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Woodworking with P. Michael Henderson


Carving a Simple Early American Fan

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There are almost as many variations of the carved fan as there are shells. This one is very simple but elegant and easy to carve - a beginning carver should be able to carve this fan.

These fans were used on early American furniture, often on the center drawer of a lowboy. A drawer pull (almost certainly a round knob) was placed in the lower center of the fan. So when you look at the fan we're carving, try to imagine a drawer pull as part of the fan. Note that I use the Swiss system to describe carving tools in all of my tutorials. 


If you find this tutorial useful, I'd really appreciate if you would send me an e-mail with the subject line of "Simple Fan" so I can get some indication of how many people are reading it.

Here's the fan that you will carve in this tutorial.

I'm using a piece of 3/4" Honduras mahogany about 6 1/2" wide. This piece is longer, but a piece about 10" in length will work well.

The first thing we'll do is the layout. I draw a vertical line 5" from the end (if the piece was 10" long, I'd split it in half), and a horizontal line about 1 1/2" from the bottom. Using the intersection of those two lines as the center point, I draw a half circle with radius 4", and another with radius 3 3/4". Finally, I draw a small circle with a 3/4" radius.

If you were doing this on a real piece of furniture, you'd have to scale these measurements to fit your drawer.

We begin our carving by making a downward cut with a #7/25 gouge to outline the lower half circle. Note that I didn't cut exactly to the line - I cut just a bit away from the line. As I do the rest of the carving, I'll "damage" the side of that half circle. As the final carving, I'll trim back to the line and remove that damage.

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Atkins Saws

Simonds Saws


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