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Thread: Ship Carving and Lettering

  1. #1
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    Default Ship Carving and Lettering

    Well Bunch,
    Here is a new post that is done to possibly make carving and or painting a boat name a pleasure rather than a scary challenge! All manner of the arts involved will be covered as best I am able to.

    While new systems are constantly popping up such as computer designed layouts and vinyl letters. Still, in my humble opinion, there is still room for work that is done by the human hand rather than a computer when it comes to this art form. So, this well worn old geezer will attempt to remove the mystery of the art form of hand carved and hand painted ship carving, gold leaf and painted letters for those of us who love of that which comes from the heart, mind and hand of man!
    Cheers,
    Jay aka Bird
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-03-2019 at 11:06 AM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    I think I have gotten this straightened out now. So, this site is now open for questions and insults!
    Jay

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Sorry guys, that I pushed the wrong Button when I posted the new thread on Boat art and carving.
    So, this will be the other as I am not able to open the other. Here is the very first carved sign I ever made. That was over sixty years ago. Last year it came back to my shop for a fresh up. It was made of white pine and was carved entirely by free hand routing in a rustic pattern. Later I came up with the Idea of sand blasting copy as it was simpler than free hand or router carving copy. This was based on making jelly jar glasses for my parents at Christmas when I was in grammer school. It was a matter of masking off the glasses and cutting a pattern to be sand blasted. It proved to work fine on wood and so the sand blasted wooden sign was born in California. My partner Walter Methner and I did a lot of business all over the world until the process caught on and everybody was doing it.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-01-2019 at 09:10 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Looking forward to this Jay!!

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Thanks Jay, a brilliant thread and I would like some content in the font you used on “ Taleisin” transom and using a v-groove tool please, if you’re taking requests. One day Ill carve my boats name board ( on problem is I don’t have a flat transom so it’ll be a steam bent piece) I’m wondering how to form the curves of the letter R for one and keeping the straight legs nice and even, and forming the serifs. Just about all of it!!!
    Thanks

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Here is a bit of pattern work I did for the Wooden Boat foundation long ago. This was carved in wax. We made up eighty by vestment casting for the Treasure hunt that was held at the Catalina Island Isthmus in 78. This was sponsored by Pusser's Rum and a good party with BBQed Ribs, Garlic bread and BBQ beans was enjoyed by all! Pussers donated ten cases of rum for this one! I am trying to remember if the map to the buried treasure chest that contained the plaques and some of the rum was mapped by counting steps to landmarks or by stagger stagger fall. Maybe it was stagger fall fall stager fall! It was a grand party!
    Bird

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    I look forward to seeing what comes of this thread. Following closely Jay.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Thanks Sailor! Perhaps the easiest way to gain accuity with letter design is to practice on a sheet of the news paper want adds on a slightly tilted piece of plywood as a desk or easel. A broad felt tip pen at least a half inch or more in width is a good tool to use for becoming aquainted with letter forms. Art supply stores stock special felt tip pens for this purpose. A wide pen is better than a narrow one at the start! It will train you to allow the pen to float rather than being held in a death grip.

    The news print is disposable and the layout of the page will keep you lined up as to vertical and horizontal lines. If you plan to letter a boat, remember that it is not always possible to have the area being lettered plumb and square but start by working with a plumb and level practice layout. Speed ball makes a lettering book that features many styles of Font or you can look on line for a book of alphabets. The most important thing to get used to is to think of moving only the arm rather than the fingers or wrist. Pulling is better than pushing the straights and curves of letters as the body is more accurate pulling than pushing. This is one reason why Japanese saws feel so natural to use. Just practice holding the wide felt pen with a relaxed hand and merely pulling, evenly spaced, vertical lines for a while. Remember that the hand is relaxed and the pulling is done by the entire arm. Fingers do not enter much into the forming of the stroke flow, it is the arm combined with a relaxed hand and fingers that creates a smooth even stroke.
    More on this later.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-01-2019 at 09:40 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Thank you, Jay, for starting this! I'll not have much to contribute beyond questions, but am really interested in the thread!
    BQ

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    OK...while they're not boat related, I'll post pics of my first attempts at carving. I'm no artist and have a total of zero of previous experience with relief work, but some friends wanted me to make and decorate some frames for trophy scrolls:
    So...the first attempt, for an SCA Heavy Fighter's scroll:
    3M Scroll Frame-Heavy 5.jpg
    And one for the Rapier Champion:
    3M Scroll Frame-Rapier 1.jpg

