View Full Version : Scrollwork design and analysis, step by step tutorial

03-23-2008, 10:33 PM
Tomís 1873 with Grape leaves and vine scroll is a stunning example of scrollwork design, yet is a very simple pattern that I think will make it much easier to grasp some of the principles of a well laid out scroll pattern and with his permission, I am going to use it as a basis for this tutorial.

His design elements of the leaves, tendrils and grapes are balanced, his overall design of the backbones compliments the shape of the gun, the rhythm of the interior sections are in harmony with exterior areas and the overall design of the three panels compliment each other for the finished product.

First lets look at the overall gun. What do you see? Three panels are there, with each one having an entirely different shape of itís own. Each of these panels are study in and of themselves of scroll design, so lets break down this gun into the first panel that would just be behind the barrel.


What do you see here? What is the most striking thing in this panel? I suppose technically there could be two things, but they are somewhat connected.

Donít be afraid to jump in here with your questions or comments.

Tim Wells
03-24-2008, 05:43 AM
Down below the overall photo of the gun there is a box with an X in it like you tried to put in a cropped panel? Nice metal work on that gun, nice and crisp. This ought to be a good tutorial.

03-24-2008, 05:57 AM
well, its seems my learn2engrave.com website is down right now. It was up last night.

I'll upload it here

03-24-2008, 07:04 AM
This can be a great thread. Look forward to the next one. Jack:drool5:

Tom McArdle
03-24-2008, 07:20 AM
Thanks Tim, I'll pass your words on to the polisher!


03-24-2008, 07:44 AM
hmmmm, 101 views so far, and no has hazarded a guess thus far, so I will ask the question in a different way, what is your eye drawn to first when you look at this panel.

Tim Wells
03-24-2008, 07:57 AM
The big leaf in the middle and the direction of the growth of the vine.

03-24-2008, 08:03 AM
The big leaf in the middle and the direction of the growth of the vine.

I agree.

I remember when Tom posted it. I love the design and layout.

This should be a great tutorial.:drool5:

Thanks Scott,

Roger Bleile
03-24-2008, 08:13 AM
hmmmm, 101 views so far, and no has hazarded a guess thus far, so I will ask the question in a different way, what is your eye drawn to first when you look at this panel.

Same here: The big grape leaf in the center.


03-24-2008, 08:59 AM
Yes, the large center leaf. I would say the most noticeable design feature of this gun is the 3 large leaves that take up the central portion of each panel. In the panel we are looking at first, you can see that the leaf is centered in the space dictated by the panelís edges. If you erased everything but the leaf, you would see that it is sitting in the middle of the panel, balanced as it were, with an roughly equal space out to the north south east and west edges.

It is somewhat abnormal in scrollwork to have a leaf itself this big in the overall pattern, so lets look at another aspect of the design, the main scroll in this panel, which as you can see fills the panel in a equal balanced manner. This is your main scroll, akin to the trunk of tree. When laying out a design, you want to draw your main scrolls so that they fill out the area in equal proportions, meaning that the scrolls should be roughly the same size. In this panel, there is only one main scroll, so notice that it fills the whole panel in an equal manner.

Excuse my messy photoshop erasing, but can you see that each of the four quadrant sections created by this scroll spine are roughly equal in size to each other, Even #4 which is an odd shape because of the shape of the outline of the 1873. This again is principle we want to enforce, creating areas of roughly equal size as we ad details into the picture. Not only are the roughly equal in size, they are balanced in their placement, with each of the four smaller areas around the one big scroll equidistant from each other. In this case, you have created a square with each of the smaller areas (1-4) being a corner of the square.

Ok, going back to the overall picture, what is the next level of design elements that jump out at you? http://engravingforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=575&d=1206360025

Roger Bleile
03-24-2008, 09:30 AM
I'll bite and say the flow of the scrolls which includes the point of origination. The side plate scroll originates from the larger screw hole and rolls forward then spawns the smaller scrolls. The scroll on the left or rear bolster also originates from a screw hole and rolls counter to the main scroll on the side plate. To maintain balance the scroll on the right or front bolster also rolls counter to the main sideplate scroll. Note: I'm not saying that scrolls must originate from screw holes but one must strongly consider the point of origination and in this case the screw holes work for Tom's design.


