Waterleaf Moulding

The origins of this versatile moulding decoration lie in the classical architecture of ancient Rome and Greece. It can be used as edging around table tops or boxes, for cornice mouldings at the top of furniture or for plinths surrounding the base and to decorate turnings and mouldings for glazing bars. The moulding is made to standard dimensions and cutters of the appropriate size can be purchased for routers or spindle moulders. It can also be formed by hand, using a rebate plane to set in the shoulders and a chisel or scratch stock to round the quadrant. I chose Brazilian mahogany although most dense, close grained timbers would be suitable.

Section 1.

Referring to line diagram, mark a series of division lines, exactly 18mm (23/32in) apart, from the top of the quadrant down to the centre. Use a pair of dividers for accuracy. Then mark another set of equally spaced divisions along the bottom of the moulding, exactly between the first.

Section 2.

Holding chisel No. 4 in the pinch position, gently set in in the profile of the leaves using the full shape of the cutting edge. Place one point of the cutting edge on the bottom division line and the other point on the corresponding top division line where it stops half-way down the moulding. Ensure that the cut is set in at a 90 degrees to the surface of the timber. You nave now formed half the waterleaf shape. Repeat this process along the entire length of the moulding and then work in the opposite direction to complete the second half of the leaves.

Next, create a series of holes 2mm (1/16in) in diameter (see page 29) to form eyelets. The holes should be located on the top division lines exactly 4mm (5/32in) down from the upper shoulder. Gauge this distance using your dividers.

Section 3 

Use chisel No. 1 to complete the shape of the leaves by gently setting in a series of straight lines from the holes to the points where the two cuts made by chisel No. 4 meet. Apply light pressure at this stage to mark the surface

Section 4 

With chisel No. 1, elongate each hole to form a teardrop. A shaped punch is extremely useful for definition, but you must cut the wood first rather than simply punching the shape on to the surface, which will bruise the surrounding area. Next, set your dividers to 7mm (9/32in) and mark a series of divisions between the holes, at the top of the leaves as shown. 

Section 5 

With chisel No. 1, make two diagonal cuts for each leaf running from the 7mm (9/32in) division marks down to the bottom centre line. This will form a series of elongated V shapes as you can see here. Use gentle pressure as this forms an area of short grain between the cuts which can easily chip out.

Section 6 

Holding chisel No. 4 in the fist position, begin to round the leaves down towards the centre lines. Cut the centre lines a little deeper as you progress so that the waste timber can be removed. Stand centrally in front of your work, holding the chisel in the left hand to carve towards the left-hand side of the bench and vice versa for the right.

Section 7 

Now, using chisel No. 1 form a line running down the centre of each of the narrow triangular shapes formed in step 5. Cut this carefully and slice down towards it on either side, forming a V-shaped valley. 

Aways try to ensure that all cuts are clean and free from splinters.

Section 8.

Still using chisel No.1.continue to carve away wood from each of these central sections to form a series of elongated pyramid shapes. Then mark a series of vertical pencil lines along the bottom of the moulding, between the larger leaves, exactly opposite the row of teardrop-shaped holes above.

Section 9 

Use chisel No. 3 to slice a small amount of wood away from one side of these centre ines, working towards the edges of the leaves. Remove just a fraction at a time, setting in the profile line of each leaf a little deeper as you progress. Continue this process until the leaves have around 2mm (1/16in) of definition.

Now with your opposite hand, repeat the procedure but in the other direction, forming a series of ridges in place of the pencilmarks.

Section 10 

Using chisel No. 2, set in the shape of the smaller leaves between the larger ones as shown and remove the waste with chisel No. 1. Finally, use a ac clean, dry nail brush to remove any loose fibres.

Below illustrates a rather more simplistic version of the waterleaf. It follows the same procedures and dimensions, except that the central vein is absent.

Egg and Dart Moulding

Pictured herewith (underneath the finished waterleaf moulding) is an ‘Egg and Dart’ moulding. Also known as ‘Egg and Tongue’ or ‘Egg and Anchor’. It can be carved into the same dimensions of quadrant moulding. Its origins are Greek and, like many other classical designs, it has now become a a popular form of neo-classical decoration incorporated into architecture and world furnishing. The egg and dart moulding requires virtually the same techniques as the waterleaf project and the use of chisel Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4. Refer to Fig. 15a when marking out the moulding and gauging the proportions.