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Architecture and design

The nuances of wood dye in the process of creating the original wooden sculptures

Cheglakov Aleksandr Dmitrievich

Painter, Member of the Union of Russian Artists

117593, Russia, g. Moscow, bul. Litovskii, 13/12, kv. 507

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Abstract: This article discusses the ways to improve the decorative qualities of wood that are known to mankind since the ancient times, as well as the techniques of working with wood that have improved over time. The author underlines the importance of the proper choice of finishing materials, which is intended for not only preserving the cultural sites, but also making a certain aesthetic perception. The choice of materials is substantiated by the nature of wood, as well as the, the conceptual idea of the artist. The article explores the key methods of finishing woodworking in the process of creating the original wooden sculptures. The author lists the main types of wood finishing, as well as some of the original techniques. It is noted that there are various technologies of wood dye. A description is given to the treatment of wooden surface with wax in its traditional and modern form; as well as to some original techniques such as the woodworking affected by bark beetle and glazing. It is stated that the proper glazing gives wood strength and resistance, protecting from various influences and significantly extending its durability. Particular attention is turned to the method of gilding and implementation of this ancient technique in modern wooden sculpture. Recommendations are given for the proper selection of applicators to maintain wood dye.

Keywords: pigment, gilding, wax, art, a wooden sculptur, wood, painting, finishing, workin, an artis

Wood is a material that people began to use at the dawn of cultural history. Since then, the ways of working with wood have changed a lot: new materials and tools have appeared, the process of woodworking has become more complicated, manufactories and workshops have improved. The range of materials used in woodworking has especially expanded. “For thousands of years, wood finishing has been a tradition. Either beeswax or oils were applied, or natural dyes with binders were used to adhere to the surface. Today, the range of finishing materials is huge – from highly specialized, for example, floor coverings, to a wide spectrum of action” [1, p. 6].

With such a variety of materials, it is fundamentally important to understand their features and the best way to use them. Of course, the choice of finishing materials should be guided by the purpose of a subject. However, this rule plays an even greater role for artists, since the decoration is designed not only to ensure the safety of objects, but also to produce a certain aesthetic impression, as a result of which the choice of materials is determined not only by the nature of the wood and the performed work, but also by the creative intention, the conceptual idea of the author. In this case processing is also important for the final work of art, as is the material: “the material as the basis of the products and the methods of its working should form a single whole thing and not contradict each other ... Art working became necessary as the maximum expression of the physical and mechanical properties and aesthetics of the material, as artistic completion of the subject and space at the stage of their creation” [7, p. 236].

Three sections can be distinguished from the whole variety of wood finishing:

- basic finishing;

- decorative finishing;

- spray finishing.

The main types are:

- oil finishing;

- wax finishing;

- varnishing;

- French polishing;

- epoxy resins.

The list of possible decorative finishing includes:

- imitation of wood texture;

- imitation of ebony texture;

- stencil patterns;

- craquelure;

- crackle glaze;

- aging;

- gilding;

- lime whitewash;

- “etching” effect;

- textured finishing;

- marbled finishing;

- finishing with a patch.

Many artists working with wood develop their own author’s techniques, so this list can be continued. We would like to present our author’s methodology, as well as some developments in the field of organizing the process of finishing working and painting wood in this article.

Drying, cleaning and primary wood working are the most important preparatory stages in the creation of author’s sculptures from wood. [3; 6]. After the surface treatment of the material and removing all excess from it, the coating process follows.

At this stage, the artist has two tasks: it is necessary to give the wood surface color, and also to highlight and emphasize the natural texture of the wood. In addition to the aesthetic ones, the artist also faces practical tasks: “the creation of coatings based on paints and varnishes is carried out in order to protect the surface of products from the effects of the external environment, as well as to give it a decorative look. These materials must have high adhesion (contact) to the base, resistance to high and low temperatures, humidity, not to form wrinkles, bubbles during application, have a uniform color and shine” [9, р. 286].