03-24-2008, 09:59 AM
To me what I notice is the overall balance and symmetry with a consistent amount of open space throughout. It is a non traditional style of scroll that I find pleasing to the eye. Also, looking at the whole gun my eye is not fixated on any one area.


03-24-2008, 11:02 AM

This really ties in to what you were explaining to me. I don't think that there is a wrong answer here, it may not be what the engraver intended but I see the grape clusters second to the big leaf. IMO that is what my eye is drawn to.

I think that this will help me considerably.

Question - which was drawn/engraved first the leaf or the scroll?


03-24-2008, 11:04 AM
I did not really say what I meant I don't think. In order of precedence, I see the big leaf, then the grape clusters. I won't get ahead but I have the 3rd in my head.


charles starks
03-24-2008, 02:57 PM
well first i notice the balance, the proportioning to the area he was working on is very consistent.
All the scrolls , leaves , grapes are proportionate to the area and he appears to have kept the same distance from the perimeters in all his areas , very nice . As to what draws my attention first , the large leaves . Yet at the same time the other smaller leaves, clusters of grapes and scrolls are just enough to want to draw your attention away from the main focus . which then wants to draw you back .
Its very nice , I like it a lot

Ray Cover
03-24-2008, 03:16 PM
To me the leaf on the raised panel is the first thing I notice then the other two larger leaves.

If you apply the rule of thirds to this action you will notice that the leaf on the raised panel hits almost right on one of those one third division lines. That tends to give it a bit more emphasis than the other two.

The next tier of emphasis is a bit more difficult for me to pin down. Once I get past the larger leaves the repetition and the arrangement tends to pull my eye through the other elements fairly evenly. I find my eye not really picking out a stronger element between the main scroll stems, the smaller leaves and the grape clusters.

I do find that my eye tends to scan the design fairly well. Even though it does have three large areas of emphasis the overall design is strong enough that my eye does not get stuck on any one place.


charles starks
03-24-2008, 05:06 PM
do any of you use the golden mean “ 3, 5 rule “to lay out your distance and proportions or is it all by eye ?
I draw out my carvings by hand but I have found that by using the rule , all my work stay in exact proportion be it larger or smaller scrolls , parts placement , so on and so forth

03-24-2008, 05:20 PM
first, thanks for this thread, very much!

I saw the large leaf left of the loading port... and in the second picture (which I actually looked at first, the big picture didn't show up at first), the large leaf and then the grape clusters.

Dave London
03-24-2008, 06:29 PM
What I notice other than the leaves and grapes is the smooth cutting, no bends, elbows, whatever.:cheers2:

PS thanks Scott

Ray Cover
03-24-2008, 07:24 PM

I often use the rule of thirds for placing focal points but I don't consciously use the golden mean for proportion. I generally eyeball that.

charles starks
03-24-2008, 07:42 PM

I often use the rule of thirds for placing focal points but I don't consciously use the golden mean for proportion. I generally eyeball that.

well i would think , you sir , have a very close eyeball . i bet your so close on that work its scarry .
again nicly done

03-24-2008, 09:00 PM
Okay, a number of good things of been mentioned, but for now I want to keep this simple as possible for those who are beginners in scroll design. I for sure don’t want to get into the Golden Ratio right now. While it is certainly an underlying yardstick, I don’t think trigonometry is the reason people want to read this thread. Many fine engravers and artists have composed scroll designs for centuries in wood, stonework, tapestry, paintings and of course metal with little or no mathematical skills. I just cringe at the thought of someone trying to design scroll with a set of proportional dividers in one hand and a pencil in the other. In this thread, I want to give someone new to this art the skills to recognize shapes, patterns and flows within a scroll pattern with their own eyes and ultimately subconsciously or consciously design patterns with these principles of excellance. The old "eyeball thing" to some.

So with that in mind, I want us to keep our focus on the first panel, shown here again.
http://engravingforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=575&d=1206360025 We will go back to the overall design on the 1873 later, but now lets stay on this small area and study the basics. When your read you begin with A, B, C, when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi (those who have had class with me know this the point I break forth into song) When you do scroll you begin with draw, balance and fill.

To review up to this point, we have noticed the big center leaf and the big mainbody scroll that fills up the intial space creating 4 separate outer spaces. There is also of course the inner perimeter of space inside the backbone that is roughly equidistant to the large center leaf.

