Carved Flower Frame

Use simple techniques to create an heirloom for Mom.

She’s your mother. She gave you life, nurtured you, loves you, and puts up with your occasional nonsense. For this Mother’s Day, instead of getting her a bouquet of short-lived flowers, consider presenting her with this heirloom picture frame of carved wooden flowers from your own heart and hands. It’s easy to build, and it is carved with just a V-tool, a few gouges, and a knife. If you don’t already have carving tools, you’ll find the V-tool and gouges that you need in the six-piece set of Flexcut tools that I used. The knife is additional. (See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide below.)

This frame is made from cherry, a great carving wood. It’s sized to display the latest 8 × 10 photo of the kids or grandkids, but you can adjust the dimensions to suit any picture. Carve the two daffodils and two dogwood flowers as shown, or any variation you like. You’ll find the full-sized patterns in onlineEXTRAS, below.

Prepare the frame parts

1 Mill the frame sides to the sizes shown in Figure 1. Then rout a 1⁄4" bead along one edge of each piece (Photo A).

2 For the frame corners, make two pieces of stock 7⁄8 × 2 3⁄16 × about 8" long. (This allows easy clamping for carving a flower at each end, which will be cut free later.) Saw a 1⁄16"-deep groove along the edges and ends 5⁄8" up from the bottom face of each piece to establish the background or field. Also groove the top face 2 3⁄16" in from the end.

3 Print the patterns from onlineEXTRAS, and attach them to the side and corner pieces with spray adhesive. Trim away the upper waste, using a wide-sweep gouge (Photo B).

Rout a bead along one edge of each side piece, using a shaper or router table outfitted with a 1⁄4" beading bit. 
Establish the carving field for the flowers by sawing a groove into the corner stock, and then trimming away the upper waste.

Carve the fronds

1 Use a 3⁄8" × 60° V-tool and mallet to incise the fronds on each side piece. Begin by carving a shallow groove the full length of the frond (Photo C). Then widen the broad sections at the ends, striving for a crisp intersection at the bottom of the V-groove.

2 Use the same technique to incise the small leaves that branch off at the center.

Carve the daffodil

1 Define the perimeter by tapping in a series of stop cuts with a #3 × 1" sweep gouge (Photo D). Stay slightly outside your pattern lines. Don’t cut too deep initially, or you risk breaking away fragile sections. Reattach any broken pieces immediately, using cyanoacrylate (CA) glue.

2 Begin lowering the field by taking shallow gouge cuts outward from your stop cuts (Photo E). Don’t carve down quite as far as the saw cuts you made. After removing some of the waste, go back and deepen your stop cuts, followed by removing more waste. As you approach the final depth, use a knife to clean up in tight areas (Photo F).

3 Make stop cuts to define the segments of the petals, as was done in Step 1, using gouges with sweeps that approximate the curves. Then cut along the lowest petal using a V-tool (Photo G).

4 Tap a gouge to make stop cuts to define the upper edges of the leaves where they cross each other or the trumpet-shaped body. Then use a #5 × 11⁄16" sweep gouge to round over the trumpet-shaped area (Photo H).

5 Use a #3 × 1" sweep gouge to shape the concave face of each leaf (Photo I).

6 Round petal faces with an inverted #5 × 11⁄16" sweep gouge (Photo J).

7 With the bulk of the carving completed, use a V-tool to clean up at intersections and sharpen details (Photo K). A knife also helps with detailing. Similarly, carve the other daffodil(s).

Carve the dogwood flower

1 Use a #5 × 11⁄16" sweep gouge to make a series of stop cuts to define the perimeter of the dogwood petals, in the same fashion as described in Step 1

of carving the daffodil.

2 Carve away the background waste in the same manner as described in Step 2 of carving the daffodil.

3 Use a #10 × 9⁄16" sweep gouge to make a series of arced stop cuts around the center of the flower. Then scoop out the center section of each petal with a #5 × 11⁄16" sweep gouge, taking a series of gradually longer strokes inward toward the center (Photo L).

4 Use a #3 × 1" sweep gouge in stop-cut fashion to define and separate the innermost edges of the petals (Photo M).

5 Tap a notch in the outer edge of each petal using a #11 × 1⁄4" sweep gouge (Photo N).

6 Inverting a #5 × 11⁄16" sweep gouge, round over the perimeter of each petal, extending the edges all the way toward the center (Photo O).

7 Round over the center using the corner of an inverted #3 × 1" sweep gouge (Photo P). Then use a V-tool to crosshatch the center (Photo Q).

Assemble the frame

1 Crosscut the flowers from their blanks. Flatten any areas of the field that were difficult to access before and mark the locations of the offset biscuit slots on the edges of the corner pieces to prevent confusion when routing.

2 Use a slotting cutter to rout the slots for the face frame biscuits. See Figure 1. For efficiency, set up your router table with a stopblock and a 3⁄16" spacer (Photos R and S).

Set the stopblock 13⁄16" from the center of the bit. Rout both ends of each frame side and the right-hand edge of each corner with the spacer against the stopblock. Remove it to rout the left-hand edge. For safe feeding, secure the corner piece to scrap using double-faced tape.

3 Sand a slight chamfer on the top edges of the corner blocks and the ends of the side pieces to create a small reveal at the joints. Use 220-grit paper backed by a hardwood block.

4 Glue up the frame and rout a 1⁄4"-wide rabbet 1⁄4" deep in the back, and then chisel the corners square. Clean away finger oil and residual paper with mineral spirits before applying a finish. I wiped on two coats of Watco Danish Oil, but you can use any finish you like. Install a photo of your choice.

About Our Author

Michael Kehs has been carving and turning wood for 30 years. In addition to creating award-winning designs for commission and exhibition, he teaches woodcarving and turning at his studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and at the local Woodcraft store in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

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