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Highlighting Carved lettering

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Project by AAL posted 07-29-2018 05:38 PM 622 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Higlighting carved lettering

I recently took up chip carving and was helped by others who helped with good advice on a different thread.

So, I found this to be an interesting hobby which led to me making a name plaque for my only grandchild. I carved his first & middle names using one of the knives I made from cutting a scalpel in half to make the two knives shown. Frankly, I was surprised that it carved well for me. This plaque was done on white pine & I wanted to highlight the lettering.

I tried both a dark & a neutral stain, and the lettering stood out better on the neutral stain than on the dark stain, yet the contrast is still not enough as you can see in the picture. So now I’m trying to find a way to highlight the lettering without messing up the surrounding wood. I’ve thought about using a sealer on the wood before carving, staining everything, or just the lettering area, carving, and then sanding the areas surrounding the lettering. Yet I’m concerned that sanding enough to remove the stain may removing too much of the carving.

Can anyone suggest a better way. If sealing first is a good way, what would you recommend for a sealer?

-- "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Winston Churchill





10 comments so far

View chrisstef's profile

chrisstef

17761 posts in 3206 days


#1 posted 07-29-2018 08:37 PM

I recently used a coat of dye on a letter carving project and it did what youre looking for. Dye the whole piece then just sand it back. The dye doesnt penetrate very deep so it cane off quickly with 150 grit.

I went for the rustic look with this one but if i kept sanding i could have easily gotten back to raw wood.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View JohnMcClure's profile

JohnMcClure

317 posts in 840 days


#2 posted 07-29-2018 10:47 PM

A technique that has worked for me:
Seal everything first. Then liberally apply stain or paint (I usually use black or brown on light wood, or white on dark wood). Let it cure! Then sand everything back.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View AAL's profile

AAL

77 posts in 1626 days


#3 posted 07-30-2018 02:10 AM

Thanks for your responses.
Your suggestion to sand is a good one, but I’m concerned I might have to sand too much into the lettering.
I’m thinking of the sealing concept, as I mentioned in my post, but what would you recommend for a sealant?

-- "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Winston Churchill

View mpounders's profile

mpounders

902 posts in 3095 days


#4 posted 07-30-2018 01:38 PM

A lot of caricature carvers apply an “antiquing” finish to their carvings that accentuates the contrasts between nooks and crannies. with the rest of the carving. Basically, polyurethane or lacquer is applied several times to seal the carving. It is critical that it be well sealed and dry before applying the antiquing solution will darken areas you don’t want darkened. Then a a gel stain of dark oak is applied and wiped off the areas that you don’t want to be darkened. A little mineral spirits on a cloth can assist in some areas. Let it dry and spray a finish over it. This would probably work for you, but always experiment on a practice piece first.

-- Mike P., Arkansas, http://mikepounders.weebly.com

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

32087 posts in 3066 days


#5 posted 07-30-2018 09:02 PM

This turned out nicely.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles, http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

View awsum55's profile

awsum55

347 posts in 708 days


#6 posted 07-31-2018 08:26 PM

Spray the whole piece with clear lacquer and let it dry. Then paint the inside of the letters with enamel or latex paint. When dry, use a rag with thinner for enamel or water for latex and wipe over the edges where you got the paint outside of the letters you carved. The lacquer will not be effected by the thinner or the water. It should wipe off the field perfectly leaving the letters painted.

This is a t trick I use to refurbish old license plates, and it should also work for you.

-- John D, OP, KS

View AAL's profile

AAL

77 posts in 1626 days


#7 posted 08-01-2018 01:04 PM

Thank Awsum55 that was awesome! I’ll try that for sure, especially since it doesn’t require sanding afterwards.

