Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday - Scars

I'm going to divert from my usual "hey this wood grain looks like something" post, because I recently sold this piece, that I made as an inspiration after my accident.

I find wood grain and knots so beautiful in their natural state.  I can see so many images in them, and sometimes wonder what happened to the tree to create this "scar" in it's core.

I didn't pick this piece of wood specifically because of this knot, but after putting the wording onto it, "My scars are badges of honor I carry through life, to show the world I lived", the knot all of a sudden reflected a scar to me, and the words I carved onto this piece came to life.

That's when I started to believe that scars can be beautiful, too.  Because if this piece of wood could be beautiful with a knot, then my scar lends character to my face, and makes it all the more beautiful, too.

Friday, March 22, 2013


After all the "hard work" is over, it's time to seal the piece and get it ready for listing.  Or, in some cases for shipping/client pick up.

Typically, polyurethane is used to seal wood, but I don't like it's harsh toxic chemicals.  It's pretty much like pouring plastic over wood.  For outdoor use, I haven't really found anything better.  But, for inside, where the world is not so rough, I have found two other alternatives.

One is a special blend of beeswax, carnauba wax, and orange oil.  It enhances the natural beauty and depth of grain in finished and unfinished wood.  It's much easier to apply than straight beeswax, which requires the use of a heat gun.

The other option, I've most recently started using, is food-grade mineral oil.  It's the oil you buy to maintain butcher blocks and food-prep surfaces.  I actually like it a lot, and use it for all my smaller pieces, as the oil soaks into the wood quite nicely.  It does penetrate stain, too, although it takes longer.

First thing is first, I always sign the back of the piece, with my company name, and that it was made in Texas. A custom item will be dated, and a non-custom item receives a little love.

I've thrown around the idea of stamping them, or burning my logo into the back, but I honestly think there's something about hand-writing.  It's all part of it being handmade.

When I have a piece that's been engraved, like The Lorax, I normally start with a paint brush to get the mineral oil into all of the details.

The fun part is seeing the grain come to life before your eyes.  All of the finer details really come to life.

After all the details have been done, I use a lint-free (this is important) cloth and dip it into the mineral oil.  I then take the cloth and rub the mineral oil, gently, into the wood.  

Is it important to go with the grain?  Yes, and no.  I tend to go in circles a lot, making sure all nooks and crannies get good coverage, and then the final pass, I always make in the direction of the grain lines.

I make sure the front and the back get a good coat, and wipe off any excess.  It always seems that before I know it, it's all done!

Once it's dried, it'll take a trip to our front porch, which is where I take my product shots.  I really like the brick and siding background.

Finishing the piece has added another half hour to the project, so in total it took 4 hours to complete.  Not counting all the drying and waiting time in between.

This little piece will be off to a listing on Etsy.

Any custom items will ship two days after a coat of the beeswax/orange oil finish is applied.  I like to make good and sure it's cured before I wrap it up and send it off.  That way, I know what my client is receiving is the best quality possible.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday: Tiger

We were at a friend's house one weekend, and we spotted a little gem.

Do you know what we found?

Tiger stripes!

This particular piece was probably made out of Tiger Maple, also known as Flame Maple, which is a type of wood that features these "flames" or "stripes".

Interesting side note: Tiger Maple is used in well-known guitars such as the Gibson Les Paul.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Not all of my work is stained.  Not all of it is painted.  It depends on a couple factors - 1) what the client wants if it's custom made and 2) what I think would look best if it's not custom made.

The wood grain on the piece I used for The Lorax carving was waaaaaay too pretty to cover with stain.  So, I figured, a couple truffula trees were in order.

The first step isn't actually reaching for a paint brush.  It's reaching for a pencil.

Depending on what I'm drawing, I'll either free-hand or find some royalty-free clip art to trace onto the piece of wood.  I find this is the best method for me - lays out the groundwork before a paint brush even enters the picture!

Then, it's to the paint!

And, honestly, I never really have a color-game plan before I start.  I just, kinda, go, following the lines I've drawn out in the first step.

Painting is very much a process.  It's done in layers, and steps, so you have to be patient.  Patience is something I lack to a great extent, but seeing a piece of work come to life bit by bit, is also really cool, and that helps.

Here, all the colors are applied.

I'm going old-school on this piece, using the actual book as a reference for my trees, instead of the movie.  (Although, we are heavily addicted to the movie in this house!)

