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A Sign of the Times

"Fair Play" quarterboard

Creating quarterboards with machines isn’t necessarily less expensive, Lacy says, because the machines are very costly. But it does allow the shop to produce a greater volume, and it’s much less punishing on the carvers, who are vulnerable to such problems as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Around the same time that Lacy switched to the CNC router, he began working with alternatives to forest wood. “Wood has one purpose, and that is to transport water up the trunk of the tree and into the leaves,” he says. “Composites allow us to use a material that won’t absorb water and holds paint better.”

Some things have not changed. Many templates are based on historical quarterboards; scallop shells are still the most popular motif; black and gold remain the first choice for lettering; and Lacy still uses 23-karat gold pounded into leaf for accents. “Gold leaf outlasts any other kind of finish,” he says. “I’ve seen the old boards rot away, but the gold stays.” Gold-leaf-accented quarterboards created at Chatham Sign begin around $365, Lacy says, and can run up to $2,000 or more depending on size.

Paul White, of Paul White Woodcarving in East Sandwich, started making quarterboards as a hobby in the mid-1960s. Some 50 years later, he specializes in a variety of hand-carved items, including signs, figureheads and various marine creatures. His signature eagles, created with chisels and mallets and finished with 23-karat gold, are displayed in homes and businesses around the world.

White has been teaching almost as long as he’s been carving. “Half the people on the Cape who carve, either I taught or people I taught have taught them,” he says. His two-day basic carving course gives beginners a strong overview, but success is all about practice.

Among White’s more unusual commissions are a gorilla, a horned creature from the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are,” and a 6-foot grape Popsicle. What does he most like to carve? “Something new and different.”

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