-- "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Winston Churchill

View AAL's profile

AAL

77 posts in 1626 days


#8 posted 08-02-2018 02:58 PM

Awsum55, I tried your technique yesterday with some, but not 100% success which I believe I can rectify. I applied 2 light coats of spray lacquer on a piece of white pine that I had a practice carving on. After waiting a couple hours for the lacquer to dry I surrounded the carving with blue painter’s tape & then copiously applied a dark stain to the carving, letting it sit for 5-10 minutes. I then used mineral spirits to wipe off the stain. It did a decent job, removing about 90% of the stain from the board, yet leaving the stain in the actual carved features which was what I wanted. The remaining 10% of stain was smeared over the board & couldn’t be wipe off. I tried using my orbital sander with 220 grit to remove the smeared stain, but it was obvious that the carving itself was being sanded too much.

However, I suspect that the lacquer coat wasn’t thick enough to prevent the stain from penetrating into the wood surrounding the actual carving allowing the stain to smear. So, I’m going to try this again, but with three good coats of lacquer & I’ll let it dry overnight. I’ll also carve after the lacquering thinking the stain will soak in more rather than stain after lacquering to provide even more contrast. If this works it’ll be my go to method.

Thanks for your suggestion.

-- "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Winston Churchill

View AAL's profile

AAL

77 posts in 1626 days


#9 posted 08-03-2018 01:49 PM

I tried it with the thicker coat of lacquer on a test board, but haven’t stained the carving yet. One thing I did notice is that when using graphite paper to trace the pattern onto the lacquered wood the tracing doesn’t come out well defined on the lacquer at all; very light & missing lines / areas. Once the tracing paper was removed I had to re-do the lines using my imagination – not something I want to continue having to do.

Next, I’m going to try tracing on the bare wood first, then lacquer, then carve, then stain, then clean.

-- "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Winston Churchill

View AAL's profile

AAL

77 posts in 1626 days


#10 posted 08-14-2018 09:14 PM

I’ve recently discovered something by trial & error, and so far this is what I’ve come up with & think this may be the best way for me.

Trace the pattern onto the wood using graphite paper from Hobby Lobby & a stylus that I also picked up at Hobby Lobby (https://www.hobbylobby.com/Art-Suppl...lus-Set/p/5054) I use either of the two smallest ball ends depending on how tight the lines, or curves are.

My routine so far is to use white pine wood & when I get good at this I’ll get better wood:
Sand the wood with 220 grit paper.
Trace the image onto the wood.
Apply 2-3 coats of Lacquer onto the image. (# of coats depends on how much soaks in – I’m looking for a complete, uniform coating). https://www.homedepot.com/p/Rust-Ole...6830/100194482
Carve the pattern through the Lacquer coating.
Apply the stain & wipe off before it dries.
Repeat staining if desired.
Apply another 1-2 coats of Lacquer.
Done

Observations:
I previously tried to trace the pattern onto the Lacquered wood. The tracing came out poorly; barely discernible – not good.
This led me to trace, then Lacquer, then carve in this order.
Carving through a thick coating of Lacquer distorts the perception of depth a little, like looking through water, but it’s still OK.
Carving through the Lacquer results in the Lacquer chip sticking together a bit.

I used only the clear coat Lacquer & suspect that the matte, satin, or semi-gloss sealer might present a less clear image of the pattern if carving the pattern through the sealer.

So far I think the above sequence is worth experimenting with to get more experience. I think carving through the Lacquer will allow the stain to penetrate deeper into the raw wood & the final coat of Lacquer will preserve & protect it better. Time will tell.

Although I haven’t tried using Polyurethane as a sealer, I do like the Lacquer, actually it’s the first time I’ve used it. I like the hardness, clarity & toughness of it. I’m going to try fewer coats to see if the stain still wipes off cleanly. Hopefully this will work which could make carving through a thinner film easier. Polyurethane may work just as well or better; will have to try that too.

Also, I find that even with a small, pointed blade it’s difficult to carve small features such as little circles or curves; the wood wants to chip off easily if not really careful. However, I think the Lacquer may help hold things together when carving small details, even more so when applying the final finish coat(s).

Obviously I still have a long way to go. I probably ought to stick with block fonts like Times New Roman in all caps. Perhaps Balsa or Basswood or Butternut. Maybe even ice so my mistakes will melt away.

-- "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Winston Churchill

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