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Recycling!


Jon Shaw

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post-303-1205428345.jpg Hi Folks,

 

It's been a while since I posted anything because I've been busy making this!

 

The concept was simply a reflection on the cycle of life and death (another cheerful subject!) but I like the composition and play with scale, and it sits well in the hand.

 

For the techies out there, it's made of boxwood with buffalo horn eyes, and measures 46mm H x 37mm W x 45mm D. It is stained to disguise some of the typical grey markings that can emerge in boxwood with a very weak solution of Van Dyke crystals (walnut shells) and finished in Danish oil. It took 120 hours to produce. (The crab claw - Oct '07 - took 48).

 

Best wishes to all,

 

Jon

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post-303-1205428998.jpg

post-303-1205428345.jpg Hi Folks,

 

It's been a while since I posted anything because I've been busy making this!

 

The concept was simply a reflection on the cycle of life and death (another cheerful subject!) but I like the composition and play with scale, and it sits well in the hand.

 

For the techies out there, it's made of boxwood with buffalo horn eyes, and measures 46mm H x 37mm W x 45mm D. It is stained to disguise some of the typical grey markings that can emerge in boxwood with a very weak solution of Van Dyke crystals (walnut shells) and finished in Danish oil. It took 120 hours to produce. (The crab claw - Oct '07 - took 48).

 

Best wishes to all,

 

Jon

 

 

The other pics didn't upload (my own fault I'm sure!) so I'll try again.post-303-1205428970.jpg

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Hi Jon,

 

It is great to see you and your work again. The light wash with the stain is a nice addition. That is one big beetle! Thanks for sharing it with us.

 

Janel

 

 

Hi Janel,

 

It's nice to be back, and thanks for your comments.

 

Actually, the beetle is not far off life size (25mm), it's the skull that's small!

 

Jon

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Hi Jon! I've been thinking about working on a skull for awhile. Unfortunately, your sets the bar up high! Did you have a skull model to work from? Looks as though you've done a very good job at hollowing out the eyes sockets and cranial cavity. I thinkl the stippling is effective too in relieving potential monotony of surface treatment.

 

-Doug

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Hi Jon! I've been thinking about working on a skull for awhile. Unfortunately, your sets the bar up high! Did you have a skull model to work from? Looks as though you've done a very good job at hollowing out the eyes sockets and cranial cavity. I think the stippling is effective too in relieving potential monotony of surface treatment.

 

-Doug

 

Hi Doug,

 

Thanks for the kind words and yes, I was extremely fortunate in learning that a photographer friend had artist neighbours who owned a real skull that he had borrowed to shoot some still life pictures. I too had wanted to tackle one for a while but I couldn't have learned all the intricacies intimately enough to have pulled it off successfully without the real thing (or very good medical model) to study.

 

They really are the most fascinating objects of considerable complexity when observed in the hand. Personally I find much that is aesthetically very pleasing in it's form, as well as the mystery of appreciating that you are holding the skull of what used to be a sentient being, but I have observed feelings of revulsion and disgust in some to whom I offered the real thing, so I'm not sure how popular a subject it will be in terms of sales!

 

It's surprising just how deep the eye and nasal cavities go if one is aiming for reality. I normally never use the Fordom for any final carving at all, prefering hand tools, but in this case I did simply use spherical diamond burrs and scraped smooth the final finish. Close observation also shows that the surface texture varies over different areas but, as usual, it's a question of assessing just when to stop before the surface becomes overworked, which is not totally objective.

 

Personally I found the creation of the suture joint markings around the skull to be the most technically demanding. They are extremely fine and must appear to flow smoothly in an intricate line. Experimentation indicated that V gouges were out and my finest diamond point burr was out before I hit upon simply using a sharp metal workers scribe. Admitedly it is only really scratching , not cutting, but by proceeding with a light touch and repeating until the groove was deep enough, it worked in boxwood. Needless to say this is one of the final touches after hours of work. The point can easily wander its own way in the grain if permitted and one slip with real pressure applied could cause big problems. Conesequently whilst the exercise was successful, I lost the feeling in the end joint of my thumb for 3 days afterwards through holding the tool so tightly!

 

I wish you luck in your endevours and look forward to seeing the results.

