"Notes from the Net" is a column compiled from a few of the email messages posted to the WoodCarver listserver. In these messages are the tips, hints and other tidbits traded each day between WoodCarver participants. There are so many messages to choose from that it is difficult to select only a few to include in this column. Some editorial changes were necessary, but, for the most part, each message appears as originally posted and attributed to sender.
If you have a favorite post or subject that you would like to appear in this column, please email me directly <email@example.com>.
From: Bonnie Graser <GRASER@wartburg.edu>
I've painted many of my carvings with oils. I only use linseed oil, raw linseed oil, mixed 1/3 each, linseed oil, damar varnish and turpentine. This will help oil paints dry a little faster. If you want it to dry faster use a little more turpentine. I have also laid some things in the oven to insure they'd be dry by morning. I have a gas stove and don't turn it on, the pilot light keeps it warm.
From: John Jellies <JJellies@aol.com>
I'm just experimenting with using oils on wood. But I've been painting for a number of years and can give some general information. First, the linseed oil is the "medium", it forms a polymer on exposure to air. You need to use double-boiled oil. The things labeled media are different mixtures of solvents, oils, and driers. I've always made my own. Cobalt drier is an accelerant, it will increase the speed at which the oil polymerizes. A good general medium is about 50:50 turpentine and linseed oil in a pickle jar with 10-15 drops of cobalt drier.
Generally, first rule is "thick over thin." Always use a thinner (less oil) paint as a first coat. Wash it if you're doing several layers. Never use the pigments as they come from the tube. The pigments need to be "liberated" by a few drops of oil or medium. Give the paint a more creamy texture by adding medium. I generally use the medium, then add a few extra drops of either turpentine or oil. If you go thin over thick--CRACKS, GOOPY. yucky!
From: Bonnie Graser <GRASER@wartburg.edu>
The best information I got on carving eyes (works for all eyes I've tried) is to use your knife and start at the top middle and cut down to each corner of the eye (straight in). Then cut on a slight slant up to that line, started at top middle of the eye. The curve of the eye works best if you start at the top middle. This forms the upper lid. Do the same thing for the bottom of the eye. It's not curved as much or in some cases not at all. Then take out a little triangle in each corner fairly deep and round off the remaining little square so that it looks like an eye ball.
From: Ronald Byers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have found that my wife's emery boards are great for getting into small areas. They are bendable and can be cut to smaller shapes. For really small areas I use small bamboo sticks with the appropriate grit paper spray glued to the end.
From: Vic Hamburger <email@example.com>
If you want a surface that is absolutely glass smooth, try this. Give the piece a sanding with 320 grit sandpaper. Then use 2 coats of waterbased polyurethane varnish. The waterbase stuff is crystal clear and dries hard in 24 hours. Then use 400 grit and sand the piece until smooth again. Give it another 2 coats of the varnish, and wet sand w/600 or higher grit.
This should yield an extremely smooth dull finish. Continue the varnish / fine wet sanding until you are happy with the smoothness and finish. Then give it a coat of hard paste wax, like a decoupage wax. This will bring out a low lustre that does not appear to be a coating on the wood. I use this regularly on basswood and it seems to harden the surface of the wood while letting the natural grain shine through.
To wet sand, I put a couple of drops of dish washing detergent into warm water. That acts as a lubricant for the sanding. Wipe the carving with a damp sponge to get the residue off.
From: Steven Brown <SBrown@pobox.com>
I took a regular apron pattern, available from any fabric store, and added 6-8 inches on the bottom. Then I placed a couple of Velcro strips along each side and folded it up to make a pocket. When I get through carving I simply undo the Velcro to release the chips from the pocket.
From: Tom Feeny <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A trick used by model airplane buffs...fill the crack with soda (bicarb) and add a few drops of superglue. The result is a fast and very hard filler. CAUTION: it produces cyanide gas. Use ventilation.
From: JO CRAEMER <JO_CRAEMER@prodigy.net>
I use super glue and baking soda on almost all of my bird beaks. The tips of songbird beaks and the hooked beaks of birds of prey are quite fragile. Initially I carve them in wood, and then when the carving is completed, I (gasp) cut the tip of the beak off, insert and glue in a small brass pin or wire, and around this wire armature, build up a blob of super glue and baking soda.
The procedure I use is to put a little drop of superglue (the thin stuff) on the wire, and sprinkle on some baking soda, repeating the process until I have a big blob of hard crystalline mess. You can't control the shape. It will look a little like crusty rock candy, the consistency of hard porcelain. It carves well with a small fine carbide bit. If you end up with the wrong shape, you can rebuild, and try again. I learned this trick from World Champion Bob Gage. It takes a lot of the stress out of the initial shaping of the bill.
From: Sheri <email@example.com>
I learned a cool new trick this summer in a Bob Gage seminar. When preparing to glue a joint, broken or planned, apply wood glue-they used Elders too- to the surfaces, then add a drop of super glue and hold it together. The superglue fastens it quickly while the wood glue dries and holds it permanently. Incidentally, I have had ca glue joints fall apart after awhile so I now use it mostly for soaking fragile parts to harden them and reduce breakage. This also changes the characteristics of the surface which in the case of bird beaks is good but for others, sanding is needed to remove the shine.
TIPS FOR CARVING LARGE FIGURES
From: Ron Wells <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The carvers at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. have used a method for carving large figures out of basswood logs which has not been mentioned.
1. Rough out the carving while the log is green. This gets rid of much of the excess wood so there is less of it to dry. It also relieves some stresses. The log dries faster with less cracking.
2. While the log is still green make a chain saw cut the full length of the log. Cut on the back side of the carving. This allows more moisture to escape. The cut will open wider, but the log will dry faster and there will be only one major crack on the back of the carving.
3. Set the roughed out log aside for one year. It will then be ready to finish carving. You should have one large crack on the back and hopefully only a few small ones on the front. You will have some cracks to patch. There is no way to get away from this with a green log. Patching is usually done by cutting wedges of wood to fill the cracks, so save the scraps as you rough out the log.
From: Don Swenson <email@example.com>
I use recycled "squirrel cage" fans from house furnaces. Often the folks in the business of installing new furnaces simply dispose of the fans and motors. I build a housing made of plywood measuring about 2 feet on each side. I spent about $35 total for my last filter unit which effectively filters my shop area. The intake velocity draws all dust and debris from my power tools.
From: Ralph Scheffler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For butternut I have always used 2 or 3 coats of minwax. After buffing I fill in the crevices using dark minwax stain with a fine paint brush - either provincial or walnut. Wipe up the excess with a rag. It seems to give a nice depth when you add the stain after waxing.
From: Dick Allen <rja1@PioneerPlanet.infi.net>
One of our local carvers uses a walnut stain on butternut ducks. He said the stain was made by boiling walnut husks in water until the liquid is the color of strong coffee. After the liquid has gotten fairly dark, strain the pulp from the liquid and boil almost to the point of thickening. Make sure you don't set your coffee to close and grab the wrong cup. The stain is put on the wood before any finish or sealer. He uses this primarily for darkening portions of the carving like the heads of mallards or geese. I don't know how well this would work on basswood or tupelo. The stain needs to be frozen for storage, because the liquid will spoil since there are no preservatives.
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"Notes from the Net" is a column compiled from a few of the email messages posted to the WoodCarver listserver. In these messages are the tips, hints and other tidbits traded each day between WoodCarver participants. There are so many messages to choose from that it is difficult to select only a few to include in this column. Some editorial changes were necessary, but, for the most part, each message appears as originally posted and attributed to sender. If you have a favorite post or subject that you would like to appear in this column, please email me directly <email@example.com>.