to see the amount of detail that can be shown in such shallow curved relief. Makes one wish for a four-poster bed...


After researching thoroughly, I produced a line drawing on tracing paper, which was then transferred to the relevant section of the pillar. The terrier had to be large enough to encircle the pillar without clashing with itself. As each section was 160mm long by 50mm diameter, I angled the terrier down the section.

The drawing was then outlined with a V-tool at a distance of about 2mm from the line. Pine is very soft but splintery and has resin which blunts chisels quickly, so outlining in this way ensured that I did not dent the timber or accidentally flake out wood from the carving. There was no room for error!

I then removed waste up to the V using shallow fishtail gouges. This left the carving standing about 2mm proud of the background. A gouge was then used to take out the wood up to the line and tight corners were left for a fine tool.

The terrier now had edges that sloped and so to make the outline crisp, they needed to be made vertical with fine shallow gouges. I then added surface detail to bring the terrier to life.

Light sanding was done firstly with 150 then 320grit. I did not sand to a very fine finish as the end finishing and sealing was to be done by the client.

Tegan Foley

Tagged In:

Margaret Williams , animal carvings , pine pillard

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Further Information

For further information on Margaret Williams, visit her website