Hieroglyphs from the Book of the Dead
With the limestone shell complete, it was time to get creative. Before starting
this part of the construction phase, I had sifted through numerous books on
Egypt, Egyptian Jewelry, Tutankhamen, hieroglyphics, and did lots of Internet
photo searches for inspiration or possible source material. Rather than depicting
some static deities just standing or sitting, I decided on a composite hunt
scene for one of the panels and a partial recreation of a Tutankhamen chariot
scene for the second. For some "authentic" hieroglyphic text, I selected
several translated passages from "The Egyptian Book of the Dead" by
E. A. Wallis Budge.
A chariot scene, based on a mirror image of this one, will be carved on one
Some of the text assembled from the "The Egyptian Book of the Dead"
to be integrated with the chariot scene.
The first step was to lay out the figures and scenes in pencil, and to draw
grid lines for the hieroglyphs. The hieroglyph text was then copied into the
grid, and then details added to the plants, animals and other figures. Using
a flexible shaft and a small diamond burr, outlines are cut around the figures,
edge lines and text separation lines, and then the hieroglyphs cut. After all
the glyphs were carved, then the details of the figures are added next, with
some shaping done to emphasize the forms.
A hunt scene with elements of several different carvings and designs is laid
out in pencil on a side panel.
Diamond burrs and a flexible shaft are used to carve the hieroglyphs and design
into the surface of the tile. Note that I changed the two eyes of Horus into
one large one before I started carving the scene.
Detail of the Horus / hawk carving with a hole carved out to hold a carnelian
Once the carving stage was mostly complete, I could get fancy with some
embellishments. First, I cut a round carnelian cabochon to place in the sun
circle over the Ra / Horus Hawk. In the pencil sketch, I started with two
"eyes" but replaced that with a single larger eye instead.
The single eye of Horus is a medallion crafted from brass and inlaid with
malachite (dark green and banded) and variscite (pale green). To make these
gemstone medallions, narrow strips of metal are shaped into channels to form
the design and soldered together. The assembled channel work is then soldered
to a flat sheet, and excess metal trimmed away with a jeweler's saw. Rough gemstone
is then cut and ground to fit like a series of jigsaw pieces. Once a group
of pieces are cut to shape, they are glued into the channel with epoxy. The
surface of the medallion is then ground down flush with the channel, then
sanded and polished. If a section is to be carved in low relief (like the
scroll) this is either left out of the channel during the grinding phase or
carefully avoided and polished out by hand at the end. The finished medallion
is placed on the panel and its outline traced in pencil. Last, the limestone
has a medallion-shaped hole carved to countersink the medallion into the panel
Step one, create the design from flat strips of brass and then solder the design
to a piece of flat sheet.
Step two, cut pieces of gemstone to fit the metal channel and then glue into
place with epoxy.
(Step two continued) The pale green is variscite, the dark green is malachite.
Step three, grind flush, and then sand and polish the inlay. The spiral had
to be hand-polished.
A similar process was repeated with the second side panel; sketching, carving,
and setting medallions and accents. For the chariot panel, I created two smaller
gemstone medallions incorporating icons used to symbolize upper and lower
Egypt. I have a vulture wearing the white crown, and a cobra wearing the red
crown. In addition to the malachite and variscite, I used turquoise, calcite,
lapis, ivory, and coral in the vulture, and lapis lazuli and coral in the
cobra. Accents to the side panel include another carnelian sun and a small
hammered brass dome positioned in the horses' harness.
The vulture and cobra inlays are ready to be filled with the stone inlay.
Turquoise, ivory, malachite, lapis, variscite, red coral, and banded calcite
are inlayed into the medallions. These are set into the stone panel and glued
in place with epoxy.
Next time: Aging the panel carvings.