Some figural pieces

•March 24, 2012 • 3 Comments

Here are a few figural Arabic calligraphy pieces I’ve done recently in different styles. See more at

The Light in Her Eyes

•March 23, 2012 • 1 Comment

Recently I was contacted by two talented filmmakers to design some calligraphy for their documentary. The story focuses on girls’ Quranic recitation schools in Syria, and the impact they have on the families and the girls themselves. Learn more at

Here are some of the preliminary posters that their designer, Tesia Alexander, came up with. (It’s actually ‘The Light in Her Eyes’ – these again are just prelims)

Arabic Logo Design

•March 21, 2012 • 1 Comment

I am very lucky to have been able to help with several exciting logo projects recently. Here are some shots of the work in action.

Majid Bin Mohammad AL Maktoum (Emir of Dubai) – not live yet

If you are interested in commissioning a piece of calligraphy, please contact me at arabic.calligrapher(AT)gmail(DOT)com

The Shrines of Egypt

•March 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This is a logo I did recently for a website outlining the different shrines (mazarat) of Egypt. The site isn’t live yet, but when it is I will post a link.

Arabic Calligraphy of Names

•March 17, 2012 • 6 Comments

Sorry for the long lull in posts. I wanted to post a few pictures of some recent designs of two names intertwined. These are used either in wedding invitations, tattoos, personal logos or more. See more at

Nadia and Ahmer

Amal and Ahmad

Chad and Tracy

Noelle and Zain


A Sideboard Bar Cabinet from Walnut and Quarter-Sawn Oak

•January 28, 2012 • 9 Comments

In late June I decided to build a sideboard bar. I thought it would be my summer project. It is now almost February and I am finally finishing it. I could blame that on the fact that I’m a full-time grad student with a full course load, even over the summer, but the fact is I had to learn how to do much of the steps of this project for the first time, and with a full-time job on top of the course load, it was slow going.

I’d like to walk you through the steps of how this project came to be. The basic process of this, or any woodworking project, is to break it into smaller projects, and then those into smaller projects still, until you have something that you can complete over the weekend or several short sessions. For me, this project started with a drawing. I didn’t use plans, per se, but I did have a drawing. I first drew a very rough sketch of what I wanted it to have, and then a more refined sketch after looking at some pictures in books and online, and then finally a third sketch which is what the project ultimately came to resemble. Not everything in the drawing made it in; some things that weren’t in the drawing were added. This is what I came up with:

The first thing I did was rip the legs from one of my massive walnut slabs. I used a thick-stock blade from Freud because these slabs jam up the table saw when its got my normal blade in (I prefer a thin-kerf blade normally, and it’s no match for these slabs).

These are the legs, rough cut and unplaned (I had one left over):

The bulk of this project is frame and panel construction: the doors, the side panels, the main visual elements of the piece all consist of oak frames with walnut panels. I did the doors and the side panels together, because they were basically the same process. I started with the rough sawn oak:

It was kiln dried, and what generally happens is that the wood gets comfortable in its rough-sawn form. When you put it through the planer it opens pores in the wood to the moisture in the air, and as it absorbs or loses moisture, it moves. So I planed, jointed, and cut all the oak for the frames not to final dimensions, but within an 1/8th of an inch of final. Then I let them sit on edge, exposed to the air for a week. They warped, they twisted, they bent. So I planed, jointed, and cut them again, until they were straight and true again. Then I waited another week. They moved a bit more. I took them to final dimensions and they didn’t move again.

Meanwhile, I made the panels to go inside.

I rabbeted the sides and then routed out the frame sides to receive the panels.

The curved tops of the doors were made with a template I cut from some hardboard, which ensured that all pieces were identical. I just attached it with some carpet tape and used the flush trim bit. I made a special jig to hold them because I didn’t want my fingers that close to the bit on such a small piece.

That basically concluded the milling of the doors and panels. I dry fit them to make sure.

Perhaps the most challenging issue of this project was the finish. I didn’t like the intense contrast of the above, I wanted the oak and the walnut to be of similar tones, but the figure in the quarter sawn oak to pop. I went through several frustrating trials (to the tune of more than 20 scrap pieces tested with various finish combinations and layers) until I settled on Transfast’s Dark Mission brown dye as the main element of the finish. Now, here was the tricky part. I could only apply water-based dyes prior to glue up, because an oil or urethane based dye would reject the glue and essentially ruin the project. Since I knew I would be using such finishes, I needed to make it so the last layers of the oak’s finish were the first layers of the walnut’s, so I could glue it up and then finish the whole piece. The final finish schedule was like this:

1 coat, dark mission brown

Sand down with 320 grit:

Another layer of dye:

That concludes the oak part. Now I glued it up with the walnut panels:

I put on 2 coats of a mixture of 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 mineral spirits, 1/3 polyurethane. That was followed by 3 coats of Arm-R-Seal:

That finished the doors! It was fall, by now. School had started, the leaves were already turning colors.

