finishing off and the joys of working with oak

In post 123, I started this blog by pointing out I have a bunch of tasks left unfinished or half-started, of which starting a blog was first on the list. Well, I have now got around to finishing task number 2.

Last Autumn (2012), I was demonstrating carving in World of Boats Cardiff, where I carved this chap:

05122012122

He is carved from a railway-sleeper that they had out the back of the yard, and is almost certainly yellow pine. Now yellow pine is a good carving timber, usually, but in this case the wood was not the best and really only allowed for a naiive carving-style as the timber would not take any real detail.

 
To demonstrate a more delicate style, I started carving Cleo as a rudder-head in oak.

detail of rudder-head work in progress

detail of rudder-head work in progress

Oak is an altogether excellent carving timber, much maligned as ‘too hard’ – people always say something like ‘Oak, isn’t that rather hard?’ In point of fact, although Oak is marginally harder than, say, lime (linden), it is much softer than a fruit wood such as cherry and it carves very well, accepting a high level of detail. It is a far better wood for carving than mahogany.
Anyhow, after finishing in World of Boats, Cleo was left gathering dust OK, so time to tick one more entry off my list, time to finish Cleo.

carve cobra, begin to rough-out hair

carve cobra, begin to rough-out hair

carve eyes, continue carving hair, mouth and chin refined

carve eyes, continue carving hair, mouth and chin refined

just about there

just about there

hair and make-up

hair and make-up

image

Oak is classed as a resistant timber, meaning it is naturally resistant to rot and can be used as an out-door timber.Tannic acid is death, or at least deeply unpleasant, to beetles, insects, rot-spores and so-on. 

It also is bad for adhesives and ferous metal fastenings, which it disolves but which also turn the oak black – leave a cluster of nails on the timber one lunch-time and see what happens….  Green oak will turn your fingers black if you work in the hot sun as the perspiration on your fingers will react with the tannic acid that leaches out the timber that rubs on your hands. 

Oak’s ability to turn black means that if you apply a coat of vinegar that has been left covering rusty iron (take strong vinegar and drop in a number of rusty items – I used old nails and screws, leave to soak at least over-night, but the longer the better) it will indeed turn black before your very eyes – the wood will go from clear to bluey-black as you watch.  A word of caution, the more recently the timber surface was cut ~(i.e. the wetter it is), the more acid it has to react and the darker it will go – if the surface was exposed a while ago it will only colour to a dark grey. Also, the liquid will be absorbed a long way into the oak, will penetrate below paint and can show through (don’t ask me how I found this out) as it darkens.

Anyhow, Cleo is now for sale, she’ll make a great rudder-head or what have you, she measures 90mm across and 160mm in height.  Make me an offer if your interested, andrewwilliamvart@yahoo.com.

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