We don't need no steenking overarm router... or How I hand-carve gooseneck moldings.

The inlay I designed and installed, the moldings carved, and some linseed oil applied.
During the holiday, I spent a fair amount of time working on my cabinet. The gooseneck moldings needed to be carved to match the returns.  This had to be done freehand with carving chisels (no overarm router in my shop), but it only has to match perfectly at the miter. It can (and should) vary a little as it goes up the molding. This is an important thing to make sure the molding looks right. It should not be perfect when hand made. To me, machine precision is just wrong in this situation.

First I laid out the molding, using the return as the template. Both the profile of the molding and the thickness at the facade back had to be scribed onto the work. I also marked a line on the inside of the molding that corresponds to the depth of the waste that existed above the entire profile (i.e. I could remove all of it without taking any of the profile away). This is akin to cutting rabbets when using molding planes to cut straight sections of profiled work.

Profile I am aiming for.

First I used a purfling cutter to mark out the fillet at the top of the profile. I deepened this mark with a carving knife. I then cut away all the waste down to the inside pencil line using a very long, very sharp paring chisel.

Rough cutting the waste

Final cuts.
 After I had the rabbet cut in, I used the same chisel to cut the remaining waste down to a bevel that terminates on the inside pencil line (determined by the return molding's bottom fillet) and the terminus point of the top curve in the molding. One has to be very careful near the volute, as the grain rises there and it is very easy to split off the work (you can see the rougher quality of the chisel work in this picture).

With the bevel cut, I then turned to my favorite #8 Addis carving gouge. This gouge saw a lot of work on this piece, as it was responsible for most of the volute as well. Taking great care, I carved a trough down the center of the bevel to guide the gouge. I then took progressively deeper cuts until the profile was roughed in.

I then used a wider backbent #8 gouge to act like a jointer plane, knocking down the highest of the facets left by my gouge. 

This left a very interesting texture in the molding.  I had a very hard time scraping this away, as I thought it looked very nice as it was. 

Neat texture left by the gouge. I may leave them on a future piece.
As I am aiming for period-correct in all respects, I smoothed the facets down quite a bit. You can't really see them, but if you touch the molding you can feel them. This matches exactly many of the period pieces I have been lucky enough to study. 

The finished molding (and a sneak peak at the inlay layout.


  1. Looking good Zach! Are you going to show this at the Detroit Institute of Art in March?

  2. I am planning to Mike, if you all will have me again. I will bring my spice chest, this piece, and whatever else I can finish between now and then. My wife wants a Hepplewhite huntboard but I'm not sure it will be ready in time for the DIA show.