After all the color is added, I use a really thin brush to paint the outline.  I've also been known to use calligraphy pens in paint, and toothpicks.  I use toothpicks, a lot.

I'm a wee-bit of a perfectionist, so I'm always telling myself to just let the paint do it's thing, and don't grip to any outcome.  It'll be what it's meant to be.

Some days that's easier than others.

But, I do find, less fixing, is typically better on a painting.  

And, then, before I know it, the darn thing has come to life right before my eyes!

With drawing, and painting added, I think this sign is up to about 3 1/2 hours time, now.

The time I spend painting varies greatly with the design of the piece, and what, exactly, I'm painting.  As you can imagine.  Some things are more detailed and complex than others.

But, painting is always, always, fun.  I was born to paint.  

It's a special sort of bliss for me.  I seriously get lost in it.  In a good way.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday: Birdie

I was outside, minding my own business, when I saw this hole in the fence.  Normal people would probably just pass it by.  Not me.  I started just staring at it's intricacies.

Then, turned my head, and saw a bird!

That's nature in nature, folks.  Love it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Joy, Thankful, Home, Family, and Loved

Sometimes I buy wood signs from other people, and my husband just shakes his head at me.  Ya, I know.  But, when you work with signs all day long, the last thing you want to do is make one for yourself.

Except, see, I'm creating this wall collage in our master bedroom of family pictures, and I thought it'd be nice to break it all up with little signs with special words on them: joy, thankful, home, family, and loved.  I'm hoping it all ends up looking like a mural of sorts.  A collage of family.  At least something good and not haphazard.

When I was done working on some custom orders this week, I thought I'd sand some of these little signs I'd carved out for us on this gorgeous wood I've been dying to use for something.

Keep in mind, I only work while the baby naps.  

For whatever reason, I posted the first one to instagram.  You know, the social networking place of pictures?

Then, I followed suit with the others.  And, without even planning it, my comments matched up to the block I had just finished.  

Take a look:

It's fun when things work out this way, without really, any effort.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013


When I talk to my clients to give them an update on a sign, I always say, "Progress update: Your sign is carved and is moving onto cutting and sanding!"  

Cutting simply means that I need to cut a board, where I've put more than one sign on it to carve, which is often the case.  So, I'll hit the scroll saw first to make each sign it's individual sign.

The Lorax sign, that I'm following through on these "how it's made" posts, was on its own board, so no cutting necessary.  

Which, gets us to sanding.

First things first, sand down the sides which can be frightfully uneven.  I use a belt sander to do this.

This makes the sides really nice and well sanded, and removes any inconsistencies.  I round the corners, because this is my personal preference.  Depending on the sign, I may run all edges (front and back) over the end of the belt sander, giving it a more rounded look overall.  

Then, it's to my workbench.  I'll take a coarse-grained sandpaper, and hand-sand over all the lettering, just to start getting all the little bits of curled wood off.

I reach for my handy-dandy dremel, which I couldn't live without, and sand each and every letter.

I sand with the tip down, to sand the flat part of the letter, then I turn the tip on it's side, going around, each and every letter to even them out.  

Yes, it's time consuming.

But, look how much better the top row looks from the others!

When the lettering is done, I change bits in my dremel, and make these little divots on the edges of both sides of the board.  I think without them, the piece is a bit flat.  This gives it a little something.  And, I think of it as my signature, of sorts.  

....Which sort of makes me think of serial killers that leave their mark, but that's not really what I intended.

That's the baby monitor in the background.  When the baby sleeps, mama works!

After all fine-tuned sanding is done with the dremel, I take a fine-grained piece of sandpaper and hand-sand the sides, back, and front of the whole piece.  I feel like this gives it a really nice finish, overall, smoothing it all together.

And, then, wha-lah!

Much better.  

I honestly should have carved this one at a higher depth, because of the smaller wording, but it seems to have worked out in the end.  So, that's all that matters.

Total time so far, about 2 1/2 hours.

Next step is stain or paint, or a combination of the two.  Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday: Aliens Among Us?

You would not believe how many aliens I see in wood, and it really creeps me out.  Because, I'm scared of them.

In the movies, they are almost always trying to destroy us.  And, I don't really care for that type of behavior.

I suppose, instead of an alien, I can see a praying mantis, but I really don't.