Working with Wood
Here's a little wood 101 followed by some tips
on maintaining a successful wood carving!
It is what holds the grain of the log together.
Over time, that water evaporates
and the grain begins to separate from the outside in.
If a log dries too quickly,
cracks can become quite large and numerous.
If a log dries too slowly,
it can begin to rot in the center.
We have to find a happy medium
between these to ensure a great carving.
Cracking or splitting is just a natural effect of anything made of wood. Many people find they add great character, however, no one wants a major split to form on the face of a bear!
Here are a few techniques we are using to prevent just that...
1. Perfect for small to medium sized carvings. We take a large log and cut it either in half or in quarters. The grain then is relaxed before we begin a piece. If any cracks arise, they would be very small and located along the backside.
2. Whole log carvings. Once a piece is carved, we create a "pressure crack", meaning that we carve a line down the backside of the piece. This promotes the log to split there instead of on the front.
3. After a split has happened, all is not lost. They can be filled with a shim and/or wood filler. Here at Riverside Wood Carving, we make our own but any hardware store will have a good filler. Once dried, sand lightly and apply paint as needed.
Many insects create their homes inside logs
and can leave quite a few holes.
If they make too many holes in a log,
it can be hard to work with
and takes away from the quality carving we are trying to create.
We try to work with logs before they become someone's home!
The pine bore beetle is one of the most popular insects you might see.
They love boring small holes into logs to lay their eggs. The larvae then essentially eat their way out leaving even bigger holes.
No matter the bug, there's always something you can do. You can use any standard bug killer like Raid. Using WD-40 has also proven to be successful. Spray right in the holes and watch the bugs fly out!
Another way to help with cracking and insects, is applying a sealant.
We apply two to three coats of a marine grade spar urethane. The first coat is applied very liberally to really soak into the wood. This penetrates into the piece and helps hold the grain together. It also fills into any holes created by bugs and prevents them from returning.
The clear gloss finish is used on most pieces as it gives a nice shiny look, but semi-gloss and satin finishes are also available.
Whether your carving is placed indoors or outdoors, it will begin to "weather", or fade. Apply one coat of the same urethane every 1-3 years. This will instantly give your carving new life and longevity.