A year of carving carefully produced a masterpiece of complexity. See detail photos of the mantel on the back cover of the June/July 2004 issue.
A couple of years ago, a client asked Ernest Bryant, a woodworker from Check, Virgina, if he could make a fireplace surround that celebrated the family’s Scottish heritage and that incorporated mythical forms. Bryant did some research, came up with a design based on variations of Celtic spiral knots, and went to work.
Except for some small details, the surround is made of mahogany and measures 92 in. high and 89 in. wide. Each panel was carved from 4-in.-thick blocks. On each side of the central dragon panel, square panels display knots that incorporate the letters D and H, the client’s initials. Other figures represented include a pair of griffins, quill birds, fish, a sea horse, and a snail. Bryant also carved an Anglo-Saxon runic dedication into the mantel’s edge that lists his clients’ names, his name, and the date of completion (see Slideshow).
Bryant has been a professional woodworker for the past 30 years, and he’d be the first to tell you that his projects usually don’t take so long to complete. Because this job eventually took a total of 2,000 hours, he says he was forced to change the dedication date more than once.
Charles Bickford is a senior editor at Fine Homebuilding.
Photos: Charles Bickford