Notes From the 'Net
By Mike Bloomquist, with Doug Evans and Loren Woodard
Email Mike at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet or visit his web, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving


I have to tell you... it was getting very, very calm on the List this past few months.  Maybe it was the Holidays, maybe everyone had all their questions answered, but thanks to a rally cry from Woodbutcher (Jan Oegema) there was a plethora of material this month.  Then, as a bonus, we got some material from Doug Evans and the "other" woodcarving list (written with a grin).  So, we'll start with Doug's contributions and then a couple from the List.

The Sacred Cod

...Not to be confused with a "Holy Mackerel", Doug and Dick had a couple  questions for Maura Macaluso in regard to her Sacred Cod  of Massachusetts project.

A couple of questions.  I assume the reason for the bright base coat is that if you started with something softer by the time you finished with the antiquing the final finish would be too dark???

Yes Correct. The original fish carving was also gold gilded which is why I chose such a bright undertone. If I had done fresh gilding, I don't believe I could have antiqued it as well.  Applying a base coat also serves a few purposes.  applying just 1 heavy coat allows painting of the entire surface which serves as a sealer and makes it easier to not miss any spots.  It is also my opinion that it makes for a more realistic fish as the color underneath sort of shimmers through the darker colors.  If you look at a real fish it is actually comprised of lots of scales, each scale having lots of colors which blend together.

Second could you tell us more about your scaling method ??

My scaling method was very simple and easy.  I took 3 #9 (almost semi-circles) gouges of different widths 18,14 & 6mm and the largest did the fish sides which are the most dominant visuals.  The medium size did most of the back and stomach of the fish and the small gouge did the head and the area leading into the tail.   I simply pressed the gouges on a bit of an angle approx. 1/8" into the wood in sort of a brick pattern, each arc starting in the center of the one below it, if you can understand that.  Though the method is very simple and effective, it was tedious and took a solid 2 hours to do.  the scaling was what brought the fish to life and it looked so great, I almost hated to paint over them.  While not technically correct scales, it certainly gives the impression that it is.

Maura carvin' in nyc

How to Make Santa Blush

Hey, hey, hey!  None of that... keep it clean (I heard what you were thinking).

Well, I cheat when applying "blush" to the Santas.  I too tried all the paints and stuff, but was not satisfied.  What I do is paint the hats and robes red.  Of course the trim, hair, and beard is white.  After the paint is dry I buff the piece on cotton buffing wheels. I use two wheels, one for the red and one for the white.  After careful buffing with both wheels, I take the red wheel and lightly buff the nose and the cheeks.  Just enough of the red is transferred from the red wheel to be a "blush".

Tom H

How to Size a Cane

Can anyone tell me how to measure a cane  so it is proper length for someone i.e. my FIL?  Thanks       
Terry Nees  Msgt of Marines (Ret)

Check this out Terry:
Old Joe

Different techniques for Painting Your Carvings

This thread keeps coming up... for several good reasons, one off which Dan brings up when he asks....

Hello all, I was wondering what kinds of paints everyone uses out there. Acrylic?. Oil? Painting a carving when I'm done with it is my big downfall. I hate doing a nice job of carving and then messing it up with a horrible paint job. Are there any books to instruct a person on painting carvings? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks a lot. Dan Myers

First up with a reply was Mush.

Hi, Dan,

I am very partial to oils ever since taking a Dave Sabol class.  I mix artist oils with Minwax natural stain for most of my
painting.  If I am in a hurry, I use acrylics. I use my paints very thinned since I like to see the wood through the color and prefer that the color is IN the wood rather than ON the wood. I like that the oils don't raise the grain like water based paints, and I also like the feel of the finished carvings a whole lot better.  The one drawback is the odor from the stain.  There are now water soluble oils, which I have not tried yet and I just noticed that  is handling a line of acrylic paints that do not dry on the palette, stay workable longer and dry to a satin finish that doesn't have the look or feel of plastic.  I haven't tried them, but with a parrot in the house and concern for potential health issues, I am tempted.

Good luck!