    I still have to do frames for the champions of Archery, Thrown Weapons (axes & knives & stuff) and the tough one will be for the Arts and Sciences Champion. Any and all feedback or suggestions on improving what I can do with a 1/4" chisel and little carving knives is welcome!
    Last edited by Hugh MacD; 07-02-2019 at 12:13 AM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Thanks for starting this Jay. To my mind well executed incised lettering is almost magic. The machine methods just don't quite make it.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh MacD View Post
    OK...while they're not boat related, I'll post pics of my first attempts at carving. I'm no artist and have a total of zero of previous experience with relief work, but some friends wanted me to make and decorate some frames for trophy scrolls:
    So...the first attempt, for an SCA Heavy Fighter's scroll:
    3M Scroll Frame-Heavy 5.jpg
    And one for the Rapier Champion:
    3M Scroll Frame-Rapier 1.jpg

    I still have to do frames for the champions of Archery, Thrown Weapons (axes & knives & stuff) and the tough one will be for the Arts and Sciences Champion. Any and all feedback or suggestions on improving what I can do with a 1/4" chisel and little carving knives is welcome!
    One thing that is impressive is how clean your work is! You definatly have a style that is all your own that dates back to the very beginning of raised graphic descriptive carving! Think early Cuniform and descriptive Icons such as found on the monuments of Gobekli Teppe. It also looks a bit Art Decco. Nicely done! You might want to expand your concept by using the largest chisels you are comfortable with by adding a 3/4" flat and several sweeps like #2 or #3 gouges. This will allow you to do fast clean up of he back ground.
    A Japanese sword plane will also allow reaching into tight areas of the background.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-03-2019 at 11:11 AM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    One of the most difficult forms of carving is what is seen done by Hugh MacD above. The creation of a smooth back ground around raised copy can be very challenging; especially if the panel is curved. One of the most handy tools I have for smoothing out backgrounds is the Japanese Sword plane. This is a tool that was used prior to the invention of the blade in block pull plane from Japan. These tools can be found at most Japanese tools supply houses. I trade both with the Japan Woodworker and Hida Tool Works of Berkley. Here is a job that I did for myself. On a dinghy I got in a trade for another boat. The boat already had Quarter Badges on both sides of the hull aft that were sporting the name Spanky. We opted to re-name the little boat "Twinkle" as we had taken our H28 back to her original name of "Bright Star" from that of "Lucky Dragon". It was a challenge to carve the new name without going through the wood and into the hull. So I chose to do the copy in raised letters rather than incised. This was done in a crowded shop space with very little room to swing a carving maul in. The spear plane really came in handy for flattening out the back ground and letters that were raised Tolkin prismatic in form. The area was too crowded to even allow a router to be used to rough out the copy. So, the job took a bit of time to execute.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-13-2019 at 10:52 AM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering


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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering


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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Donald View Post
    Thanks Jay, a brilliant thread and I would like some content in the font you used on “ Taleisin” transom and using a v-groove tool please, if you’re taking requests. One day Ill carve my boats name board ( on problem is I don’t have a flat transom so it’ll be a steam bent piece) I’m wondering how to form the curves of the letter R for one and keeping the straight legs nice and even, and forming the serifs. Just about all of it!!!
    Thanks
    This is a modified Roman Font Andrew. The copy had to fit the single plank it was carved into as the planks have a V and Bead form on their edges. Larry and Lynn wanted this because they planned to leave the wood bare and allow it to bleach out. Hence the squashed copy!
    The Letter S ended up looking a bit squashed do to the space restriction and the need to make the left side balance to the extra length of the right. Because the word "of" is done in script, I chose to make the V a bit curved on the right side which is a departure from Roman. Basically it all is just classic Roman except for the changes mentioned here. For the arch board you plan, Cutting the curve from heavy stock is the best approach rather than bending it to fit the transom.

    The "Speedball Lettering Book" is a good source of classic Roman and other alphabets for you. For a few dollars you can get one from Amazon. Art stores can supply you as well.
    Thank you for your interest in carving!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-02-2019 at 04:26 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Twinkle is a lovely name for your tender. Also, I dig the letters. Very lovely. They fit the name and feel and sense of the project in a sort of onomatopoeic way.