The main material for creating a finishing coating can be thick furniture wax, the color of which is selected depending on the desired result. Waxing is the most ancient of all woodworking methods, which was used as far back as Ancient Egypt. Today wax finishing is less popular, but wax remains the most widespread material for oak finishing.

The characteristic appearance of a traditional wax finishing usually looks like this: “A good wax finishing has a characteristic satin sheen with a low texture – it means that the pores are not completely filled and the surface is not glossy. However, the old wax finishing looks uneven and dull” [1, р. 29]. In the course of longstanding creative practice, we have been able to significantly improve the wax finishing technique in order to achieve a greater aesthetic effect through this traditional method.

Furniture wax is available in a wide range of shades, the most common are light natural and dark “antique”. Light wax mastic is available in yellow (beeswax and carnauba wax extracted from the Brazilian palm are mixed) and white (carnauba wax is mixed with paraffin). In order to obtain a dark mastic, a pigment or dark stain is added. Dark furniture wax causes a general darkening of the wood, emphasizes texture by accumulating in recesses and gives things an antique look. In addition, pigments can be mixed into the wax.

The basic waxing method looks simple enough. It is necessary to apply wax to the surface of the wood with a rubbing motion. Then it is essential to apply a second layer of wax in a generous amount in a circular motion so that the entire treated surface is covered with an even layer. After drying (depending on the type of mastic, this process takes up to 15 minutes: the wax should dry, but not become too hard), the surface should be polished with a soft, clean cloth. In order to fix the result after 12 hours, you can apply another layer of wax mastic. Some reference books advise to apply 4-5 coats of wax and let them dry overnight before polishing [2, р. 294].

Experimenting with various traditional and non-traditional methods of wood surface finishing, we have developed a number of new techniques that we would like to bring up for consideration.

One of the innovations was the technology for giving the wood surface an unusual color, for which graphite powder is used. Graphite powder is evenly scattered on the surface, previously treated with wax, which is rubbed together with the wax into the surface of the future object. This sequence of actions gives the wood a beautiful shade that emphasizes the natural color of the wood and its texture.

In addition, we propose to enhance the effect achieved by rubbing wax into the surface by using an electric hot air gun and a compressor. The wood surface covered with wax is heated by a hairdryer, while at the same time compressed air (pressure 1.5-2 atmospheres) is supplied to the surface from the compressor. Thus, the heated wax is better absorbed into the surface: it penetrates into hard-to-reach places and the porous, textured surface of wood. After a few hours, when the wax is completely absorbed, the surface is rubbed with a rag or cloth. After that, to give a greater shine, the surface is polished either by hand with a soft cloth or rag, or with circular disc brushes with natural bristles – they are fixed on a metal rod on a screwdriver, the speed of which is raised to a maximum of 500 rpm.

Several types of wax can be used in the work. If the surface was first treated with colorless wax, then few hours later, after polishing, it is covered with tinted wax. It should be applied with latex gloves, rubbing directly with your hand into the surface of the wood. After that the object is left to dry for a few more hours. Then the surface is rubbed with patches: you can use gauze, rags, cotton cloth. When working with tinted wax, it is important to grind it gently so as not to remove it from the grooves between the annual rings. This technique allows you to achieve a difference in the density and saturation of the toning, which additionally emphasizes the unique texture of each tree.

An important innovation for us is the technology for painting a wooden surface affected by a bark beetle. Due to the spread of these parasites in the forests of the Moscow region [4; 10], we are increasingly forced to work with wood having the traces of bark beetles’ vital activity – they are whole labyrinths of furrows made under the bark of a tree.