I think the next thing in importance to be noticed in size and interest is the clusters of grapes. If you look at these, what shape do you see that they create? Do you see the Equilateral Triangle? What about the Isoceles triangle? Either of these present the grape leaves in balanced proportion to the rest of the pattern, irregardless of what else is in the pattern.


Welllllll, I hear someone saying those two clusters at the right side of the pattern are two close to each other, considering the equidistance to the others involved. Yes that is true, but if you consider that they are also at the front of the gun, in essence they are foreshadowing or pointing down the barrel, creating an “implied line” that Ray was talking about in another thread.

Okay, time for me to go to bed and you to work on your homework. What is the other set of design elements creating a geometric shape that is present in this panel alone?

03-24-2008, 09:13 PM
Question - which was drawn/engraved first the leaf or the scroll?

D.C., I can't speak for Tom, maybe he can chime in and tell us what he did, but honestly if I was doing this it could go either way, knowing that the other was coming. As I alluded to earlier, this is an atypical scroll pattern in that you have a large leaf in the center of the scroll, at what is normally the termination or end-point of the scroll.

But for a normal scroll, you would draw your main body scrolls first, filling the area in a as balanced a manner as possible, so that leftover spaces were roughly equal in size and proportion. These leftover spaces you would start fill with smaller scrolls, what we would call your intermediate scrolls.

In this case, I probably would roughed the the big leaf in the center, and then drawn the leaf bigger or smaller depending on how much space was present between the the leaf and the scroll spine. Honestly though, I don't think it would have made any difference to the end design which was drawn first.

03-25-2008, 05:52 AM
....the "positions of the grapes as a whole" create a triangle. This is a very helpful tutorial! Thanks for going the extra mile Scott:hurray: :hurray:

Dan Grubaugh

Tom McArdle
03-25-2008, 06:05 AM
I got the leaf right first, then added the vine. Normally, I would draw the scroll tendrils first. I will wait before talking about how I got the leaf "right"

Thanks Scott, I am learning also!


03-25-2008, 04:26 PM
Anybody see any other shapes present in the front panel? circles, squares, triangles?

03-25-2008, 05:25 PM
Talking about the shape of the grape clusters overall positioning creates a large triangle with the main leaf creating a circle in the center and the vine/scroll creates another circle around the leaf, basically a triangle with 2"circles" inside of it.

Tim C
03-26-2008, 07:14 AM
I'm sorry I missed the beginning of this post when you started it.
I was away from the computer for a few days.

This is a great post and thank you for your hard work doing this.

When you can put something so people can relate to what is going on, it is much easier to understand.

I understand triangles, squares and circles, it's how you find a place to put them in that hangs me up the most.
This makes it a little easier to picture how to place them.

Doing a lesson in writing isn’t easy, I found that out the hard way. It is hard not to over explain something so you don’t confuse everyone.

:banghead: And there is that one student that just doesn’t get it, no matter how you put it.

Yes, I tried to plot out a scroll when I first started to learn to engrave. I figured there HAD to be a way, there is.
By the time I was able to draw them properly by plotting them, I had learned to draw them freehand and didn't need to plot them anymore.:willy_nilly:

You have done a great job here, thanks again.

Tim C

03-26-2008, 08:15 AM
Tim C, what do you mean plot out a scroll? I have never heard that phrase. Can you post an example.

Tom McArdle
03-26-2008, 10:35 AM
I wonder if he means using CAD, or something like that? I have created scrolls in Corel draw. Not perfect, but once you have them, you can use them over and over, alter them, scale them, duplicate them, etc. It can help with keeping the main tendrils in proper relationships to each other. One thing using the computer has done for me, and did for me on this design, was that it helps one be "honest". When drawing completely by hand, one can be tempted to "fudge" a diffcult area, and make a scroll or leaf that is too big or too small to fit consistently in the rest of the design. using the computer to scale and place basic elements on the design can save a lot of hand sketching time, and , at least for me, forces me to find the basic size, scale and shape that the rest of the design can be based upon.

Take care,


Tim C
03-26-2008, 03:13 PM
I have an engineering background, I used an old CAD program, but the process took a lot longer then it took to learn to control the spacing and keep it even by hand. That was many years ago, I don't even have the program anymore.
Now I have a Corel program that can make a scroll 1, 2 or 100 revolutions if need be with the click of a button.
It is a good thing for layout, but it draws a scroll that is almost TOO perfect. It just doesn't look right, If I play with it I could do better with the program but this is art, so getting the scroll close is all I really need.

