Building the FABERGE EGG "The Eggnigma"

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Blog entry by Gumnut posted 07-29-2012 09:07 AM 4224 reads 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here is the project post for the Faberge Egg Eggnigma

The jewellery box was inspired by the Russian jeweller Carl Faberge who made jewel encrusted eggs that contained a surprise for the family of the Czar of Russia on each Easter.
My version doesn’t have any Diamonds or gold yet but with time I hope it will hold some loved and cherished pieces of jewellery.
It has taken twelve months to finish with 355 individual pieces of veneer and 215 pieces of wood, how many hours who knows?

The Egg was turned from a large block of Jarrah burl on a Jet Midi lathe; firstly I worked on the external area to shape the egg and then leaving a spigot near the tip of the egg to grip in the lathe chuck later on. I then removed it from the lathe and used a large Forstner bit to remove a large amount of waste from the centre going through the base end of the Egg; this allows easier removal deep inside the vessel.
Then came the process of deep hollowing, this was done by a home made tool constructed from 25mm bright steel round bar welded into a Y shape with a HSS capped cutter bolted onto the end, this had an advantage of swivelling into the contours of the egg. An addition to the tool was a laser pointer that was added as an external frame on the tool handle, this was aimed at the desired position giving a thickness reference when the laser dot fell off the outside of the egg.
I should mention at this point that deep hollow turning is a very dangerous procedure and incorrect use of the tooling can result in the cutter digging in and shattering the turned vessel resulting in catastrophic damage to the prized piece and people in the vicinity.
I then remounted the egg back on the lathe chuck using the spigot at the tip, as the removal of the waste caused some vibration I stopped and welded up a crude but effective steel frame that surrounded the vessel with four wheels taken from my sons discarded roller skates. This was the source of some laughter at the time because the roller skate wheels had LED’s embedded inside and lit up like a Christmas tree when they spun up.
I carefully removed the wood from the centre of the egg until the general internal shape was achieved and then removed the cutting tip and bolted on a small rounded piece of wood that had I attached different grades of sandpaper to smooth up the inside. I then reversed the egg in the lathe and removed the spigot from the tip of the egg and sanded the outside to a smooth finish. At this stage the egg was sprayed with varnish on the inside and outside to help stabilization then left it for nine months while I worked on the rest of the Jewellery box. The final clean up of the inside was done after cutting the egg open.

This was one of the hardest sections to work out and finally after 5 prototypes the solution came when I was filling up a car with fuel, the answer to the pivoting hinge was right in front of me, a canter lever pivoting from the underside would work perfectly.

Hinge Block

The production of the canter levers had to be as good as machined gears so with the help of a company called Laser Sharp Engraving each canter lever section was cut out from modeller’s plywood using a CNC laser cutter for accuracy. Five of these pieces were stacked and glued together with two pack resin glue (Techni Glue) to make each canter lever and then cleaned up with fine sand paper. Each of the drive teethe were painted with black stained Estapol varnish and then veneered on all the flat surfaces with Vavona (Sequoia sempervirens).
A central drive gear was turned on the lathe with the aid of a set of digital vernier callipers I cut each tooth and spacing gap to 7mm as a square pattern then each tooth and space were rounded off very carefully, a central slide hole was drilled out through the gear while still on the lathe to a size of 20mm so the gear could slide freely up and down a stainless steel guide tube.

To work out the correct position for the canter levers and the drive gear meshing I had to make up a dummy jig that held two opposing canter levers on a test board with the drive gear sliding up and down the central stainless steel tube, this allowed some tweaking of the positions for a smooth operation.
Once the dimensions had been worked out I made up the hinge block that held all of the six canter levers by gluing six triangular blocks of Jarrah with the grain facing inwards (for stability of movement) onto a 12mm MDF round disc with MDF also in between each jarrah section.
This was turned on the lathe and a central guide hole was cut out for the central drive gear. I had to make sure each canter lever was positioned perfectly in a 60 degree spacing pattern so a hexagon plate was cut out of Perspex with a CNC laser and then this plate was glued onto the turned block.
The hinge block was then run through a straight cutter in successive cuts on the router table using the flat outside edges of the Perspex plate as a guide against an extended router table fence; this removed the unwanted supporting MDF in between the Jarrah to create the gap required for the canter levers.
To allow for movement of the wood over time each canter lever had to be adjustable in three axis points. So the mounting for the pivoting point was screwed on outside the hinge block by means of a rebated block with four slide slots for up and down and paper shim for the in and out movement. The third adjustment is a grub screw going through the rebate block that moved the egg tip in and out; I put glue on the thread of the grub screw to prevent it from slipping.
The top cover which the canter levers appear out of was made from 30mm MDF hexagon shape that was mounted on a angled holding jig then the six facets were shaved off using an overhead router, each one of these facets were veneered with Vavona.

