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Finishes


Guest katfen

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In the conservation community, Rennaissance wax is pretty much the accepted norm. Conservators wax looks to be a similar product (different brand name). Both are microcrystalline waxes which are of petroleum origin (as opposed to insect or plant) and are acid free. We use them because they are non-corrosive on metals, lacquers, etc. I'm sure they're fine for carvings, including inlay of ivory, pearl, horn, etc.

 

I haven't used waxes on my carvings however- I'm not so happy with the hand feel- on most of mine, I apply a light coat of boiled linseed oil (not diluted) with a cloth to deepen the color and provide some barrier to dryness.

 

-Doug

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For the most part, me too. I use some thick old boiled linseed oil, sometimes thinned with bleached? linseed oil painter's medium, applied very lightly but thoroughly. Not much time is allowed for the end grain to suck up the oil, because I had one piece take up too much, which then exuded over the following days of drying and made a really unpleasant situation. I scraped and resanded and polished the whole piece. Not a happy time.

 

That experience was during a warm and rainy humid time, and because of that, I try to use the oils on days that are dry. Humidity may possibly have an affect on the oil's ability to dry.

 

Is the conservator's wax intended for surface application as a finish or protectant? I was handed some to stick down a standing piece to the display shelf when I set my pieces up in a Minnesota Museum sculpture show. Afterwards, I brought tools to remove the sticky wax from the sculpted wood grain texture that the wax was adhered to. Not an easy task.

 

Janel

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Guest DFogg

I was first introduced to Renaissance Wax by Mr. Pettibone, curator for the Higgins Armory in Worcester, MA. They used it to protect their extensive collection of armor and ancient weapons.

 

It is very thin and I have never had a wax build up problem with it. It is so expensive that you won't be lathering it on anyway. It dries almost instantly and provides a clear, hard finish that will protect against moisture and handling. Very good for metals.

 

I also use it on my wooden handles, but not as a final finish that is almost always rubbed oil. I can see where it could be a problem getting in the details of a carving, but if you warm it slightly with a hair dryer it should melt and resolve itself easily.

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Janel,

There's also a mounting wax which conservators use in museums to stabilize something while on display. Perhaps this is what you were given and had trouble removing? The difficult removal wouldn't surprise me- it's mostly for non-porous substances like stable ceramic glazes, glass, and metals.

I get the impression the "Conservators Wax" (brand name) will be used as mainly a finish but also as a protectant against staining hand oils.

 

-Doug

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Hi Kathleen,

 

Thanks for writing, it sure has been quiet around here during this holiday period. Now that spring is arriving in the top states in the US, we all must be getting busy with fair weather activities!

 

The old, thick linseed oil was around when I was trying different treatments. I liked the way it brought the chatoyance of some woods out and dried/cured to a polishable surface. I recognize that it also darkens the wood, unstained boxwood goes from pale to yellow, and the darker woods might go very dark or even loose its lighter accents.

 

I also tried an old spray can of Homer Formby's Almond Furniture spray, but not right from the can. I sprayed a large a good amount out into a jar and then let the volatile and wet ingredients evaporate, which left an oil and a wax behind. This oil has not gone rancid like other vegetable oils do over time. I am not sure if the oil is almond, but it has a very strong and agreeable smell for a while after it is rubbed into the wood. I have used the oil on woods that I do not want to darken significantly, sometimes also using the waxy part too. This oil does a nice job, but it is not as permanent as the boiled linseed oil. It seems to dry out in the places that I would rather keep oiled or darkened. When given a chance, I reapply the oil, but there is not guarantee that this will last either.

 

Obviously, there is more experimentation to do! Perhaps a smidge of BLO with the almond/wax... I did not like what Watco (another thing on hand at the time) did to what we used it on, and I do not want to apply and sand the piece, if that is what it takes to make it better.

 

Ya, I learned the hard way about the BLO and humidity. Guess who is a whole lot more careful now!

 

The old sticky BLO is thinned by adding bleached linseed oil that is used as artist's oil paint mixing medium. The lighter weight and color, bleached oil is also an option on its own.

 

Prior to using the oil on the completed piece, I use a scrap of wood to apply my choices to and take it through the routine of drying and buffing that I would do to a carving when it has been oiled.

 

I have not used a conservators wax, and am interested in it. Does its application do anything to change the color of the wood? Does it enhance the grain in any way, or just seal and protect with little other change?

 

So what other oil finishes are being used?

 

I'd have to look in the two books listed below to answer correctly the question of traditional finishes. My guess is that a wax was used.

 

Living Masters of Netsuke, Kinsey

ISBN 0-87011-679-7

 

The Art of Netsuke Carving as told to Raymond Bushell

ISBN 0-8348-0265-1

 

I too am curious about what others use for finishes. Thanks for asking the question!

 

Happy Spring! :)

 

Janel

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This isn't quite my area of materials knowledge as a paper conservator, but one way oils can be classified is 'drying' and 'non-drying'. For our purposes of oiling wood to improve surface characteristics and as a finish/protectant, we utilize drying oils. This category will dry through oxidation to produce a hard film. If I remember grad school lessons, drying oils include poppy seed, walnut, almond. Through boiling, the chemical structure of linseed oil changes, allowing it to dry.

Vegetable oil such as canola, peanut, olive, rapeseed won't dry and like Janel said go rancid.

Don't know anything about Danish oil, Tung oil, etc. B)

Camellia seed oil is used in Japan for blades. I would imagine that this is a non-drying oil (a drying oil would get sticky/gluey over time and not be nice on a blade and tough to remove), but the blade smiths on this group could comment further.

 

More questions than answers! :)

 

-Doug

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The two books I mentioned above are available at Amazon.com. I looked up the prices for the used books being resold and the Masatoshi book (The Art of Netsuke Carving as told to Raymond Bushell) was under one hundred dollars, the Contemporary (Living Masters of Netsuke, Kinsey) was much more expensive. Just this point in time, I think the prices vary over the months with the supply.

 

Thanks for the description about the finishes. The Formby's spray was kind'a like spray Pledge I think, a cleaner polisher, not a finish coat material.

 

Tonight I go to make a presentation to the region's wood carver's association. I'll see what I can learn from them and try to share the fun I have with carving.

 

Janel

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