I’ve missed out on a love affair with coffee. Seems like just about everyone else has had one and most of them last a lifetime. Long before iced-coffees became chic, my grandfather loved cold black coffee. He kept it in the fridge and took it along with him deep down into the bituminous coal mines of western Pennsylvania. His love for the dark brew was topped by my father. At any given point in the day, my dad’s blood composition is 70% coffee. People have deep relationships with coffee.
That fact was reinforced recently when I was asked to carve an inscription for a wedding anniversary gift. It’s always a challenge to express the intensity of one’s love. Folks have tried everything from holding their arms wide open to writing sensitive sonnets. In this case, she wanted to sum up her affection with one breathtaking statement: “I love you more than coffee.”
But to add a touch of mystery, she wanted it in Latin which is (as far as I know!): “Amo te magis quam capulus.”
She left it open to me to determine the design, just that it shouldn’t be too large. I won’t bore you with the many other possibilities that ran through my head, but in the end I decided to carve a representation of a coffee cup from a thick butternut board. I had split up a butternut log years ago and saved several billets. A little bit of planing, and I had a canvas for the lettering. Then it was on to drawing letters on paper. Lots of playing and erasing.
Before cutting the letters, I got all of the shaping done on the cup itself to avoid clamping and cutting after the letters were finished. The dimensions are 10 1/2″ x 5″ x 1 1/2″. Here’s the handle end and backside:
Then it was on to cutting the letters themselves.
The pencil lines are there as a guide, but it’s the knife that makes the final decisions. There’s a balance. If you are hyper focused on cutting exactly on the line, you may lose flow and a sense of liveliness. Stray too far and your composition will fall apart. It’s something like the painted lines on the road. You don’t try to slavishly stay precisely centered in your lane as you go, yet it would be hazardous to treat the lines as mere suggestions.
Regardless of what you do about the lines, the carving is a joy; maybe even more than coffee.