Woodcarver Ezine
Back Issues
Carvers' Companion Gateway

Notes From the Net

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

As is normally the case, the tips on the Internet were abundant again this month!


There have been quite a number of threads concerning antiquing on the list lately, so I thought that it might be appropriate to start this article with tips on the different methods of antiquing discussed. As usual, I urge you to test each of the methods thoroughly before trying them on your finished carvings.

Sharon stated that she usually antiques with a mixture of oil paint and linseed oil, or a product called Scotty's Patina. She tints her oil with a dab of burnt umber and sometimes adds some burnt or raw sienna to change the color slightly. This is the same method that I use most often when I antique. I would caution you to use very little of the oil paint. I would start out with about a 1" ribbon of oil paint to a quart of Linseed oil and adjust the color from there, testing it on a piece of painted wood. I use an old blender that I purchased at a garage sale to mix my antiquing solution. Works great and cost about $2.00 to $3.00 if I remember correctly.

Dave Lavoie indicated that the way he learned was to first put acrylic or latex paint on and then spray with a clear finish. He gets his clear finish at Wal-Mart for $.95 a can. He then uses a light wood stain to cover all parts that you want stained and wipes it off immediately to the shade he wants. Then he sprays the whole carving with a matte finish and when it is dry he sprays the cheeks and nose with a gloss finish. Now I don't know if this was the same method that Dave used on his large Santa relief that he had at the North Arkansas Woodcarvers show in Mountain Home, Arkansas this year but that carving was absolutely beautiful.

Jim stated that he paints his carvings with thinned oil paint. When the paint is dry he mixes burnt umber with thinner and applies it all over the carving then wipes the carving down. He wipes more of the solution off where the highlights will be. You can also use raw umber to give a greener tint to the antiquing.

Duane MacEwen wrote the he antiques his Santa carvings by spraying the entire carving with a clear satin finish, usually applying at least 3 coats to keep the antiquing from bleeding into the acrylic paints. He then uses a burnt umber oil paint for antiquing and actually applies it using a toothbrush or heavy brush to work the burnt umber into every crevice he can get it in. Once that is complete he begins to wipe off the oil paint. The more you wipe, the more comes off , and in that way you can vary the degree of the antiquing that you desire. If you have deep crevices in your carving you can use a clean dry brush to remove some of excess oil paint from the hard to reach areas. He stated that this method does work well and he has had many good comments on the effects!

Ed Ertel mixes his own antiquing solution from waxes. Ed fills a baby food jar half full with turpentine, then using a paste wax like Butcher's or Johnson's, he uses a table knife to shave wax off the surface of the can of wax, putting the shaved wax in the turpentine until the jar is full. (That gives him an equal volume of wax and turpentine.) He then adds about a one-quarter inch ribbon of burnt umber oil paint (more or less as you like.) Put the cover on the jar, shake it until the wax and paint are dissolved and throughly mixed.

He usually seals his carvings with a spray coat of matte Krylon first. When it's dry he brushes on the wax mixture (sparingly) - using a brush with bristles stiff enough to apply into the recesses. When the wax mixture is dry, he buffs with a soft cloth.

The advantages of this mixture are that it is made from materials many of us have on hand. Therefore, it is inexpensive and it can be made as dark or as light as you wish. .

Chuck say that after painting with acrylic paints he antiques with Dark Minwax paste finishing wax mixed with mineral spirits to thin the wax. He applies the wax with a flux brush (the type with the hollow metal handle) He then waits a few minutes and wipes the wax off with a soft paper towel. This will protect the paint and antique in one step.

Thad Hammett uses acrylic paint to paint his carving and then he uses a thinned down acrylic stain to antique them. He wipes off the stain with a cloth and they are antiqued. He suggests using bucket brown. Thad suggest trying it on a trial piece and see what you think. He says that if you leave it on very long it will really antique a carving.

Gordon Paterson wrote that you can apply brown shoe polish over the finished/sealed paint job. It's an old timers trick to create an antique look. He indicated that if his word was not convincing enough, take a look at Ron Ransom's book, Santa Carving. Sealing the paint job first is important otherwise the shoe polish could/will turn anything painted white to a cream or yellow color.

Vic indicated that if you are using acrylic paints, seal your finished paint job with Krylon 1301 or something similar; mix and apply Jo Sonja Retarder Antiquing Medium with acrylic burnt umber to whatever darkness you want.

