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Finishing woodcarving projects

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bohngy

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I've done a couple of small guided woodcarving projects and would like to finish them off and make them look triffic!

Unfortunately, i'm a fool and I used pine for one of them. It doesn't carve well - the detail is lost in the grain of the wood and it hasn't cut as cleanly as I would have liked.

It's too detailed to sand and I don't want a finish that will raise the grain. So i was wondering if there was a way of applying gesso or suchlike, to smooth the surface. I'm new to carving, so would appreciate any pro-tips!
thanks
 

stuckinthemud

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Anything spirit based or oil based will be ok. I seal the carving with something like white spirit thinned varnish or Danish oil, that means the wood end grain won't soak up a differing amount of finish and darken. Once sealed I use Danish oil or boiled linseed tinted with artists oil as the driers in the finish mean a new wash can be applied sooner than if the artist oil was applied on its own
 

MikeG.

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First the caveat: I am not really a carver, but have done a few carvings in oak in the last 4 or 5 years. So, take my comments as well intended but maybe not that well informed. For me, I don't think carvings generally lend themselves to a finish. Obviously some relief carvings in furniture are finished, but lots of, for instance, ecclesiastical carving work isn't finished (it may have been painted vividly originally). So my suggestion is to forget finishing it, and to treat this one in pine as a practise piece. Now go and make it in a more appropriate wood, and strive to achieve the sort of finished surface you are happy with.

Oh, and the golden rule of finishing......any finish, ever, is that they highlight rather than hide. So if you have roughness or flaws in the raw carving there is nothing you can do with a finish which will do anything other than highlight the roughness or flaws. In other words, the finish will make it look worse, not better.
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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You can use gesso to fill and coat the piece, it will raise the grain as it is water based but the subsequent layers will build a finish that you can sand to a smooth marble like finish. The best gesso is one you make yourself with whiting and parchment or rabbit skin size. However that is a steep lerning curve if you have not done it before. You can buy ready made gesso in artist shops that you can brush on straight out of the pot. It is a little harder to sand than traditional gesso but will be fine for what you want to do. Once you have a smooth sanded gesso finish you will need to finish it further with paint or gold. If you want to go down the route of making your own gesso let me know and I will give you my recipe.
 
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