logo.gif (1654 bytes)CARE OF WOODEN OBJECTS

collage.gif (34393 bytes)      Wooden carved objects require care to insure their preservation. Although they are made of resilient woods like cedar and alder they are subject to aging. UV light can fade paint over time and excessive dryness can cause checking (cracking). This page will provide information to help your prized wooden art objects  grow old gracefully.

     Direct sunlight should be avoided. Modern materials have contributed greatly to the longevity of contemporary pieces. Acrylic paints, the most widely used paint medium, is very resistant to ultra violet light. But even this paint will fade slowly when subjected to intense sunlight. Some artists prefer using paint mixtures similar to mixtures used on traditional artifacts. These paints range from watercolors to paints mixed with natural pigments and egg white. Many old pieces that were originally colorfully painted with these kind of pigments now appear unpainted with their intricate designs barely visible. These paints are very sensitive to light and moisture.
      When deciding where you are going to place a mask or sculpture consider how much direct light will hit the object. Of course you don't want to hide your favorite art work in some dark corner of an unused room. Try to find a place that is bright but does not have prolonged exposure to direct light. A moderate amount of indirect light over time will give most wood objects a beautiful pitina. This gives the object a very desirable aged effect.

     Humidity can be a problem. Cedar is a very water resistant wood that also retains it's own inner moisture. It can take years for a large piece like a totem pole to completely dry out. The wood dries faster on the surface of the piece while the inside of the wood remains wet. The varying thickness of the sculpture creates a tension in the grain of the wood that often results in checks (cracks) opening on the surface of the object. The inner moisture is released through these checks allowing the wood to close back up when it reaches an even dryness. Great care needs to be taken when carving to ensure that these checks remain clear of sawdust so that when they close no obstruction impedes them. With patience and proper care when carving, these checks disappear.
      If you live in an area that has very low humidity the surface will dry out more, and checks may reopen in order to even out the dryness of the object. Patience is needed as it can take some time for this to happen. Checks that open dramatically can be slowed down by placing a damp cloth in the back of a mask. Some moisture is absorbed in the surface of the wood there by slowing the cracking action. In more extreme cases the piece can be put in a tied plastic garbage bag with the slightly damp cloth. Over-night the moisture content will even out and stop the checking. Of course as soon as the object is out of the bag it will begin drying out again. It is a delicate balance to dry the piece out without letting the checks get any bigger. 

    Applying oil to wooden artifacts  Sunlight and low humidity can make the wood look dry and discolored. Periodically you should re-apply a finishing oil to your mask. You can use boiled Linseed Oil, but this tends to fade quickly. A linseed based finishing oil lasts much longer. Danish finishing oil contains linseed as well as resins that seal the surface creating a long lasting rich finish. We use Watco Oil but any natural finishing oil will work. Be sure that the oil does not contain stain that will affect the color of the wood.
    Using a brush or a piece of cloth, apply the oil liberally to the wooden piece. Apply the oil over the whole surface, including the painted parts. When the piece is still wet with oil (do not wait for it to dry) take a clean, soft, lint-free cloth (an old t-shirt works great) and wipe off all the excess oil. Be careful to get all the undercuts. Any oil left on the surface will dry shinny and tacky so pay close attention to wiping it off. After the first wiping, oil will continue to seep out of the wood to the surface, Repeat the wiping every 15 minutes until the oil stops seeping,


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