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Thread: How to finish Basswood carving?

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    How to finish Basswood carving?

    Doing my first Basswood carving, shallow relief floral arrangement for fireplace mantle. 7" square. Ultimately I plan to paint it white, but am wondering if I should first "seal with something first- maybe shellac wash coat? My concern is there is lots of fine detail that I don't want to obsc.

    I very much appreciate all suggestions!

    Thanks, Mike

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
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    Central Florida
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    Mike, when carving soft wood like bass, you need to take into consideration
    the finish you will be using and make the adjustments as you carve.
    if you plan on sealer, primer and paint as the finish, you know it will fill in the fine details.
    therefore, you need to accentuate the details to compensate for the thick finish.
    stains and clear coats, not so much.
    best of luck and looking forward to seeing your completed project.

    .

    .
    Last edited by John_ Smith; 08-14-2019 at 9:54 AM.
    -- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    I typically seal all my basswood carvings if I'm going to paint them. I usually apply one coat of water based Minwax sanding sealer if I'm going to paint with acrylics and want the grain to show though. If applying paint to cover, I'll apply at least two coats, with light sanding after each. I've also used shellac in same manner with similar results.
    .... Dave

    Old carvers never die.... they just whittle away.

  4. #4
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    Thanks Dave and John, I really appreciate the advice! Hopefully when I get this finished I post some pics.

    I'm not much of a carver- my primary interest is hand tool woodworking/furniture. Something I would like to improve is speed - carving takes me forever. Most of my previous projects have been for furniture and scale of carvings is usually fairly small 2-3". Does it get faster when the scale is bigger?





    This is my first project in basswood and one thing I have learned it's super fun to carve and a lot easier than many furniture grade hardwoods. I don't want to impose on the knowledge of the forum, but as long as I'm asking, also wondering about suggestions for:


    * Best tool to clean out waste/smooth background in small areas? Current project is floral arrangement with lots of narrow spaces between stems, leaves etc. and it's seems like some kind of small scraping tool would work? Maybe a dremel?

    * For the small round "berries" in floral carving, is there any kind of round punch or maybe small diameter steel tubing I could sharpen that would make this faster than outlining with small #6 -8 gouge that requires multiple plunge cuts to make a circle?

    Thanks, Mike

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Central Florida
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    Mike, wood screw extractors come in different diameters.
    I've never used them for anything ornamental.
    If used in a drill press, I can see how it would "rough out" the berry.
    or if you can find a piece of metal tubing the exact size you need,
    you could cut your own teeth with a file. (and not so aggressive as the extractor).
    the basswood that I am using now is very "stringy" and will not accept
    a dull tool AT ALL. if your wood is the same, punching down the wood
    for detail could come back to bite you when it wants to regain its original composure.
    scraping is not recommended. lots of tearout. so you need to either burn it out
    with a pyro gun, very sharp small gouges or Dremel bits.
    (check out the Roto-Zip bits - they are 1/8" shank and come in several styles of cut).
    if all your projects will be painted, I would suggest you order some Free Samples
    of High Density Urethane (HDU) from Coastal Enterprises. an excellent carving medium.
    https://precisionboard.com/
    (EXCELLENT work on your project, BTW).
    and yes, the larger the project, the more enjoyable it is.
    when you can break out the heavy tools and a mallet, it goes much faster.

    extractor.jpg
    Last edited by John_ Smith; 08-19-2019 at 8:10 AM.
    -- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

  6. #6
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    thanks John- great advice. I'm keeping my eyes open for some metal tubing in the right diameter- will let you know if I find anything.

    Best, Mike

  7. #7
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    Here are some pictures of the floral carving in basswood after what seemed like gallons of shellac. It will be painted white and was initially conceived as a practice project that might potentially be used as the central floral element into mantelpiece. It's probably roughly 7 in. square.This is very much a seat-of-the-pants project initiated primarily to get some experience for the first time carving basswood (which I really enjoyed). Not a well-thought-out/designed overall concept more, just hoping I might be of use it somewhere.

