Carving tips! #1: What a carving looks like before, & after applying the finish!

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Blog entry by Dick, & Barb Cain posted 04-13-2008 10:18 PM 2328 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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A person can spend a lot of time on a carving, but after the final cut with your chisel,

you don’t really know what all of the chiseling you’ve done really looks like.

You have to choose a finish that will enhance your carving.

On some carvings I use a stain, others, just a clear finish, it all depends on the theme, or type of wood you’re using.

I’ve chosen some images of my mining scene to show you the difference of before, & after.


This is the carving before staining. It doesn’t look that great.


This is with one coat of stain. I used a lighter stain for the background.

Notice how some of the detail starting to stand out.


This one is from a little different light source.


Here is the completed carving, frame, & all.

Some day I’m going to take this down, & brush on a matte finish.

I’ve discovered that a carving with a glossy finish destroys some of shadows,

& shadows are the main asset to a relief carving.


This is my first try with Widgets.

Click for details

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

23 comments so far

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4239 days

#1 posted 04-13-2008 11:47 PM

Quite a difference Dick. A very neat carving, you used the stain to bring out the depth of the of the carving. In fact it jumps off the wood plaque. Pretty cool. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View dlcarver's profile


270 posts in 3723 days

#2 posted 04-14-2008 12:20 AM

Dick…..... FANTASTIC CARVING ! I love it. You are absolutely right about the finish. I have lost many awards because my finish was glossy…. then I went to semi-gloss. I used that for many years. Some of the carvings in my gallery has semi-gloss and some have matte finish. As a carver you can tell for looking at them which are which. Another main reason I went to matte is when finishing with semi-gloss any place I had some of the end grain showing, the finish would have more of a matte look. When finishing with matte now I get the same results all over the carving. .... You have to watch, the only TRUE matte look I have found is the brand name DEFT OR DEFT-THANE. I have tried Olympic, Hellmans, and the Acrylic ones and they all seem to be somewhere between semi-gloss and matte. I have found nothing but Deft to be true Matte finish. It is hard for me to find though, so when I do find it I buy 3 or 4 cans at a time. (I use the spray). Some carvings look better with the semi-gloss…...(like my life-size canada geese)., and a few others. (You will know what to use when you get to making that decision). You probably already know all this stuff though.
Have you ever visited the Dover Museum in Dover Ohio? Ernest Warther carved the evolution of the train as well as the Mill where he worked for many years when he was younger. Everything is animated. None of it ever has to be oiled as he used a special wood from Africa or someplace like that, that has it’s own oily substance within itself. The mill is set up on a mirror so the public can see all the gears that were also carved for the animation.
Sorry to take so much of your time…. but I think this is worth while information.


-- Dave Leitem,Butler,Pa.,

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4292 days

#3 posted 04-14-2008 01:03 AM

Mike, Thank you Buddy.

Thanks Dave, You don’t have to be sorry, it must have taken you longer to type, than myself to read.

Besides there are other LJs that can learn something too, besides myself.

Good information for all, so they won’t have to learn the hard way, like we did.

Thanks for the info about other places to see.

My favorite carver is Fred Cogelow, from Minnesota. A short video.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3981 days

#4 posted 04-14-2008 01:30 AM

Great job Dick. The stain and lighting make all the difference in the world for pictures.
I bet it looks great in person.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Grumpy's profile


23914 posts in 3844 days

#5 posted 04-14-2008 01:32 AM

Thanks Dick. I would love to do that one day but I don’t have your carving skills. Excellent work.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3955 days

#6 posted 04-14-2008 01:39 AM

Quite a carving there, Dick. good work

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3889 days

#7 posted 04-14-2008 02:01 AM

Dick that’s a great carving. Interesting about the difference between matte and gloss finishes. Learned something new.


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3815 days

#8 posted 04-14-2008 02:40 AM


Thanks for the blog. I would never in my wildest dreams attempt to carve but I do enjoy seeing this talent expressed by those to whom it been given. The explanation about the staining and finishing helped me understand the process. It is nice to learn something new.

This post represents the true spirit of what LJs is about.


-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4014 days

#9 posted 04-14-2008 02:44 AM

Thanks Martin for widgets, I would have =mised this and it is really creative art at it’s best!

Thanks Dick for prodding my brain.
A work of art.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View toyguy's profile


1649 posts in 3830 days

#10 posted 04-14-2008 03:19 AM

That is one nice carving. Also a great blog. The use of finish and light source is very well documented.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View snowdog's profile


1164 posts in 3976 days

#11 posted 04-14-2008 03:19 PM

I sure wish my boss would fire me so I could spend the time in the shop instead of moving paper around :)

How long did it take to carve? It seems that in most projects the finishing is as important as the work itself. I am sure that is not news to most of you, but it is something I am learning as I read more here.

Thanks for posting

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4292 days

#12 posted 04-14-2008 05:55 PM

Thanks for all the fine comments.

Now I’ll have to do some thinking about what to add to this series, to keep it going.

Just ask me any question, & I’ll try come up with an answer with whatever little knowledge that I have.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View sharad's profile


1117 posts in 3797 days

#13 posted 04-15-2008 07:36 AM

Dick, your talent is overflowing in this carving. Do u carve with something in front of you (like a photo or picture) or it is just immagination. Your experiments on staining will give lots of dividend in your future carvings. Waiting for your additions.

-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4154 days

#14 posted 04-15-2008 12:17 PM

great tips.

nice use of the widget.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4292 days

#15 posted 04-15-2008 05:25 PM


I can’t draw very well, & when I do draw something, I wear out a lot of erasers.

But give me a set of chisels, & I still can’t figure out how, or why things turn out the way they do.

I always use a photo or sketch, then I trace it on the board.

I’m always looking at the photo for reference.

I have a drawer full of clippings, of things that I’d like to carve someday.

The copying machine is a great invention. You can scale a picture to fit any size piece of wood.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

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