Carve A Tudor Rose

Monday 9 July 2018

The Tudor Rose is the emblem of the Tudor monarchs who ruled England from 1485 to 1603. Although these monarchs included the likes of Henry VIII and Bloody Mary, the Tudor rose is actually a symbol of peace and reconciliation. Incorporating the white rose of York in its centre with the red rose of Lancaster on the outside, it symbolises the uniting by marriage of these two warring dukedoms. This settled the succession to the English crown and put an end to the Wars of the Roses.

You should be able to complete this project in about 12 hours. For new carvers it is a good exercise in neatness because the rose is set out geometrically. The outer and inner sections of the rose each have five petals equally spaced. The petal positions alternate on the inside and outside, effectively forming ten geometrical segments of 36 degrees. The centre 'stamen', the petals and the little leaves are all drawn at fixed radii from the centre. What we have in effect, is a five-pointed star shaped like a rose. Any inaccuracy in your carving will be more noticeable than it would be in a random pattern, so keep the geometry in mind as you carve.

Blocking & roughing out

1. Make a full-size copy of the drawing. I made mine with a radius of 100mm from the centre point to the tips of the outer leaves. Trace the pattern carefully onto your green oak panel which, in my case is 200mm squared x 25mm thick.

2. Cut round the outside with a bandsaw or jigsaw. Fix the piece to a backing board, screwing through from the back with shallow screws into the thickest parts of the carving, so you can clamp it to the bench and move it around.

3. Reduce the level of the outer leaves to about 6mm below the original surface at the tips, sloping to 13mm where they meet the petals. Cut the gap in between the outer petals.

4. Bost round the central stamen, the inner petals and the inner leaves. Use a No.8 curved gouge to make scooping cuts towards the centre at a depth of say 8mm where you meet the central stamen. Each petal should have two distinct hollows either side of a central ridge pointing towards the centre of the carving. Cut the gap between the petals and shape the petals to flip up at the edges of this gap.

5. Repeat this process on the outer petals, going to a depth of about 10mm. Work round the inner leaflets, and slope down into the gap in the inner petals.

Carving the detail

6. Round over the central stamen into a dome shape with a No.3 gouge. Use a skew chisel to score cross-hatching lines 3mm apart diagonally across it. Decide which way up the finished rose will hang (with one leaf tip at the top centre, preferably with the grain horizontal) and make the cross-hatching at 45 degrees to the vertical axis.

7. Curl over the outer edge of the inside petals with a No.3 gouge. Slope the ends down into the corners where they meet the leaves, and curve the outer side down into the outer petals. Use a No.8 curved gouge to scoop out a hollow under the inside lip of each petal, and smooth out the petal surface with a No.5 gouge into two distinct hollows with a ridge between them.

8. Repeat these processes on the outer set of petals. The surface of the outer petals needs to slightly undercut the inner petals to look as though one lays over the other.

9. Shape the leaves so they slope towards the centre and a little to each side, with a ridge down the middle. Add veins with a veiner and use a small No.5 gouge to scoop hollows between each vein. Use a skew chisel or V-tool to make little serrations in the edges.


10. Detach the piece from the backing board and place it face down on a soft surface. Use a clamp to hold it still. Round over the underside at the edges so there is a smooth, continuous curve from the underneath, right round to the upper curl of the petal. Undercut the edges of the leaves to a thickness of 3mm, but with greater thickness away from the edges.


11. Check your carving has a smooth and even finish straight from the tools. Pay attention to the joins between the petals, as these have a noticeable effect on the geometry. Abrasives can dull the finish of oak; a good tooled finish rubbed hard with a dry cloth looks livelier. Finish with Antiquax furniture polish. Use a brush to get the wax into all the crevices, then buff to a fine satin finish with a cloth. Alternatively, you could fume the oak to a dark Tudor brown with ammonia.