Tim C

Tom McArdle
03-26-2008, 06:46 PM
When I cut layouts from COREL DRAW I don't follow then exactly. If you convert the spiral to curves, you can add nodes and get them to look good. Esp if you scan in a nice photo of a scroll, import it, and then use it as a guide for shaping the digital scroll you are creating.


03-26-2008, 07:54 PM
Well this is an interesting discussion about an alternate method of drawing scrolls. It’s always interesting to me how different people implement different skill sets to achieve the same goals. I have played with scroll design in Corel Draw, and honestly the scrolls seem too manufactured to me, or perfect as someone else mentioned. Also it seems an awkward way of getting an design to fit a space. Learning to draw them seems to me a much more efficient use of time but to each his own. Maybe later in this thread if there is any interest I can talk about how to draw scrolls that is fast, easy and adaptable. Computer layed out scrolls are not adaptable and that to me is a serious disadvantage when you start cutting the scroll and all of sudden you find out that the rotation of the vise and the graver have a mind of their own, and you still have nice round concentric scroll happening but it is straying significantly from your lines and all of a sudden you are out in the middle of nowhere (in relation to your drawing) and you’ve got the that “Oh S#%*” look on your face. But I digress so back to talking about scroll design and our regular scheduled programming

03-26-2008, 08:06 PM
Okay folks we were looking for other patterns that are formed by other significant features in this engraving. We found an nice big scroll that was equally balanced in the shape. We found a big leaf equally balanced in the center area of the shape. Next we looked at the grape clusters and found that they made a triangle equally balanced in the shape. The next most significant feature I see is the leaves that are part of the spine of the scroll, actally point outwards rather than inward like normal scroll leaves. In a natural sense, these could be the newly budded leaves that haven't quite yet taken their final shape as they grow out. What do we have we look at them alone?

yes, another triangle.
Are there any other patterns present in this section?

03-26-2008, 08:23 PM
Now actually there is another pattern to see and actually it is a triangle to, but the fact that we have three triangles is not the point I want you to leave with is that the points that make up these triangle, whether it is leaves, or grape clusters, or gold inlays or medium size scrolls is that they are spread in an equal balanced manner through out the pattern. In any one of these pics that I have erased the other components you can see that what is there is sitting with an equal amount of negative space around the items that are shown. This is a major principle of scroll design that you must understand.

03-26-2008, 08:30 PM
The oppsite of that, placing the items in an unbalanced pattern is going to look odd, take a look at this with some extra clone stamped grape clusters.

Now all of sudden your eye is drawn to the bunches of clusters on the left side, and you are kindof stuck there, left wondering...why? whearas a nicely balanced pattern lets you take in all the features as your eye can travel freely around the pattern.

03-26-2008, 08:42 PM

There are always exceptions, or reasons that we do something different, and there are times when we may want to make some a little unbalanced for a reason. Take a look at this picture, what do you see?


Is it unbalanced? I would like to hear from some of you on why you think the leaves are in the position that they are in.

03-27-2008, 07:01 AM
What I see is that the leaves form another triangle with the two larger leaves facing downward indicating mature growth, and the smallest, which is highest in the panel, facing upward indication growth.


03-27-2008, 11:42 AM
hmmmm, I never that about the age of the leaf determined from the direction its pointing, thats a pretty cool thought

03-27-2008, 01:26 PM

I am going to stick my neck out and show my lack of knowledge. I do see that the leaves form a triangle of sorts. I think that they seem to come from a central point sort of. What stands out to me is that the way they are drawn and engraved adds depth to the engraving. The one on the top right looks like it is farther away, bottom right closer, big leaf closest. I think I learned somewhere that in drawings that is how you give the appearance of depth. I don't think I would have seen it this way in the engraving without you removing the other items.



03-27-2008, 05:19 PM
great! we are getting some good replies here. Anybody else see anything ?

03-28-2008, 09:20 AM
Thanks for offering this tutorial. I appreciate how you are leading us to the answers to these questions without just telling us outright. It really makes you think about what makes a good design. I have an amibitious knife project in the design stage right now and this thread has been a real blessing.

03-28-2008, 12:20 PM
Scott this is great help for me and I'm sure we all can benifit from all your engraving experence...
Look foward to the engrave-in...
Gonna see if any old shell critters are left in the waters around Florida, not enough time for that many squirrels to feed everyone...

