Friday, September 17, 2010

Wood Base for Sculpture

This weekend I'm preparing a wood base for a ceramic sculpture, so I decided to research wood finishing. At the local hardware store I found so many products used to treat wood I was overwhelmed. Since the wood I'm using is a locally harvested, sustainable wood and considered semi-exotic due to it's unusual grain, I thought I'd use a surface which is both durable and reversible. My thinking is the surface I put on the wood could be refinished in the future if need be. In this way I hope to ensure the longevity of my ceramic sculpture.

I learned there are two types of surfaces which can be applied to wood. One surface is evaporative and the other surface is reactive. Basically the evaporative surfaces can be reversed and the reactive surfaces cannot without much sanding or damage to the wood. Evaporative surfaces soak into the wood and the carriers or solvents evaporate and leave the surface. Reactive surfaces penetrate the wood and bond chemically with the wood and create in essence a different chemical composition within the wood.

I'm only using a one inch thick base for the sculpture and I prefer to apply an evaporative surface to the wood. The two surfaces available as far as I could research are wax and nitrocellulose lacquer. Since most lacquer containers don't specific the type, I decided to choose a wax finish for my wood. No polyurethane, varnish, watco oil, danish oil or others, I am using plain wax on the wood surface. After the carrier in the wax evaporates, the wax is left and is reversible. Just what I want.

Today I'm taking measurements, making a template, cutting the wood, sanding with numerous grits of sandpaper, woodburning my signature on the bottom of the base, then applying the wax finish. Next I'll attach felt pads to the bottom of the wood, epoxy the ceramic sculpture to the wood with two part epoxy and hopefully I'll have a long lasting piece. Please wish me luck with my cutting, sanding, woodburning, waxing, and epoxying.

Not to keep you in suspense, but if all goes well you'll see the finished piece at the Clay and Blogs Show, Friday nibbles on Meredith's blog here. If you can't make it to the show, you can purchase pots in advance at the Arts Council of Moore County online show. Comments and suggestions are welcome.


  1. You just keep learning new things don't you? Way to go, that will keep you young and interesting. Love the grain in the wood.

  2. My dad makes small animal carvings in wood and uses just wax. It's beautiful. Nothing else like it.

  3. Hi Patti, thanks, this wood is spalted hackberry, the black grains come from spalting or the first parts of decay in the wood which is now arrested. maybe I can be like that Bob Dylan song, "forever young"ha.

    Hi Brian, thanks so much, good to know since the guys at the big box store didn't know much about wood finishes.

  4. Another couple hints-
    I got strange looks at the home stores when I started asking for superfine grit sandpapers. If the finest grit they have isn't fine enough for you, go to the Auto store. Look in the painting section. Nirvana. 1000-2000 grit.
    As a finish, you can also use linseed oil on a soft cloth. It'll usually darken the color some, so test first. Let it soak in and dry well, then buff with a clean cloth. The auto store also has nice microfiber cloths for this too.

  5. Hi Brian, thanks, I got two grades of sandpaper and already sanded the base and put the wax on and it look great, I didn't want to darken the wood any since it is spalted and already has dark lines in it. It is baby smooth. Thanks again.

  6. yup I second linseed oil, it makes wood gorgeous if not for this wood give it a try someday

  7. Hi jbicy, thanks, I'll give it a try. I have some other wood projects I'm working on with pecan, cedar, and sycamore.


I love suggestions, questions, critiques, thanks for your comment