Finally "Woodbutcher" Jan tells us he antiques by using "Umber Juice", which is a mixture of 1 part Varathane (high gloss); 1 part paint thinner (not varasol), and; 1 part double boiled linseed oil. Jan covers the carving (after painting) with 2 coats of Krylon (matte) then he covers the whole carving very liberally in" Umber Juice". Next he paints on oil based burnt umber paint, which turns the carving very dark. He then wipes off the excess with clean soft rag and lets dry for 24 hours because of the linseed oil and sprays on 2 more coats of Krylon matte. As many on the Internet can attest, "Woodbutcher's" finishing techniques are absolutely superb. Actually, Jan's nickname should be "Wood Master" instead of Woodbutcher. :o)


Oil Finishes For Chip Carvings

Following along the lines of finishing, there was some very interesting conversations concerning oil finishes for chip carvings. Some of the hints offered are as follows:

Mike suggested that possibly the first step in staining a bass wood chip carving would be to seal the carving with a mixture of shellac and denatured alcohol (mixed 50 / 50) to prep the bass wood for the stain.

Cathy Parsons indicated that the easiest and best stain she has found for pine boxes is gel stain. It is the only one that gives an even stain. She has used several different brands of gel stain and believes that they are all fairly comparable. She indicated that you put the stain on and go back with a dry brush to get the stain out of the chip carved areas AFTER you have finished staining the whole box. This gives the stain a little longer in the carved areas, and adds more depth. When this is dry, you can seal it with whatever you like. You need to make sure that it doesn't pool in the carved areas as this looks tacky!

Finally, Bonnie Graser indicated that the best way to carve a stained chip carving was to complete all of the staining first and then chip carve your design. She stated that this was much easier than trying to finish the carving and keep the stain out of the carved areas.


Finishing A Realistic Carved Eye

For all of you carvers that are searching for the best method to finish a realistic carved eye check out the following hints.

Bonnie Graser carved a small Buffalo with very realistic eyes. She indicated that she painted the eyes and then put in a drop of two part clear epoxy on top of the paint. She indicated that you just touch the eye with the tip of a toothpick and don't push the epoxy around. The epoxy makes a rounded drop that appears quite realistic!

Dick Allen added to Bonnie's comment by indicating the he uses a thin coat of clear epoxy. He warms the area slightly where the epoxy will be applied and puts on just enough Epoxy to spread over the eyeball. On a small eye he uses a small stick or toothpick to apply the epoxy and makes sure it does not run onto the eyelid. He stated that heat will allow the epoxy to thin evenly and result in the wet look.

Marcie Moore indicated that she mixes her epoxy in the cap of a "sport water bottle". She uses several drops of catalyst and then keeps stirring with a toothpick. As soon as it starts to thicken she uses it. She stated that you have to be quick. Once it starts to set, it sets! Since this is the case, she usually does one eye at a time.

And finally, John Guerin suggested that several coats of clear finger nail polish give an eye a realistic shine.


Cleaning Power Carving Bits

For you power carvers there was information made available on cleaning burrs and carving bits.

Mick King says to roast them like a marshmallow but don't try to eat them. ;o) Scrub the bits with a brass detail brush. This is assuming that you are talking about burrs and not stones. Oven cleaner will also work. The scrubbing part remains the same.

Danny Fultz says you can use an art gum eraser to clean the rotary bits. Just turn it slowly and hold the stone to the eraser. If you have an old pair of shoes that have those kind of opaque looking soles that look like an art gum eraser, they will work just as well. And, by the way, you can clean sander belts this way.

Tom Norman uses an "Abrasive Materials Cleaner" (also known as a sanding belt cleaner) to clean sanding accessories and Karbide Kutzall bits. Ruby and diamond bits should be cleaned at slower speeds. He indicated that some folks had used old tubes of dried up silicone caulking with similar results. Stone bits can be cleaned on the neoprene block at slower speeds. Stones can also be cleaned with oven cleaner or hot water and a detergent/degreaser. If you use this method you need to make sure they are dry before using them again. Stone bits can be reshaped with a Silicon Carbide Block Stone shaper. You can also use a propane torch on stubborn material/resin build up, on Karbide Kutzalls (carbide bits only). Also use old wire file brush (a rake used to clean files) which is mounted for periodical cleaning, to inside of power carving cabinet/station. He just runs the bit against the rake for a short period of time.

He stated that there are spray-on products, such as "Top Coat" which are used to help prevent resin build up (good for steel bits and saw blades). Woodcraft also sells Resin Remover, which is mixed with water as he doesn't like the smell of oven cleaner. Tom also recommends obtaining a copy of Woodcarving Illustrated's Power Carving Manual.