03-29-2008, 09:04 PM
Okay we had some good thoughts about the leaves, with some things I hadn’t considered. What I was looking for was someone to talk about the unbalanced nature of this, and how it could be corrected. You have the one big leaf in middle, so it is centered. The two smaller leaves at the front, do make it a bit unbalanced. If we wanted this panel to better balanced , then it would have been better if the leave layout was something like this.


Here a small leaf is in each corner in very balanced, well proportioned way. But why is this not the way Tom did it then? Did Tom make a mistake? Should it have had these 4 small leaves this way? If this was a stand alone panel with nothing else involved then most likely the answer would be yes. But this section does not exist all by itself, it is one of a total of three separate areas that make up the entire side of the gun, so now we have to go back and look at balance across the whole piece.

But first I wanted you to see the various parts of the pattern broken down into their components so that you could see how the were laid out in equal fashion. I hope you getting something out of this, if not don't be afraid to ask some qeustions.

03-29-2008, 09:10 PM
Okay, so here is the overall pattern again

What are the major design components overall all 3 seperate panels?

03-29-2008, 09:12 PM
Jerry, you bring some of them shell critters, and we will talk about making a balanced meal with them. I think I need to eat about a pound of them with my right hand. And then so that we do things in a balanced equal matter I will eat another pound with my left hand. LOL

03-30-2008, 05:36 AM
I would say the major components are the scroll backbone, the large leaves, the small leaves and bunches of grapes.


03-30-2008, 04:21 PM
In Ron Smith's Advanced Drawing of Scrolls book, he writes about adding extra 'force lines' which I generally take to mean more than one scroll backbone originating from the scroll body or base. In Tom's design, would you consider short backbone element leading to the large grape leaves (off the main scroll backbone to be a extra force line or am I off in left field?

This is a GREAT thread!


03-31-2008, 04:28 AM
Scott the leafs in the center of each panel draws you in, but you are first drawn to the center leaf and then to the right large leaf and then to the smaller left leaf and after that you can study the whole...
You sure 2lbs will be enough??? I'm stashing some that a friend catches and trades for jewelry repair that are better than store bought...
If I don't get weak I'll save you some...
Hope you win the contest...

03-31-2008, 03:06 PM
The large leaf in each pattern does draw your eye to the center, but the corresponding elements all seem to "point" to the central growth point of the vine. They all seem to mimic the natural growth of the vine and its fruit.

Jerry, see if you can get some "Sawgrass Bass" to bring, aka 'gator meat! I'll buy what we don't eat.

Barry Lee Hands
03-31-2008, 04:16 PM
very interesting way to analize this Scott, thanks for taking the time to do it.

03-31-2008, 07:31 PM
Peter, Jerry and Big-un all are correct in their assessment.

Jim B, I loaned out my copy of Ron's second book right after I got it, and to be honest I am not familar with the term "force line" and don't have the means to look it up right now. Maybe someone who has it handy can give us a defination. But you are right that the line that goes to centered large leaf is a bit unusual. I pointed earlier in the thread that this scroll was abnormal with the scroll center or endpoint being the largest element of the pattern , and often it is the smallest, or at best a medium sized figure like a dog, eagle or cherub head. Here is it is the largest component in the pattern. Also 99% of scrolls you will encounter have this center point the true endpoint of the spine of the scroll, but this short backbone element as you describe that goes to the leaf starts in the first third of the scroll rotation rather than the termination. Nothing wrong with that, just that it's not common.

03-31-2008, 07:50 PM
Thanks Barry, it is a different apprpoach that really hit me as something that I could do the more I thought about this grapeleaf design. It's a very good pattern, but simple enough not having to deal with the dual lines making up the backbone and the more complex lines making up the internal leaves, that I thought I would just get out the filet knife and start laying this open once I had Tom's permission.

03-31-2008, 08:02 PM
Okay, here we go again with another of my photoshop piddling, but here is the overall gun with the only the main body scroll and the central leaf in each seperate section. http://pilkguns.com/engraving/1873grapeTom9.jpg

Can you see that leaf is in the center part of each section?

Can you see that main body scroll line is filling the area equally.

Can you see that areas outside the main body scroll line are roughly equal? Does seeing these red lines help see that each line across from each other are roughly the same length?

so once you have got this main body scroll drawn in what is the next thing that you would start to fill in space with?

