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Thread: Finishing a carving

  1. #1

    Finishing a carving

    I need advice. I am a chip carver and I make chip carved serving trays. The finish I use is three coats of sprayed nitrocellulose lacquer. I then sand that with 400 grit sandpaper. I finish that with 0000 steel wool and paste wax. I am very pleased with the results I get.
    So here's my problem. The carved chips partially fill up with residue from that process and I have to "clean them out" as a last step. Should I change my finishing technique or is this just the nature of the beast?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Potter View Post
    I need advice. I am a chip carver and I make chip carved serving trays. The finish I use is three coats of sprayed nitrocellulose lacquer. I then sand that with 400 grit sandpaper. I finish that with 0000 steel wool and paste wax. I am very pleased with the results I get.
    So here's my problem. The carved chips partially fill up with residue from that process and I have to "clean them out" as a last step. Should I change my finishing technique or is this just the nature of the beast?
    Gravity is going to cause the finish to want to pool in the bottom of the chips.

    Take a look at some of the methods that hollow vessel makers (turners and potters) will use to distribute finishes and glazes evenly. The methods depend on SLOW rotation of the workpiece, which spreads the finish/glaze evenly without allowing drips/runs to develop. Whether or not it would be sufficient to solve your pooling problem is an open question. I saw it on a tv show that showcases American craftsman and artists. This particular episode was about one of the earliest folks to do BIG hollow vessel turning, and I believe he lived down in the Southeast. His family is continuing the studio, some of the long time turners here may be able to point you in the right direction on who it is so you can find out more.

    Off hand, I can think of two other potential solutions. The first is to tinker with your lacquer so that it sets up so quickly that it doesn't have much chance to pool. The problem with this is dialing in the right recipe EACH time, because the temp and humidity will both affect how long it takes for the lac to set up.

    A second option would be to spray upside down. Messier than normal flat spraying, will require more protective equipment for you, but it should solve the problem, although having hanging "drips" on the peaks of the carvings is a possibility. A combination of this and the above tweaking would likely be most effective if the slow rotation isn't practical.

    A last solution is to spray really thin coats of lac, and more of them. You still want quick set up though.

    If the problem is wax residue, then consider using a hair dryer or heat gun to melt the residue, making it easy to clean out.
    Last edited by John Sanford; 06-11-2018 at 6:13 PM.
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