The top cover was then remounted back on the angled jig under the overhead router and slots were cut out for the inlay radiating out from the centre, a curved inner ring made of Blackbutt was turned up on the lathe and then inserted in the middle of the top cover for the canter levers to appear from the top of the cover.
To secure the top cover to the hinge block I drilled two hole through the hinge block and fitted two long bolts through to underside of the top cover where brass threaded inserts were glued into the underside of the MDF, this allowed the removal of the top cover if necessary later. Carcase
The main body or carcase has the Hinge block inserted into the top which is removable for adjustment.
This was pre assembled without glue many times to fine tune the different needs of the design, the carcase has a hexagon shaped plywood base board that is double veneered, Vavona on the underside and birds eye Poplar for the inside areas of the drawer sections. Six thin strips of jarrah were inserted into the base board which act as guides for the bottom drawer slides.
I attached to the base board six L shaped fully veneered pine dividing walls which are the structures main support, each one of these walls had a slot cut for the second drawer shelf and an internal ledge that the Hinge block rested on. Two opposing walls were morticed out to allow the egg opening handles to pass through to the central drive gear and a discrete pivot pin was hidden in each of these two walls.
To accurately mount the walls I made up six blocks of 20mm MDF cut at 60 degrees which acted as clamping jigs to that aligned the walls while they were glued and screwed into place on the base board which also included the second drawer shelf during this assembly.
A thin veneered plywood wall was inserted in the rear of each drawer section and 12 rare earth magnets were glued onto the backs of the walls using two pack resin glue. Behind each drawer and inside the carcase on these walls are laser engraved numbers from one to six which help the drawers location maintained when they are removed and reinstalled this keeps the grain pattern on the drawer fronts in the correct order.
On the top of each of the dividing walls directly above the drawers I glued six pieces of 3mm double veneered plywood and another six pieces for hiding the hinge block section, each of these pieces was veneered in a mirror fashion around the top to give the impression of never ending flow of the grain pattern using

Vavona. A thin line of Poplar stringing was inserted during assembly to separate the top from the base.
In the centre of the carcase I fitted the stainless steel shaft into the base board which the central drive gear slides up and down on, this passes through to the inside of the main egg and supports the second internal egg.
The six corner pillars were turned up on the lathe then locked in an indexed position, a trimming router sliding on a home made jig over the top of the pillars cut the flutes and then the slots for the two handles. I turned the pillars over and removed the back half in the same manner.
A mitre at the bottom of each pillar connects with a tapered turned section becoming the feet for the carcase.
Thin sections of Blackbutt were sanded to a slight curve and glued onto the baseboard top cover and above the drawers.
The lever handles that open the main egg were cut and filed to shape from 8mm Brass and Aluminium plate then polished with wet and dry and finally brought to a shine using Brasso then cleaned and sprayed with Incralac Lacquer. DRAWERS
I used 3mm plywood to make up the base of the drawers which were sanded on the edges to an exact fit into each of the drawer compartment sections. The bases were marked up to match the jarrah guiding slides and with the router the slots were cut out also rebates for the side walls were cut. The side walls were made up and all internal faces of the drawers were veneered and the finish applied pre assembly. Having the finish done before assembly on the inside is easier than trying to get a clean result after assembly.
I protected the inside of the carcase with kitchen wax paper and inserted each drawer base with a small amount of resin glue in its rebates. Then carefully inserted the side walls into place and using thin plastic tiling wedges each one was clamped to the internal shape of the carcase, when the glue was hard they were removed and then the front and back glued on. The drawers were made slightly undersize to allow for the external veneering which moved each drawer out of its compartment to the external face of the carcase.
Once all the external faces of the drawers were veneered they were sealed with lacquer sanded and given three coats of varnish, then a smoothing off with 0000 steel wool and a final polish up with Carnauba wax.
The leather lining of the drawers was glued into place with contact adhesive and with the smooth end of a scalpel handle I tucked the edges neatly down.
I made the brass handles for the drawers from dome headed slot wood screws, a number 2 morse taper drill chuck mounted in the wood lathe held the wood screws but they first had to be crushed in the jaws of the chuck many times to get the screw spinning central enough for working on. Using metal files the head was flattened off then the shank straightened and a step down for a thread to be cut. Steel wool polished up the handles to a brilliant shine then docked off to a measured length, a thread was cut on the smaller shank and finished with Incralac. CUTTING THE EGG
The deadline to finish the project was four weeks away, so it was time to bite the bullet and cut the egg open, with thoughts of Humpty Dumpty buzzing in my head I carefully planned the procedure as follows.