Then I made the wine rack:

I made the bottom cross bars the same way I did the curved door parts: template + flush trim bit. I milled the rest of the cross bars. The maple ones are for the back; out of sight, and very hard.

Then I made the top. I put up a blog post about it a few days ago:

I milled the mortises in the legs, then glued up the sides with the help of dowel pins.

This gets us close. I made some carcass details, the drawer housing, the middle shelf:

I made the auxiliary stuff: cutting board, drawers, and backsplash.

I made the cutting board with some stuff from the scrap heap. Walnut, cherry, maple, oak.

I used Motawi tiles in the backsplash.

I added the pull-out drawers to the middle and bottom shelves.

Set up time! I could not have done this without Rach. We built a stack and then put the side panels onto it:

Dovetailed top rails help keep the top from shifting.

I put the rest of the finish on, and moved it upstairs, with the help of my friend Elliot. I attached the top, and the back, put it in place, and loaded it up!

As one project ends, another begins: this is the single massive walnut timber that I will cut the legs of my dining room table from:

Some new Arabic tattoos I’ve designed

•January 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Thought I’d post a few more pics of my recent work. Thanks very much to my clients for sending me these! You can see more or order a design at

Making the Top

•December 29, 2011 • 5 Comments

Here are a few pictures of how I made the top of my sideboard bar cabinet. The top is about 1 1/4 inches thick and was made from 4 massive slabs of black walnut, all cut from the same tree. Here is how I made it:

First I took the slabs and figured out what portion I could take for the top, given how wide and how long it would have to be. Then I cut the bark side off on the table saw with a special thick-stock rip blade from Freud.

After that, I had them in basic rough form:

Then I put them through the planer to take off the rough face and get them to a uniform thickness. I wanted to have an inlaid tile plate on the top so I routed that out before I glued them up.

Then I glued up the slabs with the help of dowels and 2×4 cauls to keep the top from bowing.

When the glue had set, I sharpened up my hand planes and went to work getting it nice and flat. I used two planes, a Veritas #4 and a Bailey jointer plane with a Veritas A2 iron in it.

I used the Lee Valley camber roller honing guide to sharpen them on the water stone, which gives a slight curve to the plane’s iron, and eliminates the track marks cut into the wood by a blade that is 100% square on the edges.

I planed it for 2 days straight, basically.

Then I sanded it for 4.

When it was sanded and flat, it was time to fit the breadboard ends. I knew the groove in the breadboards would be 1/2″ so I cut the end of the table to that thickness with a circular saw to define the edge, a router to cut out the waste, and my Japanese saw to cut the shoulders.

Then I cut the breadboards themselves from a single piece of walnut, again from the same tree. I beveled the ends on the table saw first.

Then I routed out the tongue groove with the help of an edge guide and a little platform I threw together from plywood scraps to support the router.

I dry fit them just to make sure.

Then I cut the holes for the pegs in the tongue and the breadboards. The table will expand outward from the center, so the pegs on the ends need to be able to slide, or it will crack the top.

Then I cut the square peg from ash to fit in the hole.

Then I glued the breadboard at the center of the tongue only, and seated the pegs.

And that concludes the top!

Masood’s Logo

•December 27, 2011 • 1 Comment

This is a personal seal/logo I designed for a very nice client in the UAE this week. More at

Evolution of a Logo Design

•November 11, 2011 • 3 Comments

This week I was contracted to design a logo for a travel agency in the UAE called Ikhlas.  The client said that he wanted a logo with traditional elements, but a modern touch. I came up with these three to start with:

The client indicated that he liked the second one’s layout, but wanted a style closer to this:

So with about 10 minutes before I had to run to class, I came up with this:

But obviously it needs quite a bit of work before it’s ready.

The first step was to redo the verticals so they a) are spaced evenly and b) form a continuous incline on the top:

The client asked that the Saad and Khaa be aligned and that the lines be of equal thickness:

Then the horizontals needed some work to get parallel and the client wanted more space between the Khaa and Saad:

Getting very close, but the openings of the Khaa and Saad are still different, plus there were some not-so-parallel elements to fix, so this fixes that and gets it pretty close to being done:

Check out for more.


