Tips and Tricks

Waxed Paper Uses- by Gary Martin
I have found old fashioned waxed paper to be useful for several situations. Its useful to lay down in areas where I don't want overspray. I've caused myself grief more than once by letting unobserved paint and glue runs dry to paper or even the bench. With waxed paper this problem is much easier to deal with. I have also used it to make templates for spraying fish. Nothing sticks to it!! And its cheap.

ampen the noise of your rotary tool by Rich Meeuwenberg
I started carving with a Dremel hanging from a pole in the basement. The flex arm being relatively short put the tool in a position where I wondered if I wouldn't soon go deaf. I was able to markedly dampen the noise by inverting  a 5-gal plastic bucket, I cut a slot in the back so it would slide over the pole encasing the Dremel. The noise really disappeared when I tied a towel to the pole and  took a piece of an old entry floor mat and glued it to the inside of the bucket with liquid nails (leave the back slot open so the sound has another exit and you can remove the bucket as needed). Depending on your situation I'm sure a similar sound proofing device, divider or board can be made.

Painting Detail On "Tough-to-Paint" Fish by Ed Walicki
When faced with the task of painting fish with intricate spot and vermiculation patterns I often rely on my 35mm slide projector to lend a hand.  By using a slide image of the same fish and projecting the image stream of light onto your carving and adjusting the focal length to size the image to the same size as your carving, you can then lightly pencil in the detail.  I often use this method when replicating fish for clients that want a carving of a fish they caught and released and they only have a photo for me to work from.  I slip the photo into a opaque projector (when using a print or photo, for slides use  a slide projector) and shoot the image onto a wall covered in white paper.  I then dial in the image to the exact size and trace the pattern to use for the carving. 

Once the carving is completed and primed white I then project the colored image back onto the carving and draw in my detail boundaries that I will use to paint the fish.  So in theory, if the clients fish had 173 spots and one will the final paint job.  You would be surprised what a difference this method can make in your final paint job. 

Knowing how well this works I load my camera with slide film prior to any reference fishing trips and pose my specimens in poses I often use in my carvings.  This way one fish can supply a painting template of sorts for any size fish of the same species.  I will shoot for example, one flat straight pose, one tail up, one tail down.  For a top view, one straight, one curved left or right (you can always flip the slide for left or right) then maybe a few head close ups and back into the water they go.  I found slide film has much richer colors than using print film and ordering slides to made from it. 

Cleaning Diamond & Ruby Burrs by J.R. Scott

If you have a collection or old burrs laying around that have become gummed up over the years or just want to make your new burrs glisten, drop them to soak in an ultrasonic cleaner like the type use to clean jewelry.  The combination of cleaner and ultrasonic waves will clean the cutting surface and restore their performance.

Transferring Pattern Lines to a Roughout or Pre-cut Blank by Ed Walicki
As we all learn at the start, trying to draw our pattern lines on a curved wood surface can be frustrating and often leads to misplaced lines due to expanded surface area.  This problem often rears its ugly for many when trying to transfer the lines of the head features to the wood blank or roughout.  A simple method I use in class with my students is to cut the paper pattern out and then with a woodburner set on high temp I use a knife tip to trace the pattern lines of the head.  The hot tip cuts through the paper pattern with ease leaving a cut in the pattern slightly wider than the inked lines.  I am careful to leave small points of the line intact to prevent the pattern from falling apart as I burn the lines in place.  Once completed simply position the paper pattern on the side of the fish, aligning the outer silhouette of the carving to align the outer edge of the pattern.  Then with a can of black or red spray paint I hit the burned openings in the pattern with a quick burst of paint.  The paint falls straight through the pattern holes onto the rounded surface leaving the pattern lines perfectly in place every time.  Do this again if during the carving process you remove a line or two by mistake.  The curvature of the wood has no bearing on the placement of the lines using this method.  Then to save time just allow the paper to dry and flip the pattern over to the other side and do the same thing.  The openings in the pattern will work for both sides.  A real time saver.  No more pin wheels or carbon paper to transfer patterns.