Marcia (aka Mush)
South China, Maine

...Then Ivan Whillock gave us a little preview of an upcoming article in Carving magazine.  Make sure to get a copy of the magazine because despite how much he gave us here... there will be more in the article.  Besides the magazine is just plain worth it (and why don't you have a subscription?).

Hi Dan,
I've written on the subject of painting and have material together to do another article soon.  (Now that I've said that, Marnie will be after me to get it done! Dang it! Another job:))
Here are some of the highlights:
1. Carvers who want an opaque look, to totally cover the wood, often seal it with  gesso which keeps the paint from "sinking in" or being absorbed more in one place than in another.  Gesso takes most paints well and, in the case of a carousel horse, for example, where there are often many laminations, it can help fill in some of the gaps.
2.  On the other hand, carvers who want a transparent look will use a clear sealer or none at all.  A sealed surface takes the color more evenly, an unsealed surface accentuates the cuts, so you take your choice on what you like best.
3.  There are three types of paint used most often: Oils, acrylics, and water colors.  They each have their qualities.
4.  Oil dries slowly and therefore is good for wet-in-wet painting.  In wet-in-wet you lay a color down and then on the figure itself mix a different color into it.  You can create shading and variations of color very easily with this method.  One example would be adding a blush onto the cheeks after the flesh color was painted on.  Oil stays the same color when it dries, so precise color matching is easier with oil--which is the reason many bird carvers prefer it over acrylics--which darken as they dry.  To let the wood show through, many use oil paints more like a stain than a paint.  They will apply it with a brush but then wipe it off with a cloth until they get the transparency they like.  I've used the "sandwich method" that I observed in Austria.  You seal the wood with lacquer, stain it with oil paint, and then spray a coating of lacquer over that.  Not a good technique indoors, however, without a spray booth.
5.  Acrylics dry faster and can be thinned with water, which is a benefit for people who prefer them.  Acrylic paint is very opaque.  Therefore, many apply the acrylics in very thin washes, building up the color to the desired density through additional thin coats.  Some achieve gradation of color by varying the tone of the washes.  You might, for example, paint a shirt blue and then put a thin wash of brown over the top of that, which dulls the blue and adds variation to the color.  It looks artificial to have a solid blue color "straight from the tube" because in nature most colored surfaces are varied through shadows, highlights and lowlights.  Varying the shades of the washes avoids that "straight from the tube" look of the colors.
6.  More and more carvers are discovering the benefits of watercolors in polychroming their carvings and still letting the wood show through.  Watercolors are transparent by design, so they are easy to manage for that effect.    A standard procedure with water colors is to seal the wood with a hide glue, or unflavored gelatin (which is about the same thing), and then paint it with water colors.  The kind you get in the toy department works, but for pure colors go to an art store.  The pigment in acrylics has a binder that hardens when it dries, holding the pigment in place.  Water color has no such binder.  Thus, water colors can be moved, can be rewet and picked up with a brush or wiped off with a cloth.  This can be used as an advantage in getting the effect you want, but it also means that the carving probably needs to be sprayed with a top coat sealer to keep the paint from being smeared later on.
7.  To get away from that garish "straight from the tube" look of the paint, or to "antique" it, some use a glaze which puts a common tone onto all of the colors.  There are several formulas for such glazes.  An easy one is to mix burnt umber and boiled linseed oil.  Vary the amounts until you get the density of color you like.  Commercially made colored wax stains also are available.  I've seen some carvers who even use shoe polish.
8.  Some carvers like to stain the wood before painting it.  This has the effect of bringing out the grain.  It also tones down the color of the raw basswood.  The stain needs to be compatible with the color which will later be applied.  An oil stain will reject water-based paints.  However, a water based stain can be used under oils.  Rule of thumb: fat goes over lean-just like around the waistline!
9.  Each technique has its drawbacks.  Oil paints are thinned with paint thinner which has its own disadvantages--odors, more complicated cleanup, fire hazard, etc.   Acrylics and water colors are thinned with water, which, on some carvings, can raise the grain and even close up some detail cuts.  Also, the surface must be clean and free from oil.  Again, you choose your poison.
I know carvers who tried one technique and settled on that; others have "tried everything" and still are searching for that "perfect" technique. Part of the fun is experimenting and developing your own signature painting style.
Ivan Whillock
Ivan Whillock Studio
122 NE 1st Avenue
Faribault, MN  55021
Visit my web site at
Visit my Picture Trail album at

Ev Ellenwood offered a look at his work.


