I have been trying to work these legs a little at a time. Here are a few pictures of the process.
First, I start by setting in, or punching down along the perimeter of the carving design. I find a chisel with the correct profile:
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Then I strike it with the mallett. How hard this is done depends on a few things. The walnut is harder than mahogany (with a few exceptions Philadelphia furniture was built of mahogany or walnut) so I usually give it a couple of hard taps.
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Once this is done for an area I come back laterally and relieve the material next to the line. When the material is excavated next to the carving, then the ground can be leveled. Note: in this picture I only had a small amount of the line defined, usually I would do a large area before I moved to the relief, to keep from chipout and to increase efficiency.
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Sometimes you have to relieve against the grain, and many times the area to relieve is just too tiny to reach with a chisel. I find a carving knife is useful for this and the wood can be sliced sideways or in the case of small points can be picked away. Most of the time the chip will come out pretty clean.
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So there has been some progress. Three legs are done setting in and relieving. You can see that the legs facing the wall are not going to be carved, to save work and time.
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And finally, here is a gratuitous shot of some gray-haired bald guy working the top of the legs. It can't be me, I look much younger than this!!!
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As always, feel free to comment or criticize. I'm learning with each little bit...Cal