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16th. Century Venetian gilded tabernacle frame with hand cut and carved mouldings.

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Adam W.

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So as not to clutter an already busy BA thread, I'll put this one on its own, as it includes a lot of planed mouldings.

For my final BA project I'll be building one of these.


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It's an early 16th century Venetian picture frame which is at the V&A museum.

Looks fancy doesn't it ? But you'll be surprised how it's made, I was.

The ornamentation is applied stucco and I've already made two of the four sections. One for the top (entablature) and one for the bottom (predella).

The ones on the side and around the sight edge moulding will be made next week. It all has to be finished by the end of the month, so that I can gild it in time.




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The firs step is to make the backing frame so the joinery can be fixed onto it and as it's all applied mouldings, it needs to be fairly robust. I expect the whole thing to weigh 25kg when it's finished.

The cornice is made in two parts to save on timber. The first piece is a series of rebates to create fillets and the dentiles which I'll cut out tomorrow.

After the first rebate is cut, I need to make a couple of fillets. This is done using side gauges made from strips of boxwood held against the plane and the edge of the first rebate. Remember to keep working downwards, as it's tricky to go the other way. Rebate, fillet, rebate, fillet...easy!

If you're going to cut mouldings, a selection of these is a must have trick in the tool kit. Mine are from boxwood, but they can be made of anything woody.


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The second part is an ogee with two fillets It has about a 30º rake and I just eyeballed it to make a nice shape.

Start with rebates and chamfers to steer the planes with and cut the fillets to size too.

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It looks like a complete dogs dinner and it gets worse, but persevere and you'll be rewarded with one of these...


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If you're having trouble blending the curves together, you can turn it on its edge and it'll be slightly easier. I had a piece with many small knots and loads of reversing grain, so I had to plane in both directions to get it smooth.

Put them together and it becomes one of these....

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I'll tidy up the fillets and glue it up and cut the miters. The reason one is longer 12' than the other 7' is because of the miters create too much waste and I need to cut the knots out. Plus I only had one piece of timber this size and needed two pieces.

I think it planed up quite well seeings it is cheap roofing batten.

No sanding required.

More tomorrow.......
 
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Adam W.

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This is gypsum, which was used extensively by the Venetians both burnt as plaster (gesso grosso) and slaked for gesso sottile as a base layer for water gilding. I'll be using both forms of gypsum on this project
 
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Phill05

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Excellent looking forward to see how you arrive at the finished frame, what kind of time did it take to carve the (entablature) and (predella). and do you have working drawings for them not just work from the image.
 

Adam W.

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Initially I thought it was all carved, until I went to see it in the archive of the V&A and there's a surprise at the end when I let on what I've found out about it after researching Venetian renaissance stucco and the guild system in the Republic of Venice during the 16th. century.

The two frieze elements are applied stucco and it took a week to make each one. I made working drawings of the sections of the frame which I used to make the first example. Unfortunately I can't use that as it's in London and the gold and the rest of the stuff is here in Denmark, so I'm having to squeeze in doing the joinery for a second time.

More work, but more practice. Which isn't a bad thing.

I'll write a bit more about the stucco later when I apply it to the frame.
 

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I assume they are repeats of a section and cast multiple times, and applied after cleaning up with more touch up after. What did they use for molds then and did you use the same or a modern material like silicone molds?

Pete
 

Adam W.

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I found a description of how to make a flexible mould by Sir Hugh Plat, a 16th. century English collector of recipes.

Here it is if you want to have a go.

“Take one pound of common glew, put thereto one ounce of yellow wax, but first dissolve the glue by a gentle fire, with a little water into a thick body, and after this solution put in your wax and a little charcoal or soot from a candle flame.”

I used silicone, as I had a huge bucket of it and I needed to make sure I got it right first time.

I've been setting out and cutting the dentiles on the entablature cornice.

I knocked up the backing frame and glued it together yesterday and can now start laying out the parts which I did have and measuring and cutting the other bits.

I have the pilasters and the sight edge moulding, so that has saved some work. I can use these to gauge the rest of the frame by working backwards, as my drawing wasn't as comprehensive as it should have been and consisted only of sections with no elevations.

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The original has 33 dentiles on the face of the entablature and the same spacing gives 10 on each side above the capitals.

So I stepped this off with dividers to give the center of the gap between the dentiles and eyeballed the width of the gap, making sure it wasn't too large. Cut this out and it starts to look about right.

