Preview: Scrollwork and How to Carve It

June 4, 2012

Avatar Maynard Bray

Boats planked with wood lend themselves so beautifully to carved-in decoration that it’s surprising you don’t see more of it. Details really make a difference, and a well-executed scroll, a carved-in boat name, a star, or a cove stripe will enhance any boat’s appearance. As do cabin windows when they’re framed out and set inward a little from the surrounding surface, carved-in features indicate that the hull planking has thickness—and therefore substance. Painted-on decoration surely helps, but you can’t beat stuff that’s actually carved in.

I‘ve been wanting to decorate the bow of our Handy Billy launch ever since we acquired her, and this year it happened. My friend Reed Hayden, who is a boatbuilder as well as a skilled wood carver, agreed to doctor up the sheerstrakes with a scroll of my design. He makes it look easy and the entire process took only about an hour. As a first-timer, you’ll take longer, but the important point here is that you can learn this skill, and watching how Reed goes about it will help you get started. At first, you’ll go slowly, but with care, your results should be acceptable. Practice will increase your speed.

Reed marking cove for wood scrollwork carving

Tracing around a paper pattern to create the scroll outline

To get a feel for how Reed holds and manipulates his tools as he carves away at the boat’s forward end, click on the video below. Don’t miss it!

After Red finished his carving, I primed with BIN and gave the scroll a finishing coat of cream. Gilding was tempting, but paint is more in keeping with this boat’s plain finish. Launching followed, and here is how

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