    Thanks for sharing that.

    Peace,
    Robert

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Twinkle is also the name of "Bright Star's" mascot. Her mother was named "Star"
    jay

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Thanks Jay, I would never have noticed the squashed S until you mentioned it. Well disguised. I’ll take on board your info about cutting the curve from solid stock too, just gotta find some big enough!! I have an eight letter name so it needs to be reasonably long, maybe if i reduce font size.
    One more request for you, if I may. Can you do some posts about gold leaf or is it better to paint out the letters?

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Ok Andrew,
    Gold leaf can last a long time as it does not tarnish. Abrasion is it's enemy so, it needs to be protected by varnish on a boat. Clear gloss artists acrylic works too. Gold paint will look granular. It oxidises and will turn brown so it is not worth messing with! Since it is rather involved, If you don't mind, I think we should start with a pattern for the copy first.

    A full size cartoon drawn first on shelf paper and then a tracing on drafting tissue or vellum is the way most sign writers go unless they are so confident as to do a layout on a transom in chalk and go for it without making corrections to appearance and balance. It is safer to do the layout on shelf paper and make corrections until it looks right to the eye! Once you are satisfied with the look and the vellum tracing, hang it on a window backwards so that it is reversed. Leave it for a while so you can look at it and get used to the way it looks. Any spacing or shapes that are out of rythm will be immediately apparent and corrections can then be made on another piece of tracing paper by sliding the overlay from one side or another to correct the spacing. One thing that should be taken into consideration with hand lettering is that all of the copy does not sit on the same line. Some letters such as S,O Q and U and often R will drop slightly below or above the base lines. This creates a rhythm of form and causes the copy to come alive rather than being boringly applied like stick on vinyl letters. Spacing is a matter of taste but, it also has its rhythm. That is why viewing the copy in reverse is so important. Also, the leaving it up for a while allows you to look at it more than once until it becomes a part of your subconcious mind and allows you to work without thinking. This is when the work truly becomes a part of the artist; or the artist becomes a part of the work!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-03-2019 at 11:51 AM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    In the foto of "Taleisin", check out the two power boats in the back ground and take note of how the life comes into the copy with the heights of the letters above and below the base lines. "Zanzibar" is jazzed up with a flourish under the name and the copy set in an arch form. It is really interesting! And look at the wild drop on the lower leg of the letter "R". The other boat, to the right, is not nearly as interesting. The "N" could make a better statement. A serif added to the upper junction of the diagonal and vertical would help it pop and make the name more interesting just from the start. And, the lower diagonal on the "R" could come alive with a slight drop below the line as it curves into its taper. From what it appears to be, that diagonal looks like it is ending above the base line.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-03-2019 at 12:23 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Thanks Jay. There is so much to consider beyond the obvious. None of this becomes obvious until its pointed out by an artist.
    Can you tell me what is Vellum?
    A

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Available from art supple stores and blueprint supply houses Velum is clear frosted acetate that comes in sheets or rolls. It is very handy for correcting letter spacing and shapes or using for printable design work. I used to draw on Linen that was filled with sizing. For boat design it was unsurpassed but took a lot of time to stretch and prepare as it had to be sanded and filled several times. Tracing paper is also handy but fragile. Incidentally every time I look at the name "Twinkle" on the dinghy, I wish I had taken a bit more time with design as the "K" never has looked quite right to me with that weird upper diagonal
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-03-2019 at 10:25 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    It is wise to choose an alphabet of the letters you will use for an intended carving and learn to work with all of the letters of the alphabet of choice by using the newspaper layout method. Black ink and even a pen with a nib made of wood will allow you to practice without having to search for a proper pen. Japanese carpenters use an ink called Sumi and a pen, Sashi, made of bamboo for marking their layouts. Using these pens and ink are a lot cheaper than the large felt tip marking pens that are popular today for sign work. The pens can be cut with a chisel to match the kind of work you are doing. Some times a square 90deg. tip works and often an angled pen is better. So getting several bamboo pens is a good idea. https://www.toolsfromjapan.com/wordpress/?p=465 After all, the earliest forms of writing were done with wooden nibed pens. Being able to place your hand against an easel and drag a plumb and straight vertical line is a step in the right direction. Also, being able to draw a horizontal line falls into the same category. The fingers should be relaxed and lightly pressing on the work surface; just enough to allow the hand and pen to glide over the paper. The control, as mentioned before comes from the entire arm. Fiddely motions with the fingers will only cause the copy to loose its clean sweeping motion to make curved letters and serrifs. With the horizontal line you will be drawing a line that is much thinner than the vertical. Later you will be able to combine the two to make the serrifs that give grace to Roman capital letters. Choosing the Classic Roman alphabet will teach the discipline that is needed for drawing all manner of other fonts. Sometimes the wrist will be involved but mostly you are working from the arm.
    http://www.hidatool.com/takumi-sumis...amboo-set-of-2
    also a bit more information from another satisfied user. https://www.toolsfromjapan.com/wordpress/?p=458
    While I use the ink line in my woodworking it is also handy for inking the pen for lettering practice.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-04-2019 at 01:11 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    Available from art supple stores and blueprint supply houses Velum is clear frosted acetate that comes in sheets or rolls. It is very handy for correcting letter spacing and shapes or using for printable design work. I used to draw on Linen that was filled with sizing. For boat design it was unsurpassed but took a lot of time to stretch and prepare as it had to be sanded and filled several times. Tracing paper is also handy but fragile. Incidentally every time I look at the name "Twinkle" on the dinghy, I wish I had taken a bit more time with design as the "K" never has looked quite right to me with that weird upper diagonal
    Jay

