Calligraphy on Wood from Quivis


Some basic information on layout and scripts.

Be ay of chiere... Celebrate that special occasion with a permanent inscription on hand-crafted wooden artefact. Such items will be unique to both giver and recipient.

The LETTERING is incised (i.e. actually cuts into the surface) by burning and is thus permanent. It is NOT just applied to the surface and will not wash off. The most suitable timbers for lettering are dense and smooth. I find sycamore is excellent; beech, cherry and other fruit woods are OK. I only used native British hardwoods and NO TROPICAL or IMPORTED TIMBERS.

Most of the inscribed dishes shown on this website were made from 2 inch (50 mm) thick sycamore. I turned up to 24” (610mm) diameter as a ‘regular’ item - but please check the size of your table! Larger sizes than this are possible but expensive.

LAY OUT. Conventional left to right reading means inscriptions go clockwise around the rim - see image of two dishes. Where suitable, inscriptions can be split to read half clockwise and half anticlockwise enabling the inscription to be read from one way up without the need to rotate the dish. This works well where a name/s and date are combined with a short inscription.


Inscriptions around the rims of dishes tend to look best when they cover the whole of the rim. A name and a date on their own can leave the dish looking rather ‘bare’. But judge for yourself; have a look at this if minimalism is what you are after. (The bowl really was that shape - see Green Treen.) Roughly speaking, 30 to 40 letters will comfortably go around the rim of a 12” (300 mm) diameter dish.

rudis.jpg Inscriptions can also be worked in the base of a dish - see right. (The Latin is from Ovid and means “an unformed, confused mass.”) Some people like the fact that such inscriptions may be hidden and only reveal themselves gradually, as all the food that is in the dish is eaten for example. Others feel they would rather have the inscription visible all the time and thus placed entirely round the rim. The underneath can also be inscribed, which is where I sign my work; but that really is hiding one's light under a bushel.

While most of the inscribed items featured on this website are turned, inscriptions can be worked on other pieces such as this lectern. Apart from lettering other graphics can be inscribed such as coats of arms, clan badges, logos, and other figurative designs are all possible.

The scripts evolved along strictly Darwinian principles: anything with an adaptive advantage (for me!) survived and prospered. I used two principle types; a sort of Bastard Lombardic Versal which are all capitals and a sort of Bastard Italic which are all lower case. Many examples of both types of bastard are included on this website.

mouse.jpg I occasionally used scripts markedly different from the majority of those shown on the website. On the right, for example, there is a ‘runic’ type that is very useful for (and indeed benefits from) being compressed, i.e. trying to fit a quart into a pint pot. Why a leek? It is referred to in the inscribed quotation from Chaucer “I holde a mouses herte nat worth a leek ...” There is more Chaucer on the QUOTATIONS page. And why a 50 pence piece? Because that was the price per pound of leeks when I did the dish. While all the examples illustrated use Roman letters I have done Russian, Greek, Persian and Sanskrit scripts on commission.

© 2018 Duncan Linklater