Arabic Calligraphy for Wedding Invitations

•October 20, 2011 • 2 Comments

I am often approached by couples who are in the planning stages of their wedding, and are interested in having a design of their names written in Arabic calligraphy. This is used on invitations, cards, projected onto the wall, and generally becomes an emblem for the wedding. Here are several examples. If you’re looking for something like this, email me at arabic.calligrapher(at)gmail(dot)com

Nadine and Ryan

Rania and Aseel

Rima and Ramzi

Sultan and Nida

Design used on wedding handouts.

The most challenging request I have done so far was from a Lebanese-Australian couple whose families were from an area of Lebanon known for its olive trees. They wanted their names intertwined in the branches of an olive tree on the first page of the invitation, and when the page was turned, the tree would disappear and the calligraphy itself would remain. This meant that the calligraphy would need to be a piece that would look good and hold its own independent of the tree. Here is what I came up with:

Sideboard Bar Cabinet Intro

•October 6, 2011 • 3 Comments

For the past while I have been working on a sideboard project. I have been hesitant to put much up on the blog, just because I wanted to put it all up in one big post when it’s finished (which I still will do) but here is a short video I shot talking about the project.

Here are the top doors:

and here is the drawing of the project:


Dinar Mark

•October 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Logo for a clothing line. See more at

Grace Under Pressure

•August 27, 2011 • 2 Comments

Here’s a piece I did this week for a client in Massachusetts. It says “Courage is grace under pressure. – Ernest Hemingway” and is the shape of an egret in flight, an animal chosen both for its poise and grace, and for the fact that it will hang in a cottage overlooking salt marshes. For more information on commissioning a piece of Arabic calligraphy, please visit my site at

Travel Tickets – Samih al-Qasim

•August 5, 2011 • 4 Comments

Here’s a piece I did yesterday, it’s a poem by Samih al-Qasim, one of the most famous Palestinian poets of our time. It reads:

وعندما أٌقتَل في يومٍ من الأيام

سيَعثُر القاتل في جيبي

على تذاكِرِ السفر

واحدة الى السلام

واحدة الى الحقول والمطر

واحدة الى ضمائر البشر

ارجوك الّا تُهمِل التذاكر

يا قاتلي العزيز

ارجوك ان تسافر

The day I’m killed,
my killer, rifling through my pockets,
will find travel tickets:
One to peace,
one to the fields and the rain,
and one
to the conscience of humankind.

Dear killer of mine, I beg you:
Do not stay and waste them.
Take them, use them.
I beg you to travel.
(Translated by AZ Foreman)

Islamic Ayat

•July 20, 2011 • 1 Comment

Here is a recent logo I designed for a company out of the UK. See more at


A Man Without a Brother is Like a Right Without a Left

•July 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Arabic calligraphy in the shape of a Saz. See more at Arabic Calligraphy Design.

Dari, Uzbek, and Uyghur T-Shirts

•July 10, 2011 • 7 Comments

I’ve been in SWSEEL, the Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European and Central Asian Languages here at Indiana University for the past few weeks, partially explaining the lull in posts. I’m doing second-year Dari, or Afghan Persian. It’s a wonderful class taught by an amazing professor.

As part of SWSEEL every year there is a t-shirt competition. Both this year and last (when I was doing Uzbek) I worked with an incredibly talented artist, Connor Sweeney, to design the shirts. Connor was in Uzbek with me last summer, Uyghur this summer, so we designed three tshirts this year: Uzbek, Dari, and Uyghur. Each of them features a proverb in that language written in calligraphy, and a drawing done by Connor of an architectural monument inside the outline of that country (Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Xinjiang, China, respectively).

Here are the designs we put together:

The Dari shirt features the Mazar-i Sharif shrine of Ali and a quote from the Shahname that reads, “Thy source of might is knowledge, for learning makes old hearts grow young again.”

The Uyghur shirt shows the Emin Minaret in Turpan, Xinjiang and the proverb reads “Better to be the sole of a shoe in your homeland than a king abroad.”

The Uzbek shirt features the Mir-i Arab madrasah in Bukhara and the quote reads, in the three alphabets Uzbek is written in, “Power is in Justice – Amir Temur.”

Arabic Tattoos (again)

•June 3, 2011 • 1 Comment

Just a couple more tattoos I’ve designed in the past few weeks. A big thanks to all my clients for sending me pics of the finished products! For more info check my other site at

Rach’s Walnut Coffee Table

•May 30, 2011 • 6 Comments

A month or so ago I bought a huge load of walnut from an old fellow in Bloomington. I built this coffee table from that walnut.

First I selected the pieces that would make this project.

From one of the huge slabs I ripped two square strips, and from those I made the legs.

Then I cut the apron, the part of the table that holds the legs together and fastens it to the top.