Such a surface, like unaffected wood, is covered with wax, but in this case this process has its own features. Firstly, colorless furniture wax is applied, which is carefully rubbed over the entire surface. A few hours later, after polishing the surface, tinted wax is applied to it with neat circular movements, which must be rubbed into all the recesses of the patterns left by the bark beetle. Later the surface must be polished again, while it is important not to put pressure on the fabric. For softening, you can wrap a soft-elastic flat piece of rubber or gum elastic in the fabric about 15x10 cm in size and 10 mm thick. This precaution allows the tinted wax to be retained in the recesses of the design, wiping off excess only from a flat surface. At the end of this delicate procedure, the artist receives a processed trunk with contrasting unique natural patterns.

Another important feature of our creative practice is working with wood that has undergone natural (as a result of a lightning strike) or artificial firing. It may sound paradoxically, but correct firing gives wood strength and hardness, protecting it from various influences and significantly extending its durability. Typically, the woodworking process looks in the following way: “Firstly, the wood surface is fired in vacuum ovens or with a burner. As soon as the prepared surface is evenly charred, use tools to clean off the burnt layer. The charred layer must be cleaned strictly along the grain. At the same time, a flat paint brush is used to get the burnt out residues.

With a rag (napkin), the quality of the performed work is checked by wiping the surface of the wood” [8]. However, in our practice, the process takes more time, as we strive to achieve the effect of a real charred surface. When this effect is achieved, the surface is covered with varnish for fixing, while it is necessary to use compressed air supplied from the compressor, carefully fanning the still liquid varnish so that it evenly fills all the pores of the wood and does not remain in the form of puddles, covering the embossed surface of the wood. After the varnish has dried, an aerosol black blind paint is applied to the surface to hide any whitishness that may have appeared and to give the color uniformity, while using the same method of blowing the paint that has not yet hardened with compressed air in order to uniformly cover the surface and fill in hard-to-reach areas on the surface of the wood.

After firing and painting the surface black, the artist can additionally apply a paste-like wax of a certain color. For example, wax with a gold effect goes well with wood: it gives wood nobility and festivity. In order to highlight the unique pattern of the fired surface, a thin stick is used to emphasized for contrast either the protruding areas on the surface or the edges of the fired segments resulting from the action of the fire.

“Gilding” refers to the category of decorative wood finishing. This technique has been used for thousands of years [5] and basically remained unchanged, only the range of materials that can be used expanded and improved. In order to achieve the gilding effect, gold leafy, gold foil or gold powder is applied to the surface. Gilding is a difficult technique, although there are some fairly simple methods of applying the coating.

In our artistic practice, as a result of numerous trials and errors, we came to the conclusion that during working with wood, if we want to preserve its natural texture as much as possible, it is optimal to use a paste-like wax with a gold effect, which is sold in tubes in various shades (gilding wax or patination). If the artist is faced with the task of highlighting the natural texture of wood, it is necessary to apply gilding very carefully and moderately, so that the main aesthetic effect remains behind the wood surface itself, and gold only emphasizes its unique texture.

During the creation of original sculptures, we recommend using small brushes or, for the most delicate work, dental brushes. These applicators are often shaped like a small ball of fine bristles on one side and a thin stick on the other. This shape of the applicator allows you to take the required amount of wax from the tube without excess. The ball can be used as a brush for painting small fragments that require particularly delicate handling. And the flip side is convenient for painting wider flat surfaces. The handle of the brush is completely immersed in the tube and removed with a rotational motion, then it should be placed parallel to the surface of the wood and held along it with a slight tangential movement. This method allows you to quickly and accurately paint the protruding parts of the wooden surface with a thin layer of gold wax. By applying wax with thin brushes, the artist receives graceful strokes, stripes and patterns that emphasize the complex texture of the wood and draw the viewer’s attention to the natural beauty of human environment.

It is important to note that gold wax is a decorative finishing. Initially, the wood surface should be treated with other protective methods (e.g. transparent wax). As with other waxes, gold covering takes a long time to dry – usually several hours.

In the whole, today the variety of finishes that are presented to the artist working with is very impressive. From traditional wax to spray paints, from synthetic compositions to gold leafy, everyone can find exactly the technique that maximizes their creative intent.

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