    See? That explains everything.

    The “weird upper diagonal” of the K is my FAVORITE part of the carving.

    Peace,
    We Obviously Splice Differently, Eh?

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Jay, I don't do as much carving as I used to. but, after seeing your metal head
    mallets a couple of years ago, I got the "Lathe Bug" to make a few.
    they come in handy for a multitude of projects that need just a little tap.
    Brass, Aluminum and Stainless.
    MetalHeads.jpg


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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    For the Fourth of July, the nameboard, and other carvng, of the replica L'Ermione, the 24-gun French frigate that brought Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette to the United States during our revolutionary war:

    s IMG_0034 cr.jpg

    s IMG_0038.jpg

    s IMG_0035.jpg

    s IMG_0029 cr.jpg

    s IMG_0010.jpg

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Quote Originally Posted by John-1948 View Post
    Jay, I don't do as much carving as I used to. but, after seeing your metal head
    mallets a couple of years ago, I got the "Lathe Bug" to make a few.
    they come in handy for a multitude of projects that need just a little tap.
    Brass, Aluminum and Stainless.
    MetalHeads.jpg
    Beautiful work John! Which one is your favorite?
    Jay

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    L'Hermione is indeed an lovely ship with an amazing amount of attention to carved detail. The carvings are beautiful! I really wanted to see her when she was here but it was not in the cards as I was pressed by other obligations. Thanks for the great pictures Greg!
    Were you able to go aboard her?

    But, the ship is even more important to me because my ancestor Johan Hagey was Laffayett's comrade in arms, and Aid Decamp as well. Johan came to America aboard the original ship with Laffayett. After the War of Independence my great grandfather many times past, opted to stay here in the USA. According to my Great Grandmother who was a Hagey I am the sixth direct descendant of Johan Hagey. I even have a miniature painting of Lafayette and other momentoes that were given to John as a token of friendship from him. John Hagey owned two river steamers with his sons on the Tennessee River in later life; the "Tennessee and the Cumberland" The sons were twins who were named Thomas Jefferson Hagey and George Washington Hagey.

    I wrote to the people who were in charge of the construction of the ship, long before the carvings were made, offering my services to
    assist with her construction as a ship carver. Sadly I never recieved an answer. I think if might have been a result of my limited knowledge of speaking and writing French as the native speakers have an aversion for those of us, Yankees, who louse up their language!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-05-2019 at 12:11 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Thanks Jay.
    the one on the far left is aluminum and I use it a lot.
    the 4th from the right with the dark handle is my favorite.
    I have given a lot of them away as gifts or in tool swaps on other forums.
    fun to make, for sure. I have a 18" copper billet that I have but it is just so
    danged hard. will stick to brass and aluminum for future projects.
    4th from the left is stainless - I did that one just to see how difficult it would be.
    all are nice. just like all tools, each has their own personal traits.
    [I turned them all on my Harbor Freight wood lathe with a metal chuck].

    .

    .


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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    See? That explains everything.

    The “weird upper diagonal” of the K is my FAVORITE part of the carving.