04-01-2008, 04:27 AM
Big-Un, There's always gator meat...
I'll check with some of the gator hunters and the price...
Let you know...

04-01-2008, 06:38 AM
I'm with you on the spatial relationships Scott. I'm not sure it is relevant, but I notice that the most forward leaf is positioned to lead your eyes to the center and the rear leaf faces the rear, while the backbones indicate a flow to bring them all together.

Thanks Scott,

charles starks
04-01-2008, 07:44 AM
Can you see that leaf is in the center part of each section?

Can you see that main body scroll line is filling the area equally.

Can you see that areas outside the main body scroll line are roughly equal? Does seeing these red lines help see that each line across from each other are roughly the same length?

this is what i was talking about earlier .
I wasn’t saying folks should use mathematics to figure out ever scroll , only that by Appling the Golden mean you get proportions in relation to other items .
What you end up with very good framing.
Again what I see is the layout of this piece was done very nicely .
While the design isn’t overly fancy, by properly placing the work , that work becomes pleasing to the eye because it fit’s the space your working in

Also at least for me what pulls my eye isn’t the leaf itself but the placement and shading of the center of the leaf . Giving the impression of depth but with no depth actually being there. Thus your mind is being fooled into trying to make you eye focus both near and far at the same time

04-02-2008, 08:00 PM
We continue to get great feedback from everyone. Here are some more thoughts, this time about origination using the last two photographs. The scroll on the left under the hammer does’nt originate at the screw hole, but rather from the center of it about a ľ inch out from it. Most scroll patterns would have used the inclusion created by the screw hole as the origination point. Actually the center scroll is doing the same thing with its origination point, from the center of the screw hole about ľ inch a way. And the forward scroll next to the barrel, while not originating from the middle of a screw hole, it does orginate from the center of a small grape leaf.

Also interesting to me, assuming the scroll under the hammer is the starter scroll, then the middle scroll flows right off of it in the correct direction. Although honestly I don’t think this was done intentionally. I just think that the origination point and flow direction was done in the best place for both of these for the panels that they are in, actually all three of the big mainbody scrolls in each panel.

I tried to draw the orange line starting out where the flow of the panel seemed to start with some cross marks where the backbone "flow" of the scroll was running in conjunction with the flow from the panel outline.

Do you see what I am talking about?

Tom McArdle
04-02-2008, 09:01 PM
You are right Scott. I did not arrange the scrolls deliberately in this way. However, I have noticed that when the design is done correctly, many unforeseen things like this seem to happen!

I must say, this is very interesting. Some of the things you are analyzing I really did not think about, and some I did. Once I got the big leaf sizes and positions right, the rest really flowed pretty easily, accept for a few areas. The small leaf on the front panel as a point of origin was one of those hard areas. I just decided to break the "rules" on that one. There are a few things I might have changed after reading your analysis thus far, but I won't talk about those things yet.

You ought to talk to Steve about excerpting this for the FEGA magazine, or something. maybe you could put it in your book?

Anyway, thanks for taking the time.

To give you all an idea of the effort on tis design, I probably spent about 10 hours on it, on my own time, in order to be able to do something nice and different on this gun for Turnbull Restoration. It was a gun donated to an NRA auction back in '05.

I would hope it wouldn't take so long now!

Great job Scott!


04-03-2008, 12:34 PM
You are right Scott. I did not arrange the scrolls deliberately in this way. However, I have noticed that when the design is done correctly, many unforeseen things like this seem to happen!

YES, this seems to be the case in lots of designs. As Charles said, maybe the Golden Ration comes through,even though it is not physically used or even known about in most cases.

There are a few things I might have changed after reading your analysis thus far, but I won't talk about those things yet.

Well feel free to jump in with them anytime,. Meanwhile here is another pic

Here you can see where Tom began filling in the area around the loading gate with his medium sized scrolls.

04-04-2008, 04:11 PM
The final step for scroll design is interior leaves that make up the smallest portion of the design. These are repeated with regularity as the scroll runs around its circular path.

One of the reasons why I really liked this pattern Tom did for teaching purposes is that it doesnt have any background and it does'nt have any complex leaves that make it more difficult for newbies to get lost in the overall pattern. The interior leaves in this case are really only the comma shaped cuts coming off th backbone. What I want you to see in this picture is that these interior leaves, are basically the same shape all the way around the backbone. Next I want to you to see that they are equally spaced as they go around. They are equi-distant from each other, which leaves an equal amount of background or "negative space" in between each leave. This balanced look is what we are striving for as we draw our interior leaves into place. This what Ron Smith calls meter or rhyme to describe the cadence of these scrolls as they fill aroudn the scroll spines.