    3.jpg4.jpg1.jpg2.jpg


    My very rough, preliminary overall "design concept" was I might be able to use this as the central element in a fireplace "mantle/surround" (not sure what the correct term is?) That I hope to complement with similar floral "bands/ribbons" may be 1 1/2" wide that "drape" in an arc from the central element to carved rings at the vertical elements surrounding fireplace, and then descend vertically 5 or 6 inches. Like you said not a great plan more of an experiment.

    I'm a novice Carver and the lessons I took away are:

    * Basswood is super fun to carve I like to do more with this.

    * I don't really understand how much depth/relief to incorporate into this kind of a carving. Seems like probably could achieve the same visual effect with shallower relief? I appreciate any advice?

    * The naturally occurring, three-dimensional shapes of plan/flowers are not at all intuitive to me and I really struggle trying to interpret/incorporate those into a carving based on a two-dimensional drawing.
    Seems like it be really helpful to have actual, physical example of plant/flower to look at when trying to understand three-dimensional elements I should be incorporating into the carving?

    * Smoothing the "background" surrounding the carved elements, whether a small section internal to the carving more overall background surrounding the perimeter of the carving should be simple but was
    overly time-consuming for me. Ultimately I made some small, spring steel scrapers out of extra saw plate material, that combined with hand sanding seem to be an okay solution.

    * A Dremel tool with small bits for smoothing small carved surfaces and cleaning out tiny recesses seems like it would be a helpful tool yes?

    * Finally, I'm surprised how long it takes me to do a relatively simple, small-scale carving like this. When I start what I anticipate will be fairly straightforward part of the carving that shouldn't take more
    than an hour or so, like outlining a section of the outer perimeter, I'm consistently surprised it ends up taking half the day, and even at that, seems to me like there's no clear endpoint there's always
    more "smoothing/finishing" I can do so at some point I just say OK that's enough.

    I'm a very experienced hand tool woodworker and take pride in in being able to expeditiously and efficiently execute dimensioning of stock, joinery etc. in furniture making. Does that happen with carving? Can I expect that at some point visualizing/carving three-dimensional shapes will become more intuitive and in my pace of work will increase?

    Thanks for looking. I really appreciate advice and suggestions and continue to be inspired by the talent and experience so generously shared here in the carving forum.

    All the best, Mike

  8. #8
    What kind of paint do you plan to use? A lot of finishes won't adhere to standard shellac because of the natural wax. You could use lacquer or oil with no problem.

    It takes a long time for most people to carve. The amount of time invested is the main reason it's becoming a lost art. Some of the projects I've done has taken years to do. I would work on it until I got sick of it and quit for a month or two and then go back to it. Recently I finished a piece I started 25 years ago. I've never had a problem with an end point. I draw up the design and when I've done one end to the other it's done. Most of the carving work I've done is ornamentation on furniture.

  9. #9
    Good stuff, Mike. Some flowers have stylized models used in carving ,that don't look like the real flowers. I suggest
    looking at those and pics of the real stuff. That gives you two types and room to move. For a mantle surround I think
    a deeper and larger piece is better. Be sure to look at the work of Grinling Gibbons.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Dyas View Post
    What kind of paint do you plan to use? A lot of finishes won't adhere to standard shellac because of the natural wax. You could use lacquer or oil with no problem.
    I've used dewaxed shellac successfully with most common finishes/paints and as a finish on its own. Zissner sealcoat works well, and is a lot easier than decanting or trying not to disturb the settled wax.

  11. #11
    Yes, Sealcoat has had the wax filtered out and would work as a universal sealer but standard shellac is problematic. We don't know what which the OP used so I posted the warning.

  12. #12
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    Mike - for your first projects ever, you are definitely headed in the right direction.
    your technique and attention to detail will improve as you go along.
    as Mel suggested, look at other examples as well as still life photos if you want
    to achieve a more realistic style in your work.
    other than that - GREAT JOB !!

    ,

    ,
    -- I am a painter. That's what I do. I paint things --

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