My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #43: Sometimes the Lazy Way is More Work Then Anticipated (But We Learn Something)

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-16-2010 01:08 PM 4919 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 42: Successful Changes Part 43 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 44: Not Really Woodworking (Kinda/sorta, but not really) »

OK. This is getting scary. Do we only get so many good days in a given time period? Or are we really the masters of our own destiny? I am probably over-reacting, but I just really like when things work out like you want them to. I am kind of hoping that it is because thought and planning went into something that it turns out well. That gives us some sense of control. I would hate to think that it is only by chance.

So where were we? Ah, yes. The autumn leaf candle tray.

As I was sanding the tray and charms yesterday, I kept going over and over in my mind how to finish it. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to see it with some color on it. Although seeing so much beautiful naturally colored wood here on LJ’s has really inspired me to focus on the natural color of wood, there is still the painter inside of me that wants to add something to the mix.

Over the years, I have been able to calm down the painter voice in my head quite a bit when it comes to woodworking. (yes – there are lots of voices!) I rarely paint anything solid and again, rarely paint any type of hard wood. (Notice though, I didn’t say never!) I do believe that there are times when color is warranted in a project that nature didn’t provide. Besides, my pile of fun and exotic wood is quite small and my friend Bernie’s planer is down and I have no place to dress what little colored wood I have there. So I have to think very hard and carefully and work with the choices here at hand.

As far as the tray goes, I figured that I will take pictures of it before I added stain on it and then stain it and take another set of pictures. This way I would get double the mileage out of yesterday’s cutting and not have to cut another set. Lazy you call it? I guess it could be interpreted that way by some ‘black cloud dwellers” but here on the pink cloud I prefer to think of it as being thrifty. Not only am I saving the time it took to do this cutting (several hours) but also I am saving my precious wood that I have here for other purposes. Besides the little shop I have in Gilbert’s Cove, I really have no outsource to sell my finished items at this point. They tend to get packed away in boxes and pile up pretty quickly – especially in the past year or so when I have really been producing.

Sanding is very therapeutic, I think. For the most part it doesn’t take much concentration and really gives you a chance to be thoughtful. While I was sanding this tray, I kept going over and over in my mind as to how I would finish it and what products I would use. I had two points of interest:

1) However I finished it for the ‘natural’ look couldn’t interfere with the subsequent staining or finishing product I was going to use.

2) Since this project was made to be reproduced by others, I needed to use products that are relatively inexpensive, suitable for the project and readily available to the general public.

The second point is something that I have learned to live with over the years, yet can be somewhat restrictive. I have to think quite globally when I design something because if the project is to be a success, I can’t use obscure techniques or products that most people can’t obtain. There is a whole different mentality when designing for others that I will go into in a future blog.

The first issue was quite real and took lots of thought. If I used oil on the tray for what I will call the ‘natural version’, it would mean that I needed to use an oil-based stain in coloring. I realize that oil based stains are the norm, and have their purpose, but I was thinking about five or so colors and there are few lines of colored stain that I have seen that offer the palette that I was thinking of. Those that do are very costly and for the tiny amount needed here, I didn’t want people to invest a fortune in products. So that was out.

I have used and loved a line of water-based stain by a company called SamaN. The stains are water-based, odor free and environmentally safe. They come in over 30 colors and you can mix your own. I have used them on several segmentation projects with wonderful results, as they don’t raise the grain of the wood and go on evenly without overlap marks. I have the entire set here in small bottles, but when I saw them at Home Depot they cost over $12 per bottle. I am thinking of five colors and only need a few drops of each, so you do the math. I think the investment would be far too much on a project this size for a customer to make.

Then it hit me. I work with a company called DecoArt and use their acrylic paints in all of my published projects that require acrylics. You probably have seen them at Michael’s or other hobby stores. I used to work with one of their competitors for several years, but I found DecoArt’s products to be superior and they are available world wide, which became even more important to me since I moved from the states. They have about 300 colors of acrylics which you can get on sale for about a dollar each and also have several ‘mediums’ to use with their paints for different applications. I looked in my stock and sure enough they had a product called “Staining and Antiquing Medium” which is a clear, gel-like substance that you add into the acrylic paints. I had my answer!

The only problem left was how to ‘finish’ the natural set so it looked good for the photograph. I didn’t want anything to interfere with the stain, so spraying it or coating it with anything besides water-based product was out of the question. I finally got the idea to use the polishing wheel on the Dremel and went to town on the piece. It came out beautiful! The portion that I polished had a warm sheen to it that would photograph perfectly. I continued on.

Below is the finished natural tray and charms:

From Leaf Candle Tray

And a close up of the wood:

From Leaf Candle Tray

Although the wood is a bit lighter in color, you could still see the pretty grain in it and for the final photograph it looked fine, I think:

From Leaf Candle Tray

When I was sure the pictures came out OK and I was done with the natural finish, I moved ahead to the staining process. I picked five colors and TESTED them on a scrap of the same wood I used for the tray. This is really important because some of the colors looked very different on the maple than expected and some took a couple of attempts until I got the look I liked.

The stain was really incredible to work with. You simply put a dot on medium in the palette and added up to an equal amount of color. I started off a bit conservative, as I wanted the color to be really, really shear. You can always add more color if you want, but it is far more difficult to remove too much. It did not raise the grain up at all, and blended in beautifully:

From Leaf Candle Tray

All I did was brush the tops of the leaves with the stain. There is NO painting talent involved in this process. The great part is that the fretwork itself is the boundary for the color, so it is – dare I say it?? – Foolproof! As I continued to build the colors, I got more and more excited with the results:

From Leaf Candle Tray

(As a note, I always go from lightest colors to darker ones when I can. That way if you make a mistake it is easier to cover with the next, darker color. By the time you get to the darkest ones, you usually have a better feel for things.)

I thought the results were pretty amazing! :

From Leaf Candle Tray

You can really see the grain, yet there is the hint of the beautiful fall colors:

From Leaf Candle Tray

And finally the finished product!

From Leaf Candle Tray

I am really happy with the finished results on this one. It is just as I have envisioned it. It looks so much better than the plain jar candle sitting there on the table, yet it was easy and fun and something that even a new scroll sawyer can accomplish easily. I am already beginning to draw the next tray for this series. There are so many variations on this theme that my head is going to explode. What is cool too is that you can use them as frames or wreaths and the charms for ornaments, too.

I hope you enjoyed this series within the series. It was fun to show the process from beginning to end. It really has been a great couple of days. By trying not to cut the piece twice and being lazy it seems I stumbled on a product that I had in my arsenal all the time and never used and the results were amazing. I am already thinking of other applications for the Staining Medium. It will open a whole new world of designing for me. :)

Have a wonderful Friday!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

3 comments so far

View OttoH's profile


891 posts in 3039 days

#1 posted 07-17-2010 03:37 AM

Great post Sheila, reading about your procedures gets me thinking a bit more outside the box. Thanks for the tip on the Staining and Antiquing Medium.

-- I am responsible for how I respond to everything in my life - - Deadwood SD

View MrsN's profile


986 posts in 3555 days

#2 posted 07-17-2010 05:00 AM

The stained one looks really nice, it really adds another dimention to the project.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18293 posts in 3705 days

#3 posted 07-17-2010 08:17 AM

No, you get as many good days as you can handle:-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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