Power Carvers IV Poles by Ed Walicki
Using power carving equipment in places other than your shop can be a problem at times if it is the type that hangs.  I found a simple method to solve this problem.  An occasional visit to a local hospitals equipment department can often yield a free IV pole or two for the asking.  Sure some of them are missing a wheel or two or have a few scratches but they are perfect to hang your equipment from.

I snapped on a 24" tool magnet on one of mine and it holds all my burrs I am using for a project securely.  They adjust to various heights, roll around easy and are bottom heavy making the pole almost impossible to knock over while carving. 

I have collected several over the last few years.  None of them ever in any need of major repair.  Some are like new others needed a new set of castors costing around $20.  The point is, most hospitals just throw these away as new replacements arrive.  Stop by your local hospital one day and either pick one up or have them put your name on a list to call when they have some to throw away.   I love them for painting around the house.  I hang a gallon of paint on one hook and the trim color on the other and just wheel it around behind me.  On a ladder? no problem, most raise to around 7 foot easily.  

You can bet when the time comes and I find myself in the hospital for care in my golden years there will be a Mastercarver hanging side by side with my IV medicine on that pole!  

Spray on a can! by Ed Walicki

Aerosol spray paint cans are by far the best method I have found over the years compared to an airbrush for veil painting. They lay down paint a wet coat of paint without allot of air blowing overspray all over the shop. A nice even layer of color can be achieved with a little practice. 

The key is getting a true lacquer product. The market now is full of fast drying enamels and waterbased products and if you don't read the labels closely they could be used by accident.  For sealing a carving I use clear lacquer sanding sealer. As a basecoat I prefer lacquer automotive spray primers in gray and white, sometimes red oxide depending on the fish.  Never apply enamel when lacquer has been / or will be used.

On bright silver fish I always use white primer so the top coat colors appear clean and bright. Warmwater fish like bass and panfish where I like a softer blend I use gray. For fish like browns and brookies where I want a warm look to the final color I like the red oxide primer. The color of the base coat always influences the final top coat color. Years ago when I did allot of auto body work, this became apparent. I learned very quickly if you repainted a body panel using factory mixed colors over a different color primer than what was used on the rest of the car, the final color would never match.  The base coat can either reflect light or absorb it, the color you choose to base coat your carving can enhance or inhibit your final colors. 

The next time you are playing in paint, spray a few different base colors on a scrap piece of paper, then spray the colors you plan to paint your carving with over each of the base colors and note the difference. Then choose a base color that produces the best results. 

Using a Chrome base color, even in lacquer is not always a good choice. Most chrome colors over a wood colored background appear dull, sort of a silvery gray at best unless you just flood the surface and block all influence of the wood color. If you were to apply a few light coats of flat white followed by the chrome silver it would appear cleaner and brighter. 

My all time favorite "chrome looking" silver is made by Dupli-Color in a lacquer called GM Ultra Metallic. All my cans say "Truck Touch-up" because I believe it was a 1976 Chevy truck color. It makes a scale so bright it takes a second place only to silver foil. Much brighter than Poly Tran's bright silver in my opinion. I also favor the Dupli-Color line of lacquer primers in the colors I mentioned above. And without sounding like a commercial for Dupli-Color they have a unique spray nozzle that sprays a fine mist of paint for a nice finish, called the "EasyTouch Fanspray™".  Much like using an airbrush.  Some of the other brands use a cheap nozzle that just squirts paint for the sake of getting it out of the can.  They seem to have perfected aerosol application of paints.

BTW - Since I wrote this they added a color called Instant Gold fast drying lacquer that is just as nice as the silver.  

Foil Veil Scales by Ed Walicki
Those of you that have ever tried to duplicate the bright chrome looking scales of a summer run steelhead or salmon know how difficult finding a silver paint that looks like chrome can be.  Many silver paints come off with a brushed aluminum look at best, not the mirror look of natural scales on these fish.  When using the foil veil method to scale a "smoothie" spray a very light coat of adhesive on the veil and allow it to flash off.  Then secure the wedding veil in place on the carving.  Once the veil is in position I spray a light coat of gold leaf adhesive over the areas I want silver or gold scales.  The veil will act as a mask only allowing the adhesive to contact the carving where the veil holes are open.  Once the adhesive dries to the touch carefully lay micro thin sheets of silver foil or gold leaf, the type used by sign painters, over the entire area you want scaled.  Using light pressure simply press the metal film into the openings in the veil.  Once all the metal foil is pressed in place I remove the veil with a quick tug, which in turn removes all the metal foil that was on the veil webbing leaving behind the foil that was in the small openings of the veil on the carving.  What you are left with are chrome looking, individual scales.  If any excess adhesive remains on the carving a light wipe with mineral spirits (over properly cured and dried paint) will remove the dried glue without harming the foil scales.  Often no cleaning is necessary.  Then using transparent colors complete the remaining paint job and seal with a wet coat of clear finish. 

