Paper & Scissors

I found the wood sitting in the shorts at my favorite hardwood dealer. It was very dark, heavy, and dense. It was mahogany but so dark and heavy that I felt that it was a wayward piece of Dominican and not Honduran. It was just what I wanted.
I was interested in, one with a distinctive font ( Barnhard Modern) and to give it both a center and ends that undulate. The result was pleasing. At shows, people run their hands over the banner as a sensual experience, precisely what I wanted.
You must carve banner ends to appear delicate when viewed from a distance. But up close, there needs to be enough heft that they’ll stand up to the abuse they’ll get on a transom. For a show display, you have to compromise. People are way closer to the carving than they would be in another boat.
The actual end carving is pretty simple. But the lettering was a bit different. Lots of banners are curved, but in most, the area which is lettered is flat. On MANDALAY, the field of the lettering undulates. So, the lettering does not stay in the same plane while you are laying it out, or carving it. To experiment with this, I advise using wood no less than 8/4 in thickness. Any less, and it will be too thin.
First, I carved the banner with all its curves and undulations. It’s essential to control your pleasure in removing wood. Easy. Remember that the effect comes from the smoothness of the curves and contours. Abrupt changes will ruin the look. Periodically take a break to place it in natural light. Turn it upside down and see if the movement of the wood flows.
For lettering, you have several options here: Old School layout by hand; or New School computer layout in vinyl or paper. I chose a compromise between hand layout and computer layout on paper. The key to the paper template here is that paper is flat, and the surface is not – hence the title: Paper & Scissors.
To follow the undulations, you slice the areas between the letters to get them to lay in the correct planes and places. You also need to adjust the kerning ( distance between the letters) as you layout. When completed, take the design into natural light, turn it upside down, and check to see if it still looks proportionate and balanced. I left this for a day and came back to it fresh the next morning; rested eyes see mistakes.
After the layout was complete, the letter carving was like any other letter carving project. The finish is about eleven coats of Captain’s Z-Spar rubbed out after the first three priming coats, and after each succeeding one. The lettering I painted with One-Shot yellow sign paint. Two thin coats are better than a single thick covering.
Do yourself an enormous favor and allow the varnish to cure before Gold leafing. Gold leaf has a nasty tendency to stick to anything. Just dry varnish appears cured, to gold leaf though, it’s an open target zone. I frequently allow a week or more for the varnish to cure; move on to another project, and come back later.

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