 

Jon

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Hi Jon,

 

When you used the weak stain, did you focus the application to limited areas, or apply evenly overall and remove by sanding? I am interested in how seamless the application was while achieving the darker and lighter areas. I've used oil based paint/stain and have wiped off the excess to leave the recesses stained, but have not experience with a water based stain and such control with boxwood. There are always new things to learn about!

 

Janel

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Hi Jon,

 

When you used the weak stain, did you focus the application to limited areas, or apply evenly overall and remove by sanding? I am interested in how seamless the application was while achieving the darker and lighter areas. I've used oil based paint/stain and have wiped off the excess to leave the recesses stained, but have not experience with a water based stain and such control with boxwood. There are always new things to learn about!

 

Janel

 

Hi Janel,

 

No, the stain was applied uniformly overall. To ensure a seamless appearance I used the watercolour painters technique of dampening the entire piece with water first before applying the stain, thus avoiding nasty rings and blotches of concentrated colour.

 

The reason for the colour variation is actually the result of the way in which wood absorbs stain. I made a decision at the outset to have the grain running north to south. Consequently the top and bottom of the piece are all end grain. This, needless to say, absorbs more stain than long grain, hence the colour variation. Once I'm at this stage, I don't do any further sanding with any grade lower than 4000 Micromesh (finishing with 12,000), though I see no reason why, with care, one couldn't use a courser grade to work through the stain to achieve colour variation, though you would need to excercise great care to ensure smooth transitions between tones.

 

I am personally no fan of those who attempt to simulate an antique finish on their work, (even though some do it very well) believing that contemporary work should portray just that and utilise contemporary finishing techniques that reflect the age we live in. However, I must admit that I love the colour of boxwood that's had a fair exposure to ultraviolet for a few years. Quite accidentally, my application of this dilute stain resulted in a perfect match to examples of older boxwood objects that I possess, so it's an approach I may well adopt again. This is not the same as trying to fake age by simulating dirt build up in all the nooks and crannies of the piece. Given a piece of flawless coloured boxwood, I would be inclined to leave it totally natural.

 

Hope this is useful.

 

Jon

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Hi Jon,

 

Thank you for your good information in answer to my question. Is the boxwood actually wet, right after a dip in water then right away into the stain? The many things we do in our carving explorations feel like alchemy at times!

 

I am quite familiar with the absorbency of end grain vs. the long grain, having witnessed the effect water based stains on any given piece of boxwood. Not all boxwoods are alike, from clearly undifferentiated ring growth to very stripy absorbency. Testing on a waste piece of the same boxwood is always a necessary part of preparing to stain the "real" piece. That is why I began to use oil colors in the first place.

 

When a boxwood piece is nearing completion, but not yet clean and ready for stain or color, the wood in contact with the hand and the support of the wood peg often burnish and give the wood a hint of its finished quality. What is not touched or rubbed, the crevices especially, remain lightly colored and will remain so unless they too are rubbed and treated like the other parts. Hence, the desire to stain to enhance those places. I like your description, "by simulating dirt build up in all the nooks and crannies of the piece" and agree that it is not trying to fake that build up, but it is an enhancement, adding shading when lighting might not be present to add the shadow we would like to see or take advantage of. We get to make the choices, and not leave all to chance.

 

Does the dip in water and then the stain raise the grain of your boxwood? Do you pre-wet the wood, dry and then sand the irregularities which might pop up, prior to the wetting at the time of staining? I know that I will have compressed wood where I don't want it to show while working on a piece, so as I am finish sanding, I will wet the piece lightly and let it dry then sand, and again lightly wet, dry and sand again for the final grades of grit or polish before coloring (if that is in the plan for a particular piece).

 

While contemplating the success of your light staining, I wondered about a technique used by mammoth ivory carvers, who would clean a piece with an alcohol/water mixture prior to final finish steps. What do you think about the stain that is mixed with water, to be diluted then with alcohol to the proper weakness of color, so that much less water is absorbed by the wood. Does alcohol adversely affect the stain or the wood? I have not tried this yet, but will soon. Does anyone have experience with such a technique?

 

Now, back to the carving bench for me,

 

Janel

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Hi Jon,

 

Thank you for your good information in answer to my question. Is the boxwood actually wet, right after a dip in water then right away into the stain? The many things we do in our carving explorations feel like alchemy at times!

 

I am quite familiar with the absorbency of end grain vs. the long grain, having witnessed the effect water based stains on any given piece of boxwood. Not all boxwoods are alike, from clearly undifferentiated ring growth to very stripy absorbency. Testing on a waste piece of the same boxwood is always a necessary part of preparing to stain the "real" piece. That is why I began to use oil colors in the first place.

