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Notes From the Net

By Loren K. Woodard
Email Loren at wdcarver@lakeozarks.net or visit his web site at www.naturesnaturals.net

Hello all! It is once again time to expand on several notes that were posted on the Internet over the last few months.


First off, I would like to pass along a painting tip by Ed Walicki, a nationally known fish carver who heads up the Fish Carver's list, along with his partner, Ed Wolf. If you are interested in fish carving check out their web pages at www.fishcarver.com. In addition, they offer on-line training sessions for carving and painting fish. Ed's tip is on color mixing and swatches.

Ed recommends going to a local drug store and purchasing a case of 2 oz syringes and a box of large 16 gauge needles (seems you don't need a prescription to order the large needles, only the smaller ones).

Ed then thins all his paints to airbrush viscosity and fills the syringes with various paint colors. Then when you want to experiment mixing colors you can squirt 1 cc of one color to 2 cc's of another color. Whatever you mix write down the mixing formula used to achieve the color on a paper swatch, next to the sample sprayed of the mixture. Then when you want to recreate a color in the future you will have a formula for that particular color.

To mix colors for painting in larger quantities just multiply the recipe on your paper swatch sample to the amount you need. Example, if the recipe calls for 2 cc's of yellow, 1 cc of black and 1 cc of red, he just takes a new syringe, sucks up the amount of paint needed for each of the colors, draws in a little air and shakes the mixture up and it's done. If it is a color that you will use often Ed recommends loading it in its own syringe for storage and later use. He also recommends jotting down the recipe for the larger mixture on a piece of masking tape and attaching it to the syringe.

The great thing about using syringes for airbrushing is it makes easy work of storing paint and recovering the excess in the color cup between color changes. Simply stick the needle in the cup and draw out the excess paint. Paint will not harden in a syringe if you hold it upside down and push the air out before storing the paint.

Ed states that you can build a nice rack for the syringes holding the color by drilling holes in a piece of wood and hot gluing plastic needle covers in the holes. Then just stick the syringes into the needle cover, much like a desktop penholder. He also uses an old deflated mini-basketball on his paint bench while painting to hold the colors he will be using.

To mix the paint in the syringe, draw in a little air and place a needle cover over the needle and shake the syringe for a minute or so and then push out the excess air.

Along these same lines, Reji Martin posted a note on the Fish Carver's List recommending "The Acrylic Painter's Pocket Pallet by Ian Sidaway. List Price of the book is $17.95. It is a hardcover spiral book dated September 1994. The book company is North Light Books and the ISBN is 0891345817. According the Reggie, the basic premise of the book is to display what happens when 12 colors, which is the "basic pallet" is mixed with another paint color. Each mix is based on what blend(s) come when one color is mixed with the 12-color pallet. For instance, what blend happens when you mix Viridian with Cad Red, Alizarin Crimson, Lemon Yellow, Cad. Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Viridian, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Windsor Blue and Payne's Grey. The next page would do the same with another color until you have gone through some 800 or so color mixes. Sounds like you could match almost any color with this reference book on color.

Wood Dyes and Other Finishes

There was quite a thread going on the Woodcarver's List about wood dyes and other wood finishes recently. Thierry Varem-Sanders posted the following concerning wood dye: He stated that all dyes fade in time. However, this shouldn't deter anyone from using then for interior carvings. However, you should keep the carving out of direct sunlight. Thus, dye should not be used for exterior carvings.

He further stated that lacquer and all other finishes are porous to a degree. Therefore, they may retard, but no not completely prevent the movement of air/oxygen. Therefore, dyes will still fade even if a finish has been applied over them.

However, he also stated that aniline dye has been used on furniture for hundreds of years, and there are period antiques whose dyed surface is still intact. This is simply because some dyes resist bleaching for longer periods than others, and - furniture is often kept out of direct sunlight to prevent scorching the finish. Thus, the dye is protected.

