The end is near! Here, as you can see, I have signed the Raven sculpture.
I carved a number of pieces of red oak from the same log that the Raven is carved from, to be used as test pieces for different finishes. One of the first things I think of, when I think of ravens, is their beautiful black or deep brown color. Oiled red oak is beautiful...but it doesn't make me think raven, so I decided to look into ebonizing the oak. Looking on the internet, I found a number of things on using iron acetate to get that deep, dark color, so I decided to try it. It is made simply by placing fine, de-oiled steel wool into a vented jar of vinegar, and letting it sit a while. The steel wool is dissolved by the vinegar, and after straining it through a coffee filter to get the undissolved stuff out, it can be brushed onto your wood, with an almost immediate change in the wood color. It works best with woods high in tannin, and oak is one of those woods. It works by creating a chemical reaction inside the fibers of the wood, so the color is not just changed on the wood surface, but in the wood as well. I also tried using India ink. The piece above on the left is done with India ink, one coat on the lower half, and two above. The piece on the right side has been done with the iron acetate. As I also needed to seal the oak, aside from just coloring it, I applied my usual mix of boiled linseed oil cut 50% with turps.
The piece on the left was also done with iron acetate, but coated afterwards with several coats of Antique Oil, which I also use to finish my wood carvings from time to time.
I really like the effect created by the iron acetate, top-coated with the linseed oil mix. I also liked the India ink, but in the end, I felt it covered up too much of the woodenness of the piece, being so opaque. I like the way the iron acetate with linseed oil turns the oak a beautiful dark brown while at the same time letting the grain show through, and so I think I will be going with that to finish my Raven. Still have to think of the title!