Cut the tenons of the apron. I cut a test mortise to make sure they were a tight fit.

Then I made the table top.

When I had them jointed and planed to moderately even thickness I glued them up with the use of dowel pins.

When it came out of the clamps I used a hand plane and smoothed out the uneven parts.

Then I milled the breadboard ends. The breadboard’s function is to keep the table from cupping or bowing over time. However, as the tabletop will expand and contract with seasonal humidity, you cant glue the breadboard on, it has to be able to slide. So what we do is add pegs to keep it on tight. The side pegs (where the boards will be moving) sit in grooves that allow movement, while the middle peg sits flush and prevents the breadboard itself from moving. First I marked out where the breadboard would come to, and defined the shoulder on the table saw.

Then I routed out the waste to make the long tenon for the breadboard.

Then I cut the mortise for the breadboards, chanfered the edges, and cut three square holes for the pegs.

Then I transferred the hole spacing to the table top, and cut the corresponding peg holes, leaving room on the ends for wood expansion.

To cut the bottom, curved apron, I cut a template from hardboard, then traced that onto the walnut, cut a rough outline, then used a flush-trim bit on the router to mill both pieces to perfect equal curves.

Then I mortised out the legs and cut the bottom crossbar.

All the pieces ready to go.

Glued up. The top is held to the apron by Z-fasteners from Rockler that sit in a 3/32” groove cut in the apron pieces.

I finished it with 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 mineral spirits, 1/3 polyurethane, a favorite of Sam Maloof. It allows a close-to-the-wood look while providing some protection from water etc. It took 5 days to put the finish on.

The night I finished it.



•May 28, 2011 • 1 Comment

To Him We Return

•May 26, 2011 • 1 Comment

To God we are from, and to him we must return.

A few more tattoos

•May 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Just a couple more tattoos I’ve designed in the past few weeks. A big thanks to all my clients for sending me pics of the finished products! For more info check my other site at

More Rosettes

•April 24, 2011 • 5 Comments

Some more examples of Rosette style calligraphy for Arabic tattoos.

Check out more of my Arabic tattoo work at

Nothingness Without End

•April 22, 2011 • 5 Comments

This is a traditional piece of Ottoman calligraphy I did for a friend a few weeks ago. It reads Hiç/Hech, a Persian word that made its way into Turkic languages (Turkish, Ottoman, Uzbek, Kazakh to name a few) as well. It means, on a basic level, ‘nothing’ and is used grammatically as total negation throughout those languages: hiç kimse = no one (lit. no who) hech qachon = never (lit. no when) etc.

But in Islamic mystical philosophy, Hich means so much more. It refers to the never-ending, infinite and incomprehensible depth of God’s existence, an existence we as humans cannot begin to comprehend except through long study and deep meditation and focus. Hich therefore has become a meditation concept, a focal point to help direct thoughts, and its use as a calligraphic talisman of sorts is seen throughout Turkish, Iranian, and Central Asian Sufi tekkes.

Figural Tattoos!

•April 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Is God Not Enough?

•April 18, 2011 • 1 Comment

I get a lot of inquiries about commissioning an original piece of Arabic calligraphy. I thought I’d post something about the process of how I go about creating these pieces. This was an original commission I did for a client in the UK a few days ago. The quote was from the Qur’an, Surah Al-Zumar [39:37] “Is God not sufficient for His servant?”

أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِكَافٍ عَبْدَهُ

The piece was to be a large (28″x20″) figural piece with red highlights. The paper I used was a wonderful cream colored paper with a slight luminescence to it. First I laid out  the design on normal 8.5×11 paper:

Once I had the basic design that I would use, I had to figure out which pen to use to do such a large piece.

I experimented a couple of different times with the different pens, finally landing on the middle one.

Then I did it again, but in final, good copy mode, taking more time to make each stroke so the letters came out darker and sharper.

Then I added the dots in red:

And finally the short vowels:


If you’re interested in getting a piece done, you can write to me at arabic.calligrapher(at)gmail(dot)com, and I’ll get back to you regarding the specifics of your piece! You can also check out some of the styles I work in at my other site,

Rosette Calligraphy

•April 16, 2011 • 1 Comment

One of the styles I use for the design of logos and tattoos in Arabic calligraphy is the Rosette. Here are a few recent examples.

Check out more of my Arabic tattoo work at

Arabic Tattoo Calligraphy

•April 14, 2011 • 1 Comment

Here are a few Arabic tattoos I’ve designed recently. If you want one designed, go to my other site at Arabic Calligraphy Design

Rethinking the Bismillah

•April 12, 2011 • 1 Comment

Check out more of my work at