    Peace,
    We Obviously Splice Differently, Eh?
    Different ships different long splices!
    Bird

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    It is time to get back to the subject at hand which is carving and hand lettering. It does take a bit of time to develop a comfortable feeling when working with letters either carved or painted. So a bit of practice each day will allow one to become comfortable with the tools of the trade without making it a chore that must be done. One thing that can help, if you are into the daily crossword puzzles in the paper, is to practice a similar motion of relaxed fingers holding a ball point pen and connected arm movement in putting each letter in the squares. Here, the arm and hand merely move on the skin and muscle tissue rather than an actual sliding of the entire hand and arm as when larger copy is inscribed. When you are taking a coffee break just a moment or two of forming letters on a note pad with a ball point pen can help. The pen will react to the amount of pressure applied to it so a slight thick or thin line can be produced. Amazingly, the daily practice can help to improve hand writing skills as well. Practice sheets of special lined paper for this purpose are avaiable from Amazon if you wish to practice letter sized alphabets rather than working large letters on News Print. The more you practice, the better you will become. Layout will be easier to see and letters will flow out of your pen without effort!
    I will post some copy here as soon as I am able to find a break to shoot pictures.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-05-2019 at 12:38 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    It is time to get back to the subject at hand which is carving and hand lettering. It does take a bit of time to develop a comfortable feeling when working with letters either carved or painted. So a bit of practice each day will allow one to become comfortable with the tools of the trade without making it a chore that must be done. One thing that can help, if you are into the daily crossword puzzles in the paper, is to practice a similar motion of relaxed fingers holding a ball point pen and connected arm movement in putting each letter in the squares. Here, the arm and hand merely move on the skin and muscle tissue rather than an actual sliding of the entire hand and arm as when larger copy is inscribed. When you are taking a coffee break just a moment or two of forming letters on a note pad with a ball point pen can help. The pen will react to the amount of pressure applied to it so a slight thick or thin line can be produced. Amazingly, the daily practice can help to improve hand writing skills as well. Practice sheets of special lined paper for this purpose are avaiable from Amazon if you wish to practice letter sized alphabets rather than working large letters on News Print. The more you practice, the better you will become. Layout will be easier to see and letters will flow out of your pen without effort!
    I will post some copy here as soon as I am able to find a break to shoot pictures.
    Jay

    That is precisely the purpose of the Doodle drawings I do, to keep my hand and eye sharp. I just draw random shapes, like circles, and triangles, and squares, and such, to keep the hand and eye sharp, so lines come sure and smooth.

    Of course, I mean brush and pencil art, and not carving, but the same same applies. Keeping the hand and eye tuned helps when it’s time to do work.
    Well, this is digital, with a stylus, but the same principles of line thickness and pressure and smoothness of movement and all that apply.
    36EEA12F-93F1-42CE-AE67-0C48154CF425.jpg

    I hope this attachment allows everyone to zoom in enough to see the carved name board on the transom. To keep it sort of relevant to the topic.

    Jay, we may not really understand each other, but I think we see some things the same way. From COMPLETELY different angles, as we’ve established, but I certainly see and appreciate you, Man.

    Peace,
    Robert
    Last edited by amish rob; 07-05-2019 at 01:23 PM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    That picture makes me smile although the person in the cockpit does not seem to be very happy. The boots hanging outboard really tell the story.
    I think he needed a pair of "splatchers" as Arthur Ransome once described. They leave mastodon tracks! Great picture Robert!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-09-2019 at 11:57 AM.

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    Default Re: Ship Carving and Lettering

    Here is another mermaid that was cast in foam from the original carving. The copy is hand lettered and done in gold leaf. Note how the letters are not all evenly set on the bottom and top lines for the copy. The S is both above and below the lines which was done to emphasize the message. The Q also hangs below the bottom line a bit which gives a bit of artistic license to the message. The two A's meet above the top line for the same reason. The lower convergence of the diagonal and 2nd ascender meet below the lower line which looks good in Roman letters for one of the four N's but not on all to allow the effect to not be repeated and become monotonous. The 2 in 21 is slightly larger than the one to grab attention to the message. Not obvious but still there is drop shading done in black. The letters look a bit wavey in relation to each other because the sign board is wavey. Again, the best way to check a layout is to hang the cartoon on a window backwards and let it tell you if it is in or out of balance.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 07-09-2019 at 12:23 PM.

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