Last week, I finished carving the rabbit that I am going to use for our newel post on our new staircase. A lot of carvers put tremendous energy and enthusiasm into the carving of their pieces but little or no effort into the finishing of their pieces. Many are disappointed that the final piece does not look as good as they thought it would or should. I learned some time ago that the finishing of a piece is as important at the actual carving of the piece. In fact, I can put as much effort and care into the finishing of a piece as I put into the carving of it.
One if the people who had the greatest influence over me regarding finishing carvings was Mark Lindquist in his book, "Sculpting Wood".
"RAISING THE GRAIN
Machining and sanding damage the outermost layer of cells of the surface of wood. Sanding also pushes the cells over and causes them to lie flat, producing the cells a seemingly smooth surface, like grass after being rolled with a lawn roller. If left the way, however, these cells fragments may eventually raise up, making the surface of the wood rough. The first step in finishing after sanding, therefore, is the raise the grain.
Wetting the wood with a warm damp rag makes the cell fragments stand up. The wood is the allowed to dry, either naturally of by rotating it in front of a light bulb. The surface of the wood again becomes rough. A very light sanding with the final grit sandpaper will remove these damaged cells without disturbing the sanded surface." p 133.
The four pictures below show the rabbit after the first sanding. I used 60 grit sand paper. I don't usually use 60 grit but i have an entire roll of it that I purchased for a woodworking project that I did not use it for. So I want to use it up. I found that the 60 grit quickly removed all the carving marks but i had to be careful not to sand it too much or I could easily remove the very shape that I had carved.
The first time that I did this, rinse a carving under water, I was at my wood carving guild and I thought that some of the older members were going to fall off the stools. They thought I had lost my mind. Whey they saw the result, that the grain was nicely raised and ready for the next sanding they were less skeptical but none of them were going to try it.
Now, I am going to leave the rabbit to dry for a few days until it ready for the next sanding. I will continue this process, going up in grits of sandpaper until I feel that it is sufficiently smooth for the top of a newel post, probably around 200 to 300 grit. And yes, I will wet the rabbit after each sanding to raise the grain. This was only the first lesson that I learned from Mark Lindquist.
I will be really interested to see what it looks like after the next sanding. The grain of the wood should start to show.
See you then.