Notes From the
By Mike Bloomquist, with Doug Evans
and Loren Woodard
Email Mike at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet or visit his web, Wooden Dreams
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
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
to Make Santa Blush
Hey, hey, hey! None of that...
keep it clean (I heard what you were thinking).
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".
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?
Terry Nees Msgt of Marines (Ret)
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
up with a reply was Mush.
...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?).
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
dickblick.com 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.
Marcia (aka Mush)
South China, Maine
Ev Ellenwood offered a look at his
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
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
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 Studio
122 NE 1st Avenue
Faribault, MN 55021
Visit my web site at
Visit my Picture Trail album at
The response was a unanimous "Yes",
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 www.ellenwoodarts.com 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.
Tom had a VERY good suggestion..
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
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 www.ellenwoodarts.com, click
on Gallery and on thumbnail “one”.
You can also use this process using pure tung oil in place of the
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.
Merrilee was inspired but in a way
brought up another question...
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
Tom (nj) ;--)
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.
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!
OK, Gang, until next issue, keep them edges keen,
the chips piled high, and don't be a stranger on the woodcarving
Keep on Carvin'
Please take some
time and check out the wood carving lists on the Internet. There
is a lot of knowledge free for the asking on all of the list serves.
For information regarding the various email
lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion
Files, or click the links below.
Woodcarver's List - Woodcarvers' Porch - American
Stickmaker's - Knotholes List - Fishcarving
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