 

When a boxwood piece is nearing completion, but not yet clean and ready for stain or color, the wood in contact with the hand and the support of the wood peg often burnish and give the wood a hint of its finished quality. What is not touched or rubbed, the crevices especially, remain lightly colored and will remain so unless they too are rubbed and treated like the other parts. Hence, the desire to stain to enhance those places. I like your description, "by simulating dirt build up in all the nooks and crannies of the piece" and agree that it is not trying to fake that build up, but it is an enhancement, adding shading when lighting might not be present to add the shadow we would like to see or take advantage of. We get to make the choices, and not leave all to chance.

 

Does the dip in water and then the stain raise the grain of your boxwood? Do you pre-wet the wood, dry and then sand the irregularities which might pop up, prior to the wetting at the time of staining? I know that I will have compressed wood where I don't want it to show while working on a piece, so as I am finish sanding, I will wet the piece lightly and let it dry then sand, and again lightly wet, dry and sand again for the final grades of grit or polish before coloring (if that is in the plan for a particular piece).

 

While contemplating the success of your light staining, I wondered about a technique used by mammoth ivory carvers, who would clean a piece with an alcohol/water mixture prior to final finish steps. What do you think about the stain that is mixed with water, to be diluted then with alcohol to the proper weakness of color, so that much less water is absorbed by the wood. Does alcohol adversely affect the stain or the wood? I have not tried this yet, but will soon. Does anyone have experience with such a technique?

 

Now, back to the carving bench for me,

 

Janel

 

Hi Janel,

 

Wow! So many questions. You're right though, there are infinite variations, techniques and materials involved in the final process of finishing. Many of these are of course completely subjective and dependant on the desired appearance, cost/time and final use of the piece.

 

If I were finishing a piece of furniture with a stain then I would certainly wet the surface with hot water to raise the grain, allow to dry and re-sand before applying it. However, in the case of boxwood carvings I find that its grain is so compact that I don't do this, and indeed if using uki bori anywhere it could even be detrimental to the effect having its maximum impact. with uki bori I personally sand right up to 8000 after shaving the indentations back flush, then after applying the hot water I simply burnish with a brush on my foredom to retain maximum detail.

 

Then again it depends on the type of stain. I am not familiar with the technique you mention of combined alcohol/water mixes. Normally one has a choice between water or alcohol/spirit based stains which behave in different ways. Alcohol/spirit stains tend not to raise the grain and dry much quicker, but they are less truly transparent than water based and more difficult to apply evenly.

 

I read on the site of those like Tom, who maintain that boxwood, being so dense, doesn't absorb stains and oils too easily. Whilst I would agree with this in principle, again I feel it boils down to what the final intended use of the piece is. For example, if it were heavy use furniture requiring a subtle sheen oiled finish, then I might dilute raw liseed oil 50/50 with white spirit so that it is much more easily absorbed. This proccess is repeated over many days, gradually reducing the dilution until, some weeks later, the final coats are applied just neat. As you can see it takes a long time, but you do achieve a total saturation long term use finish which is also aesthtically very pleasing. However, in the case of my miniature work I wouldn't dare boil it in oil (not that it doesn't work very well for Tom), or soak it for any length of time in a liquid for fear of possible structural complications in the wood. I simply lightly dampen it with a large sable hair paint brush and follow up immediatly with the stain so that an even tone can be achieved before any drying occurs.

 

If using Danish oil, then unlike the finish with linseed I describe above, it contains varnishes as well as oils. Yes, there is of course some penetration with perhaps the first 2 coats, but once the varnish dries it forms a barrier and all subsequent coats are simply adhering through molecular attraction to the previous one on the surface. I find this to be more than adequate for carvings, and indeed do not want any real build up of finish on the surface at all in order to maintain maximum detail.

 

Janel, your experience in these techniques is probably similar to mine, and your work certainly demonstrates great expertise, but you're right, there is always something more to learn. I hope the above has furthered that aim.

 

Best wishes,

Jon

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Hi Jon,

 

It always feels risky when I commit a piece to the finish treatment! If I made and finished many pieces a month, that feeling might eventually go away, maybe. I learn by asking questions.

 

 

Thanks for your good responses.

 

Janel

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