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Notes From the Net

By Loren K. Woodard
Email Loren at woodcarver@midmo.com or visit his web site at http://www.woodcarvers-gallery.com/

Welcome once again to Notes From The Net, a compilation of tips and techniques that were shared on the several wood carving Listserves on the Internet. As is the case every month, the topics are varied and many.


Contributing 100%

Lynn Diel sent the following article to the Woodcarver's List. It is pretty clever.

When we carve, we want to contribute 100% to our hobby or profession.

First of all, here's a little math that might prove helpful in the future. How does one achieve 100% in Carving? Begin by noting the following.

If we let each letter of the alphabet equate to its numerical sequence:
 A=1  I = 9  Q = 17  Y = 25
 B=2  J = 10  R = 18  Z = 26
 C=3  K = 11  S = 19  
 D=4  L = 12  T = 20  
 E = 5  M = 13  U = 21  
 F = 6  N = 14  V = 22  
 G = 7  O = 15  W = 23  
 H = 8  P = 16  X = 24  


H A R D W O R K =
8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = Only 98%


K N O W L E D G E =
11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = Only 96%

1+18+20+9+19+20+9+3 = 99%

But interesting (and as you'd expect),

A T T I T U D E =
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%.....

This is how you achieve 100% in carving.

When Blood Flows

I'm sorry but I don't know the following contributor's name. However, his pen name fits the note well. Bleedswell writes:

My wife recently dumped a bunch of pepper packets from McDonald's into my carving box. Thinking perhaps that my carvings had not been "spicy" enough,
I inquired about her actions. It seems that pepper has a natural clotting ability. This week, while looking one way and carving the other, I had ample opportunity to test this theory. Worked just fine, held the blood fairly well contained until I got it cleaned and a band aid applied. Makes for a nice addition to the carving box!


Lightening Color

Ed Walicki, from the Fish Carver's List shared his method of lightening the color of a fish carving that that has been painted to dark. Ed states:

Tom, I often lighten a color on the body with a thin coat of pearl pigment mixed into a clear finish. You can buy plain pearl pigment in a art and craft store like Michael's or JoAnn Fabric for about .99 cents a bottle. Delta Cream Coat or Folk Art are just a couple of the brand names to look for. It is used to add a pearl shimmer to other craft paint colors. The label should read "pearl pigment" only. The mica particles in this type of pigment are translucent microscopic pieces of plastic with a reflective coating. It looks just like white pearl in the bottle but it isn't. The tiny particles are slightly transparent allowing your background color to show through. That way you don't "wash out" the color by spraying it over a dark background. It simply adds a shimmer look and blocks the light absorption which causes the dark look to the color.

White pearl normally is microscopic pieces of white plastic with a reflective pearl finish, the white plastic base often blocks the background color from showing through which will leave the fish with a washed out look to it if used over a darker background. White pearl works great for a reflective base color or a belly color but I seldom ever use it for more than that.

You would not use these pearl oversprays to lighten a fin color. Fins generally do not have a metallic or pearl look to them. If you painted the fins too dark go back over them with a lighter color to kill the background and then apply the correct color value to get the look you desire.

If that doesn't give you the look you desire don't strip it and start again, simply tip out the scales with a clean silver or gold and come back over the top with layers of candy color to build the color you want. Sometimes doing that creates stunning depth to your final finish. Allow your "too dark" initial paint job to be "under painting" and build again off those colors working from dark to light. In most cases you will find this to be the better way to paint fish. It builds great depth to your colors.


Natural Talent?

Have you ever heard of art folks talking about natural talent? Ivan Whillock shares his views of natural talent with the Woodcarver's List.

The more time I spend with artists and musicians the less I believe in natural talent. Even if it could somehow be clinically proven to exist, I still would choose not to believe in it.

The notion of natural talent is often used as a "wooden leg," as in "I'd be a great track star, but I've got this wooden leg." "I'm not an artist because I just wasn't born with the talent."

Many artists and musicians dislike the "natural talent" label because it diminishes the hours of effort that they've put in to develop their skills. A child may pick out tunes on the family piano at an early age, but no one emerges from the womb playing Chopin. There are hours of hours of lessons wrapped up in that task. True, some people are born with or develop perfect pitch. In college I sat in a band next to a guy with perfect pitch and he played lousy (although he was always in tune!) Musicians without the gift of perfect pitch are able to develop relative pitch which serves them well. They learn how to tell whether one tone is sharper or flatter than another, even when they can't name the tone. This comes from practice and training, not from an accident of birth.

Inspiration is another one. I never believed in that either. Some of my classmates would search for inspiration in a case of beer. I helped them empty the case of beer, but I never found any inspiration there. Others experimented with a variety of techniques to "open their minds" in order to become inspired. I figured the best way to create a painting was not to sit around waiting for an inspiration but to squeeze some paint onto a palette and then brush, daub or smear it onto a canvas. Every once in a while I would make something somebody liked and get told how "inspired" I must have been to come up with it. I never bothered to explain that I wasn't inspired at all. A couple of my classmates were taking care of that. If I would have waited to be inspired I never would have gotten it done.

(I did have an inspiration once. I dreamed about a carving, sketched it as soon as I awoke, and carved it the next day. Within a week I received a phone call from a church wanting a Mary and Child relief, exactly what I had just finished carving! I sent them a photo of the carving, and they loved it. One problem, however, they wanted the figures facing the other way. So I had to recarve it. The upshot? Some people dream in black and white; some in color. I dream backwards!)

Ivan Whillock Studio
Faribault, MN 55021
Visit my website at


Highlighting Fish Scales

Don Patterson from the Fish Carver's List shares his techniques for highlighting scales on his fish carvings. Don advises to not use Gesso on fish carvings. You will be painting with an airbrush and fish scales don't have the same texture as a feather. Don advises us that this is just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions.

Don's technique:

Seal your fish as you normally would. I use Dennis Schroeder lacquer based sanding sealer thinned 50/50. At least two coats, 15 minutes apart. Now spray silver over the scaled area you want to highlight and let it dry at least two hours.(Your choice of silver) Now spray another coat of the sealer over the silver and dry for 15 minutes then spray your choice of color like your mixture of black/brown over that. I will spray the black/brown mixture from a rear to front angle to pickup the rear edges of the scales more. As soon as it is dry enough to scrub, use 0000 steel wool instead of scotch brite pads. The steel wool leaves a softer highlight. Scrub with front to rear strokes with the scales, not against them. The black /brown will be removed and some of the sealer might be removed, but you will be able to see the silver highlighted scales through the sealer. Instead of sanding sealer over the silver you may want to use clear gloss. If you use water base gloss, let it dry allot longer. One of the ideas here is to have the silver and the clear that is over the silver to be much dryer and harder than the black/brown so that the black/brown will remove easier than the silver and clear coat. Try this method on a scrap piece of wood to develop your confidence.

As always, I hope that you have found something in this information that will be useful to you in your carving endeavors. One of the best places to find additional information concerning woodcarving is the archives found on The Carvers' Companion. Take some time and browse these web pages. I'm certain that you will find them more that just worthwhile. (WOM back issue HERE: Woodcarver Resource Files HERE)

Until the next issue, keep carving and strive to make each carving your best one yet!

Loren Woodard

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 Resource Files, or click the links below.

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