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Inevitably a couple broke off, but I managed to find them on the floor and glued them back on, hence the tape on the right hand side. The whole thing gets covered with hide glue and I'll clean up the hairy bits on the dentiles when it dries, as it'll be easier.

I'm now cutting the miters and gluing the cornice together so that I can cut the other dentiles and the water leaf pattern on the ogee.

It's all slightly wonky, but that's how these handmade frames are and it goes with my house, which has wonky qualities too.

Peter Schade, head of framing at The National Gallery calls it "the sculptural qualities of the workshop". I'm going to use that when someone complains of wonky work next time.
 

Adam W.

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So, chugging along......

The frame is built up by attaching extra pieces, which are just glued on and the backing frame acts as a support for the whole shebang. It also creates the 1/4" rebate for the painting in conjunction with the sight edge moulding.

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Here's a photo of the back side of the original frame and you can see how things are built up in layers.

Backside.jpg


I was looking in the wood shanty for a decent piece of 1" for the predella and came across this 12' beauty


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That's a good 12" wide and is a piece of scots pine which I milled about 12 years ago. It's come right from the centre of the stem and the pieces between the knots make for the best quater sawn timber, so I've used that and plan to re-make the entablature again, using this timber.

I'll tell you why later, after dinner.
 

Adam W.

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So, looking at the backside of the original, it's clear that the frame is built of layers.

The picture below shows the profile of the pilasters and how they cover the backing frame and trap the sight edge moulding to create the rebate for the picture.


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This particular cut of timber is typical for moulding work on picture frames and is like rift sawn timber, but its cut off a tangentially or flat sawn sawn board. The pilaster creates a rebate and straddles the edge of the backing frame and both bits are screwed together at the end.


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Note how rough the backing frame and the hidden joinery surfaces, this is quite typical and once the frame is on the wall, no one will ever see it.



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Now it's standing up, I can get a better view of how the entablature works and I'm not so happy with the cornice moulding and I also cut the dentiles in the wrong fillet.

The dentiles are not such a big issue for me, as I can paint and egg tempra arabesque design on the lower fillet or just leave it as a band of gold. The big issue is the direction of the grain on the imposts, the bit at the edge of the entablature.

I was thinking about shrinkage and if this might make the entablature split when I bring it in the house. I'll chew on that a bit more when the applied stucco frieze is offered up to it.

So it's a case of running up more moulding over the weekend and I should be ready to carve the capitals next week.
 

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Adam, regarding the dentiles. I've made these before but may have done it differently. I made a jig to cut each dentile piece so I had a pile of teeth. I then used a spacer to place them along the rebate. This was pretty fiddly and I doubt that it's a best practice, but it worked "kind of" in my situation.
 

Adam W.

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I cut these out with a chisel, as I'd never get them all to line up and it'd end up looking like a dogs dinner if I did it the other way.

I think they are fixed individually on larger cornices for timber facades like shop fronts.
 

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Thoroughly enjoying your write ups Adam. Thank you for taking the time to share them.
 

Adam W.

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I'm glad you're enjoying it. I'm enjoying the responses very much, so thanks for joining in.

@TRITON Yes it's 24 karat Italian gold from Manetti in Firenze. That's why I'm fretting over the entablature as the frame has two layers of gilding on it.
 

Adam W.

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The next piece of moulding to make is the architrave on the entablature. Its moulding B at the top right of this working drawing. It's a series of rebates with an ogee and a quirk and an astragal underneath. The astragal gets carved into a band of pearls once it's fixed in place.

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The rebates and ogee are cut and the quirk is stuck with a snipes bill plane, pretty much the same way as the cornice, just a lot smaller and I eyeballed it and ran my finger along the arris to gauge the depth. It's easier to do that than try and measure it.

The astragal on the edge was first cut with a T&G plane with a side gauge to get it to sit in the right place.


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I bought a load of boxwood from a model maker a while back and these strips of box were part of the deal. They make excellent side gauges and I was really lucky to get them all ripped to different thicknesses.


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I just had to rip it to width on the saw and taped it down so that I didn't have to hold it. Face shield on and stand away in case it went flying.

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The shoulders for the astragal were taken down with a rebate plane and it was rounded over with a number 2 hollow plane.


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It came out OK and I'm pleased with the piece of architrave, especially the quirk ogee, that came out really nice.



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I love making these frames, as there's a lot of architectural detail crammed into a very small space.

There's two more mouldings to run up, then I can start carving.
 
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Adam W.

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I think the cornice is growing on me, what's the opinion of the members of the peanut gallery ?
 
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