Carving the Lion

This commission began in a very innocent way, My client Mike sent me out three plaster castings, two were of the lions’ head he wanted carved, one was of the pipe he wanted the stand to be carved for.  The next step was to find the right piece of wood.

After much searching we found a large piece of amboyna burl.

When the wood arrived, the fun began.

Exotic woods always come dipped in a generous coating of wax to stop the wood from drying out and cracking. The first step in the process is to remove the coating, then allow the wood to slowly dry out. In Arizona that is no small task!

Cracking can really ruin your day! When the wax is removed you must then carefully examine your piece to ascertain where it is most likely for cracks occur. The burl had such deep intense figuring, that it was almost impossible to see cracks and crazing. To protect the carving I stabilized the wood using a solution made for this task. It fills in any voids before you begin doing any fine detail. Boy am I glad I took that extra step! This wood had a mind of it’s own. Had I not stabilized it, I would have had to start over!

The plasters given to me by my client, provided an excellent point of reference for my carving. The carving went smoothly until I got to the mane. It is here that I really learned something. Power tools are wonderful for roughing out a shape, but good carving knives make it possible to add true expression to your line. What I had done with my power carver was correct, but it lacked flow. With my carving knives I had fun working through the dimensions of the lion’s mane the way carvers have done for centuries!

I am sorry that this project is coming to an end. It is nice to be humbled by one’s own work habits from time to time. It keeps us honest. I will be sad to send this carving off to it’s new home …. but I will manage.

Jennifer Rinaldi


  1. Wowwwweeee! That is an amazing piece of work, Jon. I had no idea that you do this sort of thing. Pretty amazing skill.

    • Thank you for the wonderful compliment Neill, and I agree it is an amazing skill, However, all the credit goes to my terrific wife Jennifer. The stands are her bailiwick.

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