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chestnuts, chipmunk and more

Doug Sanders

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The finish on the chestnuts was a real hodge-podge. I first exposed the whole carving to nitric acid which gave it a deep orange base, then I colored the nuts with an oil-based wood varnish (can't remember the brand off-hand, but it's very concentrated and comes in small cylindrical bottles of about 50ml). I let that soak in for about 24 hours, then wiped it and buffed and repeated another coat. Finally, I applied a darker stain of the same brand, which was close to black and wiped it off immediately- allowing it to settle in the grooves and depressions and such. A final coat of linseed oil deepened everything. oh yeah- all color was sanded off the leaf, to leave it matte and boxwood yellow for contrast.


The coloring wasn't as uniform and solid as I had hoped- I'm going though a phase right now, where I want to color things more, but am not as pleased with the results as if I had left the wood untouched.


I think it's a question of being brave with my artistic vision, if you will, and doing what pleases me rather than the pressure I may feel by seeing other's work and wanting to duplicate it.


I did like the acid treatment though- nice and uniform and low-key. Maybe I'll do a how-to series for the forum...

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Ok- on the next piece I do with coloring, I'll try to remember to take some photos along the way. The acid-coloring is something that I guess instrument makers do a lot to darken wood either for repairs to old instruments or for aesthetic reasons. One was kind enough to pass on some information. I think Ko Bas, who is on this forum uses a similar method.


I've got an annual wildlife-themed show and competition here in Indianapolis in a week's time- I wasn't going to enter the chipmunk into the contest, but from the responses I think I will, in addition to the chestnuts.


Thanks for the comments. :)

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Hi Doug,


I had learned about using nitric acid many years back from a violin maker, but never took time to find the material and use it. Well done, moving ahead with that. Did you do any experimenting with it before applying it to the wood? Does length of exposure make a difference? How about exposure to light while the acid is on the wood, will that change things?


Where does one find nitric acid?


More questions, but I've got to go...


Oh, thank you so much for all of the images! It is great to see the work you are doing currently!



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I thought I'd go ahead and include a recent, better shot of a piece I posted here a month or so ago. Getting better with the camera.. So much to learn! :o


Janel- I'll answer your questions in a little tutorial I'll submit in a month or so, once I get around to the acid staining again, but yes- there can be a difference in darkness and/or hue depending on some factors. I'll try to run some scraps through it in a systematic way so everyone can see a range.

Have to admit though, I'm not one to do mock-ups and tests (*unfortunately* :( )

I just seem to jump in the deep end sometimes.


Where does one find nitric acid, and other chemicals needed? Any scientific supply house like Fisher Chemicals or Sigma/Aldrich Supply. I don't know if they have online catalogs. We've got 'em all in my conservation lab at work. You gotta kind of work the system to order acids as a private individual, I think.?. :):huh:;)

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Seems you like chestnuts a lot as a subject :)

I like the new pieces and I think your treatment of the chestnut details (as far as I can tell from the photos) is very good.

I can almost feel the fuzz on the opening at the tip of the small chestnut :huh:

The chipmunk is definitely charming too. What are the sizes of the pieces?

Good luck at the show next week.



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love to eat 'em and love to carve 'em ;):huh:

They're such quirky things- edible chestnuts, buckeyes,... you can really make each one an individual. Like beanpods. Another favorite :)

I AM going through a nut phase lately, I suppose :o . Ever see the So-o school of netsuke carvers and their chestnuts? We looked at one at the INS convention didn't we? I really like the finish on that one, but I suspect it was lacquer...

I'll try to dig up the photo I took.


As far as sizes, the two beads are around 3/4 inch, the chipmunk, I think about 1 3/4" diameter, the chestnuts maybe 2 1/8". not here in front of me...

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Janel, nitric acid can be ordered from chemical supply companies in St.Paul if you really want the hassle. nitric acid is on the federal terrorist watch list and most companies won't sell it unless you already have a business that requires the acid. i will try to find the link to the discussion on historic acid stains and using vinegar instead of nitric acid.

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