Introduction: Carving a Lattice and Acanthus Pattern on an Emu Egg Shell
I created this project with the amazing Faberge eggs in mind. My approach was to combine the precision and beauty of the famous Faberge eggs with modern tools and possibilities. I used an emu egg because of the natural layers and colors that it contains. Nothing on this egg shell is painted or dyed. This piece is meant to be contemplated up close.
The columns are stylized acanthus leaves carved in relief using the mainly the turquoise layer. The lattice is formed by removing multiple layers from around the outermost layer. The white negative space was made this way intentionally. I thought it would provide the best background for the darker colors of the foreground. In addition, when displayed where light is allowed to enter the pierced areas, that very light will show through the thin white portions of the design. I meant for this to give the effect of looking through a window where light penetrates a thin plant canopy and casts small light forms on the floor, walls and windows.
Step 1: Safety First
I give the egg a quick wipe down with alcohol to reduce the chances of Salmonella existing on the eggshell. Then wash the shell in water and dry thoroughly. Be sure to wear a surgical mask to help prevent breathing the dust created. It is not healthy at all to inhale this stuff.
Step 2: A Good Design Starts With Basics
Begin by marking a grid pattern on the egg. This can be done by stacking various household items like books or blocks of wood. A better method is to use an egg marker. There are a few available which I will not mention by name as I do not want to show favoritism. However, egg markers are easily found through the International Egg Art Guild.
Step 3: Begin Drawing the Design
Step 3 is to draw the lattice pattern on the egg using the grid as a guide to keep the lines of the lattice evenly spaced
Step 4: Draw in Acanthus
After the lattice is complete, draw on the acanthus columns. I draw the pattern on paper first. This gives me a guide to use when getting the image on the egg. If a person does not think they can draw the things over and over the same then there are other options. I know many people who use a stencil film (I buy mine on-line from Profitable Hobbies) which can be run through a copier or printer and then applied directly to your project as it has an adhesive on one side. I have used it in the past and still do from time to time.
Step 5: Cut in Light Outline, Remove Drawn on Lines
Next, using a #171 bit in a high speed engraving tool, I lightly cut each line of the design that will need further attention later in the process. By doing this I am able to remove all the pencil marks before the egg shell becomes too fragile to be sanded or otherwise cleaned. The surface of the emu egg is not smooth, nor is it even in hardness, so be careful while marking the pattern so you dont end up with deep cuts. Another reason I pre-mark the design is the eggs can chip as the cutting bit is drawn through the shell. By making a first pass chipping is reduced.
Step 6: Begin Carving the Acanthus
The acanthus columns are now begun. They will be the thickest part of the egg after it is carved. By carving these first the shell remains as strong as possible while it is handled. I first carve with a #2 carbide ball burr. All the rough-out as well as the majority of the detail is done with this bit.
Step 7: Add Details to Leaves
Change to a #0.5 carbide ball to begin adding the undercuts and the finer details.
Step 8: Continue Detailing Leaves
Again move to a smaller carbide ball burr #1/16. This is used to finish the undercutting. It is really to small to do much carving of large areas. At this time, the flower is left alone as it is to be taken to the white layer.
Step 9: Time to Carve the Lattice Pattern
We now will begin the lattice. Because the outermost layer varies in hardness and surface texture, I will remove it before making the effort to take the turquoise layer away. I realize this is a lot of work but I do it so I have a much reduced chance of punching a hole completely through the egg. I use a #171 tapered flat carbide burr to remove the dark green layer. I do this by carefully following the outline previously drawn to roughly the depth of the outer layer. After the diamond shape is marked I remove the remaining dark shell just outlined.
Step 10: Remove the Turquoise Layer
Time again to change bits. Now I will use a fairly large carbide ball burr #6 to remove the turquoise layer. You will not be able to remove a small amount where the white layer meets the lattice. Dont worry we will take it out next. Care must be taken here as this burr is pretty aggressive for the small area and thickness we are removing. The parts of the shell that are to be pierced can be left alone at this point. I mark them with a Sharpie pen so I know where they are and so I wont waste time continuing to carve in areas that I will be removing later.
Step 11: Touch Up the Edges of the Lattice
When all the diamond shapes are roughed out to the white layer we change burrs yet again to a #699 tapered flat carbide cutter. The end of this burr is flat so it can be stood straight up and it will cut like a router bit. This burr is used to remove all the turquoise layer that remains next to the lattice lines It can also be used to remove any remaining large pieces of the turquoise layer.
Step 12: Finish Removing Any Signs of the Turquoise Layer
After cleaning up all the diamond shapes between the lattice lines the burr is changed to a green conical sanding stone. We now remove the small thin portions of the turquoise layer that remain in each of the spaces between the lattice. And to smooth the white surface. BE CAREFUL!! Not much thickness here for errors.
Step 13: Completion of Flowers
13. Time to finish the flowers. The center is left alone in the dark outer layer. The petals are carved with a #4 carbide ball burr by first removing the dark layer. Second, strokes are drawn from the edge of the center circle to the edge of the petal through the turquoise layer down to the white layer. We dont need a lot of precision here in the stokes except to avoid cutting to deeply and breaking through. The randomness of varied stokes will more closely match those created by mature.
Step 14: Undercutting the Flower Petals
When you are satisfied with the petals of all the flowers, change to burr back to the #1/16 and undercut the petals.
Step 15: Time to Punch Some Holes
Time to remove the pierced portions. Either the #699 or the #171 can be used for this. The end of these bits will cut so they can be carefully pushed straight through the shell then drawn along the edges of the design that are to remain.
Step 16: Beginning to Prepare the Egg for Display
After you are satisfied with the carving and cutting portion of this project, prepare a solution of bleach and water. You will hear many different ideas on the correct proportions of bleach to water. I have used straight bleach and a mixture as diluted as 50/50. Obviously the diluted solutions will take longer to accomplish the task at hand. We are going to remove the film that is inside the egg. If you are patient enough you can put a piece of dental floss in one hole and out another to help you put the egg in the bleach. I just use a rubber kitchen glove since it gives me more control over how the egg enters the liquid. This process will raise a strong bleach smell as the bleach eats away the proteins. I wait until the surface of the liquid no longer has any bubbles or foam on it before examining the egg for any remaining inner film layer. (Steps 16 and 17 can be ignored if you choose not to pierce the shell.)
Step 17: Wash, Wash, Wash
After the film is removed, wash the shell thoroughly with lots of water. The point is to be absolutely sure all the bleach is removed. Allow the shell to dry over night then you can begin applying light layers of polyurethane. Don’t hurry here as a run or drip will be basically impossible to remove.
Step 18: Time to Finish the Egg for Display
Find a stand that you feel is appropriate to your work. I use a super glue style adhesive to hold the egg in it stand. My opinion offered here is to choose something that will compliment the design and not overpower. After spending countless hours creating your project, it seems to me that saving a few pennies and putting your work on the cheapest base you can find is detracting from your work of art.
Step 19: Photo Time
Photograph you project to your hearts content
Step 20: Protect Your Hard Work
Glue the stand containing your egg shell to the center of the base that comes with a glass dome.Place glass dome over the entire project. I use professional modeling clay to hold the dome in the base. The clay never dries and will hold the dome in place nicely. Never pick up this display by the dome, always the base.
Step 21: Review
• Wash the egg
• Draw a grid
• Apply the design
• Outline the design
• Work in layers outside to inside
• When finished (if pierced) remove inner film with bleach
• Be sure to wash away any bleach
• Save your project with a protective cover ie. Glass dome
Step 22: Final Insight
ALWAYS HAVE FUN!!!