What are you looking for in putting a finish on your carvings? If you want the wood grain to show through, check my web site and look in my gallery; then click on thumbnail “one”. If you like this type of finish let me know and I’ll share with you how I do it. I won’t go through the process unless you’re interested.

Ev Ellenwood

The response was a unanimous "Yes", so...


There have been a few of you who have shown interest on how I finished my “Voyageur” carving.

This is just one way to finish a carving. I’m sure if you asked one hundred carvers how they finish a carving, you’ll get about one hundred different answers.

Ivan gave a nice overview of various mediums; the one I’ll show is using boiled linseed oil and artist oils.

When you start this process, it must be completed in one setting. You want the linseed oil, which will saturate the carving, to remain in a liquid state so the artists oil blends with the linseed oil rather than laying on top of it. If the linseed oil is dry, the paint will lay on the surface of the carving rather than becoming an integral part of it.

Saturate the carving with boiled linseed oil until it will not accept any more. Once the carving is saturated, wipe off all superficial linseed oil with a rag, then use a dry soft bristle brush to remove any oil which may be trapped in crevasses. Brush an area where you want to remove the trapped linseed oil, and then wipe the brush on a rag to remove any liquid which was collected on the brush. Continue the brush/wipe procedure until all superficial oil is removed from the surface and all crevasse of the carving.

For my palette, I use a separate cup saucer for each color I’m going to use. Pour a small amount of linseed oil in the depression where the cup would sit, and on the lip of the saucer squeeze a small bead of a color you will be using.

Mix a small amount of the paint with some of the linseed oil to make a stain and paint the stain on the carving. Continue this until you have the carving painted with all the colors desired.

By having the carving saturated with the linseed oil, the paint will blend with the wet linseed oil which saturates the carving and stay where you want it without bleeding.

If you want more wood grain to show in specific areas, or you want to highlights, wipe some of the stain from the surface of the carving. Wiping will remove some of the superficial stain, yet leave that which has saturated into the carving.

I allow the stained carving to dry for a couple of weeks before painting the pupils in the eyes. Again after a couple of weeks, I used white paint on the tip of a needle to put the glint in the eyes.

When all the paint was dry, I coated the carving with a light spray of clear acrylic varnish to protect the base paint.

I like this process because the carving has color, yet you can see the wood grain through the paint. Again, if you want to see what this process looks like, check my web site at, click on Gallery and on thumbnail “one”.

You can also use this process using pure tung oil in place of the linseed oil.

Each time you used any rags in this process, properly dispose of them to prevent the potential of spontaneous combustion.

Any questions, please contact me.

Ev Ellenwood

Tom had a VERY good suggestion..

     Just as a suggestion; Make up a bunch of little simple carvings you dash off quickly.
Then, once you've got them experiment with the various techniques suggested until you
find the one for you. It won't HURT when one gets ruined cause you won't have too much
invested but the wood will have been carved so you'll see the different effects.
Tom (nj)  ;--)

Merrilee was inspired but in a way brought up another question...

Thank you for your information on how you finished your carving.  One time I tried boiled linseed oil but it smelled bad and stayed sticky for months.  I think I did something wrong.  It's time to try again!


It was joked that maybe it hadn't been boiled long enough.  Boiled linseed oil is a dangerous misnomer.  Boiled linseed oil is NOT boiled and boiling it is risking fire and explosion, especially over an open flame. "Boiled" linseed is linseed oil with additional chemicals (Japanese dryers) added to accelerate drying.

OK, Gang, until next issue, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and don't be a stranger on the woodcarving lists. 

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

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