About Stains, Painting & Gliding Process
making bread, mixing the dough is only one step in the process.
Making a carving is not necessarily the end of the job. In these
hurrying times we hate to wait for Nature to darken our work
with the patina of age. So we resort to stains or color or paint
or some other vehicle to give the finishing touch to the completed
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is an involved process and calls for some skill in the use of
the best materials to accomplish whatever finish we have in
mind. In my experience, carvings are wanted in gold leaf, in
the natural color of the wood, some want them stained, some,
as in the case of eagles, want them painted in the natural colors
of the living bird. Banners are painted in many different colors;
incised or raised letters are either gilded or painted. Other
carvings, as in the instance of State Seals, are usually painted
according to the original.
technical terms for all these processes are as follows:
As the name implies, this is a coloring process used to darken
the carving with either commercial stains or with those that
are mixed in your own shop.
Generically termed polychroming. I will use this term hereafter.
The term used to define the application of gold leaf and NOT
a gilt paint. Personally I never use gilt paint. I call it a
poor substitute for the original gold leaf, and in my opinion
it is a lot of muck. The reason I dislike it is that it discolors
and won't last either indoors or out. I have put my neck out
on that one.
These are the three conventional ways to add to the attractiveness
of the finished work and can be used singly or in any combination
that may be desired
finishing a carving in stain, I prefer to mix my own color stock,
using either dry earth colors or tube colors. If the former,
a deeper stain can be developed, if you remember to keep the
pigments used to obtain the color stirred up thoroughly in the
vehicle. The following dry colors are suggested: American vermilion,
Van Dyke brown, raw sienna, raw umber, burnt sienna, burnt umber,
and Indian red. All these are available in most good paint stores.
They are inexpensive and will keep indefinitely if stored in
pint glass Mason jars with rubber rings and glass tops.
these colors are available in artist's tube colors ground in
either oil or japan. The advantage of tube color as a stain
stock is that, when the color is let down in the vehicle, it
stays in suspension. Tube color costs a lot more than the dry
first step in making your own stain is to mix the vehicle. My
best advice is to use raw linseed oil, japan dryer, and turpentine.
The amounts to use will depend upon how much of a hurry you
are in. Short-set vehicle (quick drying) is obtained by increasing
the amount of japan dryer used. Thinning the oil with turpentine
hastens the drying process somewhat, cuts the gloss, and gives
deeper penetration to the oil when applied to the wood.
I mix my vehicle by guess and by God, I can't give any set rule
to follow. I suggest you try various proportions on waste stock
to see which gives you the best result. There is some slight
difference in the setting process when dry versus tube color
stock is used. I pay this no attention. The vehicle being mixed
(rather more than you think you will need for the job at hand),
pour off some of the vehicle into a separate container for testing
this in mind; if dry color stock is used, it must be mixed with
a small quantity of vehicle before it is added to the pot. The
dark colors are very stronguse small quantities. I usually
start my stain by mixing some raw sienna first. This is the
base color. It is a soft, light tan. The quantity used in the
vehicle will determine the depth of the colornot the tone.
Add judicious amounts of burnt sienna if the general tone is
to be on the reddish brown side. If it is to be on the brown
side with no red tones, use small quantities of Van Dyke brown
it is to be a blend of the browns and reds, use some burnt sienna,
Van Dyke brown, and American vermilion. For instance, in staining
an ordinary-sized table the proportions I use are: 1½
cups of vehicle, about 2 tablespoons of raw sienna, then one
third as much of Van Dyke brown, and a very slight amount of
American vermilion. This gives a moderately deep brownish stain.
Indian red will give a richer tone, if that is wanted. Burnt
and raw umber are used to give a patina of age. They are essentially
muddy colors in tone and should be used with great care.
can be a very rewarding process, this mixing your own stain.
Commercial stains are available. My objection to their use is
that you don't know what has been used by the manufacturers
to carry the color, nor do you know whether or not the colors
are dyes or earthen colors. If you try to blend two or more
commercial stains, you may run into a chemical incompatibility
that will affect the whole appearance of the piece.
best way to find out how to bring order out of chaos is to try
several batches of stock until you have come upon the combination
that is most pleasing to you. For goodness' sake, don't have
the carving to which the stain is going to be applied within
hailing distance of your color experiments. If dry color lands
on the wood, it can't all be removed and will show up. If you
use tube colors, the result is even worse.