Bob Gander suggested soaking bits in oven cleaner for 5 or 10 minutes, then rinsing them off and drying them carefully.

Safety Tip: If you are using heat or chemicals to clean burrs and bits, alwasy make sure you do so with plenty of ventilation.



How about a burnishing tip? Monty Montgomery indicated that he installs scrap walnut wood on 1/8" shafts and uses them like you would your favorite stones. He states that you will be astonished at the affect the walnut burnishers will have on your carvings. He indicated that you will be able to burnish out scratches in tight areas that your other stones left. He says that the walnut burnishers save lots of sanding in small areas on your carvings. It will also close the pours of the wood and give a polished look.

He uses a block of wood under his foot control so it will not run at real high speed because the walnut will burn the carving and create little bumps if the burnisher is run too fast.


Carving A Female Face

Master Carver Ivan Whillock takes us through the carving of a female face. He states that good photos are a must if you are doing a portrait. It is best to have a direct front view and a direct profile. In addition, 3/4 shots from both sides will help you determine the cheek profile and the plane changes from front to side.

First, get out your dividers and take some relative measurements of the features. Understand the face completely before even touching chisel to wood. Here are some key points to look at.

1. Take the distance from the eyes to the bottom of the chin. Compare that to the distance from the top of the head to the eyes. With most adults the eyes are the center. With children the eyebrows are the center. What about your model? Set your dividers at the distance between the centers of the eyes. Compare that measurement with the bottom of the nose to the chin, the bottom of the nose to the eyebrows, and the eyebrows to the hair line. If the ears show, compare that measurement to the length of the ears. For most adults, those measurements are about the same. Note where your model differs: is the nose a little shorter, a little longer? The ears?

2. Set you dividers at the distance between the eyes, tear duct to tear duct. Compare that distance to the width of the eyes, the distance from the outside corner of the eyes to the side of the face, and the width of the nose at the nostrils. For most adults those measurements are about the same. Note where your model differs--or is the same--and remember that as you carve.

3. Set your dividers at the outside corners of the eyes. Now compare that to the distance from the corners of the eyes to the bottom edge of the lower lip. Are they the same, or is the mouth higher or lower?

4. Drop lines straight down from the centers of the eyes. Where are the corners of the mouth in relation to those lines? Where does the chin curve in relationship to those lines?

5. Look at the bottom edge of the eye masses--the entire mass, not merely the eyeball. How far down the face does it go? About halfway between the eyebrow and the bottom of the nose?

6. Draw a straight line across the eyebrow ridge. Do the eyebrows go straight or do they curve along that ridge? Look at the distance between that ridge and the highest crease of the upper eyelid. Note the concave and the convex forms of the masses above the eyelid crease.

7. Draw a straight line halfway between the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin. Note where the bottom edge of the lower lip lies on that line. Take a special look at the shape of the mouth in relation to that line. Straight mouth? Cupid's bow?


1. Set your dividers at the corner of the eye to the bottom of the chin. Rotate it to the back of the ear, and the top of the head. How do these measurements compare with each other?

2. Draw a line from the tip of the nose to the tip of the chin. Compare the relationships of the lips to this line.

3. Draw a line from the upper lip to the forehead. Where does the nose stand on this line? How much of the nose is in back of this line and how much is in front?

4. Measure the bottom of the chin to the pit of the neck. How does that measurement compare to the length of the face over-all?

5. Draw a line halfway between the tip of the nose and the back of the head. Where is the ear in relation to that line? What is the hair profile in back and in front of that line?

There are many more proportion observations you can make, but this should give you a start.

When you are doing the actual carving, use your dividers to check the proportion of your carving in the same way you analyzed the photos. Since the measurements are comparative, not converted to inches, you can work in a different size in the carving than in the photos, though it can be helpful to have the photos enlarged.

When you work, put off the detail until you have the blocking and shaping done. Work from large masses to small. In other words, carve the entire mouth mass before you carve the lips. Carve the entire eye mass before you cut in the lids, etc. In your mind "erase" the details and look at just the geometric forms. Carve those first.

For a young person, avoid sharp stop cuts. Use #11 sweeps rather than V tools to block out the smile lines, the eye masses, the shape alongside the nose, etc. Also, U cuts are easier to change than V cuts.

You can obtain a clean, smooth surface by "planing" with a skew gouge. Use a light skewing action and let it skim off the sharp ridges on the soft forms of the female face. Don't lose patience with the technique, with a sharp tool, you'll soon get the hang of it.

I 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 Woodcarver's List, so if you want an early preview of an upcoming article consider joining the Woodcarver's List. Click the link for more information.