Project No. 38

Material: 1/3 of a 1/4" sheet;

1/3 of a 1/2" sheet.

There are few of us who have wandered through the Brooklyn Museum at one time or another who have not longed to possess some of the exotically-designed and delicately-carved pieces of jade and other semi-precious stones that make up that institution's well-known Oriental collection.

(*Reprinted by permission from "Mechanics & Handicraft").

Modern science has brought us the means to gratify those desires. Cast resins place in our hands a material which duplicates the beauty of many of the costly materials in which the famed Chinese and other Oriental artists worked to produce the priceless objects which reposed for centuries in Eastern temples and palaces, only to find their way eventually to American museums.

Moreover, with the aid of American power tools, any craftsman with average ability can reproduce, in a matter of hours, a work over which the original Chinese artist probably spent months and even years of laborious toil with the simplest of hand tools.

In surveying the Oriental collection at Brooklyn Museum for a project to attempt, one is at first bewildered by the almost unlimited variety of colors, shapes and designs, from the most intricate carving to the simplest pieces which serve only to bring out the beauty of the material. A compromise was found in the shape of a white jade screen with a black teakwood base, a part of the Woodward collection. (Plate 4B). This piece was chosen because it consists principally of jig-sawing and flat or relief carving, quite within the range of the amateur without any training whatever in carving. The extremely intricate carving of many of the teakwood bases presents certain difficulties for the beginner, as will be seen from other photos herewith but, with the experience gained from this first project, many will be encouraged to take the plunge into deeper carving. On the other hand, those who are not sticklers for exact duplications can make simplified designs for the bases, with equally satisfying results. This procedure is suggested for the round white jade screen shown in Plate 4A, the actual base of which represents two frogs blowing clouds, out of which is formed the vision of an Oriental paradise pictured in the round carving. So much for the symbolism of Oriental art—now for the practical details of the construction of the altar-screen.

A sheet of "natural white" cast resin is used for the screen, this color and mottled pattern being practically a duplicate of the white jade in which the original is carved; while the teakwood base is made from a sheet of 1/2" black. The original screen was carved on both sides, but the design given herewith Figure 5 3 has been altered slightly to present a complete picture on one side. The first step is to make the sketch the proper size (the original is about 5" high over all) and paste this design on the sheet of material with rubber cement. A 1/8" hole is then drilled in each spot to be cut out, as a starter for the jigsaw blade. It will be found that the material saws as easily as plywood, and no particular caution is necessary. The same procedure is followed with reference to the base and the two feet.

Cut Out And Carving

Fig. 53. Cut-out and carving: pattern for the carved Jade screen described in Project 38. In the upper portion, or screen proper, the shaded portions are eat oat entirely, and all remaining edges rounded, with as much detail carving- added as desired. In the lower portion or base, the lighter shaded portions are routed out to a depth of 1/16", and the darker shaded portions are rooted to a depth of The clear portions are cut out entirely. The lower portion is of Jet black, and the upper part either white natural or jade or emerald! quarts. The two pieces are cemented together, or the upper portion set Into a slot cat into the base portion. (Sketch courtesy "Mechanics & Handicraft").

Either a hand-grinder or a spindle-carver can be used to carve the screen (the construction of a spindle-carver is explained in an earlier chapter).

The carving of the screen consists of rounding off the edges of all outlines, with such details added as fancy or skill may dictate. Don't be afraid to leave a relatively wide expanse of uncarved surface. In other words, don't over-decorate cast resin carvings.

The base is a combination of carving and routing. The flat surfaces indicated are routed only 1/16" deep, leaving all around them a little rim or border, 1/16" high. The more intricately carved parts are routed to a depth of and the edges are rounded off to a fairly thin cross-section, with a file or a hand-grinder using dentist's burrs or little grinding-wheels. This fairly simple operation will give you the same effect, as you will see by the photo Plate 4B, as the extremely intricate handwork on the original. The fitting of the feet presents no difficulties.

Buffing and polishing are next. All tool-marks on the outer surfaces are removed with very fine sandpaper, while the inner surfaces can be reached with either a rolled-up quill of sandpaper, or an improvised miniature sanding-drum on the jigsaw. By using a fine fret-saw blade in the first place, very little sanding is necessary. Most of the buffing can be done with an ordinary muslin buffing-wheel. Inner portions which the wheel will not reach can be done either by hand (by passing a rag through the holes, covered with buffing compound, and drawing the carving back and forth over it), or by tying a piece of very heavy (cotton) cord in the jig-saw in place of the blade, and letting the jig-saw do the work. After buffing all over, so that no tool or sandpaper marks are visible to the eye, wash off the buffing compound with soap and water, and go through the same process with the polishing compound. Then cement the various parts together, mixing a little of the black dust with the cement, to conceal the joints.