Creating Driftwood by Ed Walicki
Many of us use natural driftwood in our habitat displays, those of us that do know how hard that perfect piece can be to find.  Years ago I experimented with different ways to carve realistic looking wood that fit my needs better than looking for a particular piece along a lakeshore.  I stumbled into a very fast and easy way to create aged/weathered looking driftwood.  The fastest is to find a old tree root of some sort or a downed limb.  Carve off the bark and grind the piece to shape using a coarse carbide burr.  Don't worry about leaving a rough finish, just rough it to shape.  Once the desired shape is achieved, using a hand held propane torch burn the surface of the wood fairly deep, more so on the ends of the wood.  After the wood has burned a short while take a stiff wire brush (I use the type you would use to clean your BBQ grill) and brush away all the charring and what is left behind is a weathered looking grain in the wood.  The soft areas burn away faster leaving the dark raised grain lines.  The wood will almost return to the original color with a little wire brushing.  I then redo areas I would like a little more "weathering" with the torch and wire brush until I have the desired look. 

Once completed just apply a few coats of sealer and paint.  I prefer a medium value gray base coat with several brown wash's of color to achieve a wet submerged log look.  Don't go for the light gray weathered driftwood look, wood underwater does not look like that.

The second method is to carve the driftwood from a large piece of wood, I prefer cedar.  Cut out the rough shape on the band saw and then carve in some twists and knots.  Again don't worry about bandsaw marks or any rough areas, the burning will soften all the detail.  Then just as above, do a little fire carving to achieve the final look, seal and paint.  

In both cases as the wood heats up it will check and shrink leaving you nice looking splits and detail in the wood.  For a hollowed out looking stump you would just hold the torch toward the end of the log for a few minutes to remove wood from the core of the log.  It is really easy to shape wood with fire from a torch.

Painting Rocks by Ed Walicki
A fast easy way to paint wooden rocks to look real is to paint on a wet coat of Gesso.  It can be tinted in several different base colors by adding a small amount of acrylic paint.  Then, while the gesso is still wet spatter other colors onto the Gesso rock using an old toothbrush and your thumbnail.  Once the colors are applied I spray the rock with a fine mist of water in a handheld spray bottle.  Not so much water you wash away the color, but just enough to create a bleed of color onto of the Gesso.  Gesso does not absorb the acrylics when it is wet therefore you will have a wet surface for the colors to move around on through capillary action creating some real nice marble effects.  By accident I made a real looking Petoskey stone by painting the base coat a light gray Gesso blend.  Then with a toothbrush loaded with a dark gray I spatter finished the rock using larger drops of paint.  One quick mist of water and the drops bled out without touching each other.  The rock was an exact match to a real Petoskey stone.  Experiment with different colors and see what you get, the key is to do this over a wet coat of gesso.  My favorites are browns and grays over a white Gesso background.

Wood Moss by Ed Walicki
Soak a piece of basswood an hour or so in a gallon of boiling RIT cloth dye. I like the forest green with a few ounces of yellow added to lighten it up a shade since it looks too black/green to me just out of the bottle. After it is colored deep into the wood fibers I let it cool and dry a few hours. Then grind on it with a course Kutzall or Typhoon burr to create mounds of moss. The wet wood doesn't turn to dust as you carve it semi wet. Rolls of thin stringy fibers will develop that look like moss or algae. I then wash it out to loose the dust and let it dry on my habitat pieces. Placing it wet will allow you to shape it and when it dries it looks like it was growing on the rocks and driftwood. And best of all nobody can give you any grief in competition because it isn't wood. That model railroad stuff sold to replicate moss is an invitation for trouble in competition.