To make this simpler, I am going back to the front panel to show this spacing and am using some blue to show the equal spacing

Now, these are not the only elements that have meter to them as they go around the spine. Take a look around the spine, on the outward pointing leaves. they are the same comma looking leaves as the interior has, and also, there are the fully formed typical scroll type leaves, that we saw earlier made into a triangle as they stood alone in the whole design. But as they fit around the backbone, they also have their own cadence or rhyme. Notice how these blue lines are roughly equal in length.http://pilkguns.com/engraving/1873grapeTom14.jpg

Okay, now it's time for your responses. What other elements do you see on the outside of the scroll spine that have their own rhyme???

04-05-2008, 10:13 AM
This is very good thread Scott. Even so good that I'm not sure I can add any intelligent questions or comments here :)

But answer to your question about which elements outside of the scroll have their rhyme. I see two things actually - all those little 'things' (floral vocabulary lacking here) pointing outward, and inward too, are equally spaced. Some of them with grapes. Second thing, If I use my imagination, then I could form a rectangle of outer elements - 2 grape bunches on the left and 2 leaves on the right. Sort of rhyme, right?

It's little bit off topic, but I have to ask. When you start a design, do you really think about all these things you've talked about here? It seems like million things to keep in head at the same. Distance here, rhyme there, leaf here and there, not there etc. I think and hope that it comes naturally after a time. I draw a backbone, it looks little off here, correct it. Draw a bunch of leaves and correct them until it's pleasing to the eye. But of course I must know why it looks bad and know how to correct it.

Sam Welch
04-05-2008, 06:18 PM

When I start a design I just draw the main spirals of the scroll patterns until I get a layout that is pleasing to me and seems to fit the area and the shape of the gun. Once that is drawn to my liking, I can then start filling in leaves and tendrils, or whatever is to be the scroll style. In my opinion, if you get the spirals just right and without elbows or flats, you have more than half the job done. But if you don't get the spirals right, no amount of wonderful leaves or other fill will save you. So, get that down first and then a lot of different options are open to you to finish the design. Not very well said but I hope you get the idea. Sam.

04-05-2008, 11:08 PM
Tom it's a beautiful design beautifully executed!

Scott's analysis has really given an amateur like me a lot to think about.

Is there some place I can see a picture of the finished piece?

Also, will there be a discussion of the other side?

04-06-2008, 09:56 AM
I see a balance between the bunches of grapes in relation to each other and between the two smaller leaves on the right side of the panel. The two bunches of grapes on the right are positioned over and under a leaf giving an overall balance to that area.


04-07-2008, 04:42 AM
This is a good analysis of the bases of an ornamental composition.
It highlights well the general structure with the concepts of symmetry, inversion, opposition, alternation, rhythm etc.... The geometry is often present but is not always apparent in the most part of the decorative compositions and it is generally used in a intuitive way.

These abstract notions are explained well here in their practical application.

My personal opinion is that it is however necessary to be careful, by applying these processes, not to fall in an excess of "structuralism" which we see so often in the contemporary arts. This basic structure must be ďdressedĒ at the risk of falling into the dryness. Some flesh on a skeleton is needed!

04-08-2008, 09:13 AM
wow, we have some great information, thanks for sharing Sam, Peter, Viljo, Les and Alain. I am leaving tomorrow for Beijing for 10 days, and have really been busy trying to get things done before I head to the airport the last few days. I will work on a more complete response for some of this while flying over.

04-08-2008, 10:58 AM
Scott Thanks for this tutorial, Great class and something to work on...
Have a Great Safe Trip and enjoy...

04-11-2008, 03:32 PM
we interrupt our regularly scheduled program for this interesting preview.


This is what I'm doing in China the next week, taking pics and writing stories. The Lion Dancing is absolutely wonderful, precision athletics at its highest form. It's a shame you can't see it, but the movements were so lifelike as it pranced and danced around

04-12-2008, 08:50 PM
That is an incredible event from what I can see from the pictures. It must be even more incredible to see it in person. Just seeing China would be intersting in itself.


09-01-2010, 12:30 PM
Simple design - craftsmanship is also very obvious.