I mounted a large flat board onto the lathe bed under the egg, then using MDF I made a very stable stand that the Dremel handpiece was secured to in a upright position, the good thing about Dremel is that the attachments are very varied. I used the saw attachment with a very thin kerf blade, the height of the blade was set to the centre line of the egg mounted in the chuck which I had locked in one of three indexed positions.
The stand slid on the flat board very freely and it kept the saw blade in a horizontal position. The first cut sliced almost fully through apart from at the tip of the egg and also at the base where it was held in the chuck.

The egg was then turned to the other two indexed positions cutting through at each turn, the stand worked a treat and all three cuts met precisely at the tip as planned.
The next heart pumping moment was to attach the egg onto the hinge block Canter levers, this was done with the top cover removed as the egg had not been fully cut through yet and I needed to do this after the gluing.
I used two pack resin glue for strength which was pasted onto both the egg and the canter levers and then carefully place into position lining up the cut lines of the egg with the points of the hexagon shape of the hinge block.

24 hours later when the glue had hardened I used a fine toothed veritas hand saw to separate each of the six egg shell pieces, they were then fully removed from the hinge block and then worked on each piece using a wheat heat bag that conformed to the external shape giving it support.
Each piece was cleaned up on the inside and also around the mounting point of the egg to the canter lever using 120 grit sand paper until a consistent shape was achieved, then finished off with 320 grit aluminium oxide paper.
The collar of the egg where it connects to the lever was then veneered with Vavona and the edges of the egg shell pieces were lightly sanded and veneered with white Poplar. This gave a defining line that flowed down the whole hexagon structure.
A further three coats of varnish was applied, then buffed back with 0000 steel wool and polished with Carnauba wax.
I should mention that when varnishing the use of a hair dryer to warm up before and after spraying prevents dust crinkles and other issues of moisture in the air.
There were no plans for this project only some scribbles on paper at times and the whole thing evolved in my head as I progressed along, This however is the wrong way to build a special piece and I highly recommend drawing up scaled plans.

I fully assembled and finished off the whole jewellery box just in time to enter it into the Western Australian Wood Show, which received so many wonderful comments that made all the effort worth while, also first place in the Box category and Peoples choice.

-- Peter, member of the Fine Woodwork Association

10 comments so far

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1102 posts in 2924 days

#1 posted 07-29-2012 09:33 AM

Wow! You did a fantastic job here. A worthy winner at your show.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4493 days

#2 posted 07-29-2012 11:09 AM

That is so cool. I just love the engineering behind all the little steps. I too spend all my free minutes thinking of ways to accomplish tasks. That is half the fun.

Well done, you should be proud.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View SirFatty's profile


547 posts in 2823 days

#3 posted 07-29-2012 11:53 AM

That’s amazing! I cannot imagine working on a project for 12 months….

-- Visit my blog at

View Raymond Thomas's profile

Raymond Thomas

189 posts in 2830 days

#4 posted 07-29-2012 12:37 PM

A masterful work of wooden art. Patience is truly a virtue when building something that complex. Wonderful.

-- Raymond, Charlotte, NC -------- Demonstrate the difference!

View dclark1943's profile


270 posts in 2799 days

#5 posted 07-29-2012 02:02 PM

WOW ! This is a masterpiece! I would love to see a video of how this thing works ! You my friend are one of few at the top of the foodchain!

-- Dave, Kansas City

View Kookaburra's profile


748 posts in 2836 days

#6 posted 07-29-2012 03:41 PM

Cutting the egg into wedges had to be some of the most stressful moments of the whole project. The mechanism for raising the inside egg is both beautiful and a technical masterpiece. You say you can not guess the number of hours, but was this in your “spare” time or was it your profession for the 12 months?

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View Gumnut's profile


95 posts in 2769 days

#7 posted 07-29-2012 03:59 PM

Thank you for your comments they are very humbling for me.
Dave – I will have to post a video but I am not sure how?

Kookaburra – Yes cutting the egg was the most stressful part as I had to wait for the egg to stabilize for so long, the concept was waiting and all planned out in my mind but the cutting was “as they say the sphincter muscles were going over time, sorry for the rude analogy.

-- Peter, member of the Fine Woodwork Association

View Don's profile


1 post in 2911 days

#8 posted 08-17-2012 12:54 PM

Looks great… I would also love to see a video of it in action. I have the technical background to do something like this, but I certainly don’t have the patience! Beautiful work…

-- Don D., Springfield, IL

View Gpops's profile


248 posts in 4056 days

#9 posted 08-17-2012 02:41 PM

Masterpiece my friend!
What do you do for a living? The engineering involved, just building procedure in your head without a plan is mind boggling and with a deadline to boot.
Congrats on the class with Andrew Crawford. I read about his trip down under, from all his pictures sounds like he had quite a time and will be back. I have aspirations to take a class with Andrew Crawford in a couple of years on our 50th anniversary so I am saving my pennies. Don

View madburg's profile


248 posts in 1454 days

#10 posted 02-19-2016 09:26 AM

Found you!

-- Madburg WA

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