Thierry indicated that the above information was obtained from a book on wood finishes but he didn't mention the name of the book. The book also stated that some standard furniture stains are not stains at all but rather oil soluble aniline dyes. However, the manufacturers prefer not to call them dyes. Instead they refer to them as penetrating stains.

How about bleaching your carving? Tony Thackery, from the Woodcarvers List indicated that there are three types of bleach for wood. Chlorine bleach, which removes dye from wood and, in general, turns the wood a yellowish color (if it is a light colored wood like basswood). Oxalic acid removes all sorts of stains from wood such as water marks and rust stains. Like chlorine it doesn't do a perfect whitening job on wood. The best bleach job on wood (which he has used very successfully on polar bears) is a two-part bleach consisting of sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. These solutions are kept separate and essentially mixed at the surface of the wood. What he does is paint the sodium hydroxide on the carving first and let it soak in for a minute, then he paints the hydrogen peroxide on top. The reaction starts immediately although you won't see too much bleaching for a few hours. A second application can be made although I have never had to do that. After the wood is dry wash it thoroughly with water and you can wash it with a little vinegar to neutralize the sodium hydroxide which is probably there in excess. Two part bleaches can usually be purchased at most places that sell carving supplies.

To bleach wood Donna McCombs indicated that she uses a product called Klean Strip. She used some on some white tamarind. She indicated that it was a light color but she wanted it to be whiter. She stated that you may use it repeatedly until you get your desired amount of whiteness. However, after more than two coats, it does raise the grain some. It isn't hard to use and it is better than Oxalic acid, which is used mostly for stains or rust. She stated that it is readily available at Home Depot or Lowes.

Painting "Old" Eyes

The subject of painting old looking eyes came up on the list. Bonnie Graser offered her method of making eyes look old.

First she suggests a sheer wash of burnt sienna or umber over the whites. When you're all done and they're dry, try a tiny brush and some shiny varnish or even clear nail polish along the lower lid. Maybe if it's a large enough eye you could get a few tiny (very tiny now.) little red lines for the blood shot loot but usually would save those for a caricature carvings and not a realistic carving. Older folk's eyes appear a bit clouded. If you want try a small thin wash of white over the iris and then your wash of umber or sienna over the whites of the eye too.

Diamond Willow

Monty Montgomery, a professional carver from Montana shared his Diamond Willow knowledge with the Woodcarver's List. Monty stated that he carves many Diamond Willow sticks every year. He says that if Diamond Willow is dead the wood will be various shades of brown in color with very little white. It seems that sapwood will stain as it stands and ages. Monty stated that he likes to finish the stained Diamond Willow with tongue oil. He puts on two coats of the oil and scuffs the finish between the coats, which really brings out the rich brown colors.

He stated that if the Diamond Willow is green he peels it as soon as he gets it home. Monty leaves the sticks about two to three inches longer than he wants his finished walking sticks because they will check on the ends. He then stacks his Diamond Willow on a homemade frame and stacks them about 5 inches apart for air circulation. He stores his Diamond Willow inside and up off of the floor. He states that with the stick peeled it will dry in a short period, generally about 3 weeks, depending on the size of the stick.

Monty finishes the white Diamond Willow with Deft semi-gloss lacquer. Even though Deft states that you don't have to sand between coats Monty stated that he does. He puts on his initial coat of Deft and lets the carved stick set overnight. He then wet sands the stick with 600-grit paper and puts on his final coat of Deft. He states that this give real depth to the carved stick.

Cleaning Carvings

Have you ever wondered how to get those pencil marks, dirt, and oil off of your carving prior to finishing. Charlie Briggs stated that you could remove this stuff very easily by wetting a rag with lacquer thinner and wiping your carving with it. He states that the carving will look like new and that the lacquer thinner will dissipate and will not leave an odor.

Cracks in Carvings

Wynne Simmons shared a bit of knowledge that she had learned from a book called Swedish Carving Techniques by Willie Sandquist with the list recently. It seems that if you have a carved spoon that starts to crack you can rub the spoon's surface with a boiled potato and place it on a warm radiator. If you don't have a warm radiator you can place the carving in a warm oven. Leave the carving on the radiator over night and the checks or cracks will disappear.

Wynne stated that she was carving a spoon that developed a small crack so she tried the potato trick and it worked for her. Try it out... might save your carving. I can see it now, a six foot Cigar Store Indian on the radiator. :o)

Finger Wrap

How about the bandage material sold by most carving store outlets to protect you fingers while carving. Many of the carvers on the list indicated that if you don't have a carving store handy you can go to the local vet supply or most animal hospitals and pick up a roll of vet wrap. Seems it offers the same protection.

Carving Tool Length

There was some chat on the Woodcarver's List concerning the different carving tool lengths and Ivan Whillock answered the questions with the following information.
There are thee basic sizes of wood carving tools. Full-sized or two-handed tools (average about 10" in length), mid sized (average about 8" in length, and palm or mushroom handled (which average about 5" in length).

While there is a good deal of cross use in the tools, they can be generally described. The full-sized tools are generally used by carvers who use both hands on the tool, having the wood secured with a clamp or a carver's screw. They work well for reliefs, where leverage and control are important. They also are generally preferred by carvers who work on statues. They are malletable and are very controllable with the two handed technique.

The mid-sized tools are very popular in the Alpine areas of Europe where the primary type of carving is small and medium sized figures. These tools can be used with both hands too, though there is a squeeze sometimes with carvers with big hands, but they also can be easily held like a pencil for detail work. With mid-sized tools also, the wood is generally held with the carver's screw to keep both hands free to control the tool. Most of the European carvers I know have some of both sizes, reaching for the large tool for roughing and blocking and reaching for the midsize tool for detail work. (To determine whether a tool can be malleted, check to see if the blade has a shoulder to keep it from imbedding deeper into the handle).

The short tools with mushroom handles are generally known in Europe as block cutting tools, used for engraving designs for block prints. The palm-handled tool is a reworking of the block-cutting tool to make it more controllable for one-handed carving. The type of carving that engendered palm handled tools was whittling, where the wood is held in one hand and the knife in the other. The larger tools are unhandy and even dangerous when the carving is not fastened down. The palm handled tools, however, give the carver standard carving sweeps in a tool that can be used with one hand.

Thus, whittlers could make "V", veiner, and gouge cuts without appreciably changing their approach: holding the carving in one hand and the tool in the other.

A Sanding Tip

Cathy Krumrei shared a sanding tip from Joe Dillett, a professional carver. To get all the scratches out of a wood piece - when ready to sand - take a washcloth and dip it in water or dip the whole piece if you want. Don't soak it; just get the wood wet. Blow dry the whole piece and the wood swells. Then sand it and repeat the process until the wood is smooth.

Carving "Punky" Wood

Our final tip comes from Anthony Last, a member of the Woodcarver's List. How many of you on the list have been carving away happily and suddenly run into punky or very soft wood. Those who carve butternut know exactly what I'm talking about! This tip came from Phil Orchard in London, Ontario while I attended a show at which he was demonstrating to the public. We were talking about soft and punky wood and how difficult it is to carve, even with super sharp chisels, without those tears that often appear and are so difficult to get rid of. His trick is to spray WD-40 oil on the offending part and then to carve it normally. I tried it this afternoon and, lo and behold, it works. The oil eventually evaporates and leaves a clean surface.

That wraps up my article for this edition of the E-zine. I certainly hope that you have found something in this article that will be of use to you in your carving endeavors. Take time to drop me a note and let me know what you would like to see in future articles. Remember, my article consists of threads that are sent in to the different carving lists. Therefore, if you want an early preview of an upcoming article consider joining the Woodcarver's List, the Woodcarver's Porch, the Stickmaker's list and the Fishcarver's list. Until the next issue, take care and enjoy your carving. -Loren Woodard


For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Links Page, or click the links below.

Woodcarver's List - Woodcarvers' Porch - American Stickmaker's - Fishcarver's List