Mounting your Carving Securely by Ed Walicki
A quick and easy way of mounting your carving to the base is to use a slide post system.  Most hobby shops sell square brass tubing in small diameters and square steel stock that will slide into the brass tube.  Once you determine a mounting point for your carving drill a hole into the fish just large enough to insert a short piece of square brass tubing and epoxy it into place.  Be careful not to allow the epoxy to fill the tube.  Then once hardened insert a small piece of matching steel rod into the brass tube and position the carving near the base mounting point.  Determine the angle necessary to drill a hole to receive the steel rod in the habitat support.  Fill the hole with epoxy and slide the carving containing the steel rod into the hole and position the angle of the carving, hold it in place for a few minutes until the epoxy sets up.  Then slowly slide the carving off the steal rod which remains in the habitat support.  Now you have a secure slide mount that will not allow the fish to slide around or move out of position.  And, if you ever need to ship the carving or transport it in any way simply slide the fish from the mount and wrap it separately for shipping.  

Fish Teeth from the Garden by Tom Lewis
Many times the perfect replacement fish teeth are right under our nose, literally.  Have you tried rose thorns? Just trim them to the right length.  I have a rambling rose next to my house that almost exactly matches brookie teeth! You can glue these in individually or mount them on a thin shaving or whatever and stick 'em in as a set.

Organized Scale Tipping by Dave Dewalt
I think I've discovered a trick that not only saves time, but improves the appearance of scale tipping (a rare combination!). 

In the areas where I've covered up my veil-painted scales with coats of paint, I've been taking a small piece of veil (about 6 rows wide by 20 rows long), and holding it over the area I'm tipping so it functions as a guide. I just touch my brush to the fish through each "hole" and get a nice scale pattern. Can stick it on with masking tape, but the tape tends to pull off any previous tipping paint, even if it's dried for a few days.   You can buy a spray-on product in any art store called "remount" that will help in this case.  Remount is a low level adhesive that is meant to be used to temporarily stick things in place and allow them to be reposition easily.  The low level of adhesiveness doesn't bother the painted surface. By doing a small section at a time, it's easy to adjust the pattern around the dorsal fin, etc.   Again, maybe it's obvious, but it works so well I thought I'd share it . . .

Placing Eye Holes by Timothy Zerbel
Placing eyes is can be a simple procedure. There are a couple rules I follow when doing this, Number one, predrilled eyeholes have always lead me to disaster. The holes may be perfect and square but reality dictates the sculpture will never ever be perfectly symmetrical. The answer to that is work with the final shape. I take 2 pins and I draw out where one eye should be. I then find the center point of that eye and slide a pin into the wood at 90 degrees so it sticks out straight. After that I take the second pin and I try to make it match the first one. After I think I have good placement I push it in. and check the alignment of both pins from all angles. If it is not quite right, I start over with the second pin. Once that is done I have a center point to drill and it is always correct. Its that simple.

Making Teeth by J.R. Scott
Here are 3 methods that I have read, heard of or done. Use modeling paste to raise peaks up using a toothpick or a dental tool directly in the mouth and allow it to cure a few days. Jo Sonya modeling paste works well for this but there are probably other brands out there that work just as well. You may or may not have to add water to the paste to get the right consistency. 

Another involves casting teeth using a bar of soap for the form and silicone sealer for the teeth. Punch holes in a bar of soap with a tool of the appropriate size of the teeth and in the pattern of the mouth. Press the silicone into the holes leaving plenty on top for strength. Allow this to cure a few days. Remove and trim down the excess and attach the dentures in the fish's mouth. If you compete in open class with either of these methods you maybe disqualified as this is another of those "gray" areas. 

To make them of wood, carve out a wooden denture and insert it in the mouth , best use Tupelo wood for this fine detailing. One almost has to cut open part of the head to expose the inner mouth except on the largest of fish, and reattach the the part of the head removed. 

Fiberglass Teeth by Ed Walicki
For larger fish teeth I add cabasil to clear fiberglass resin to thicken it.  The addition of the cabasil leaves the clear resin a cloudy white color.  The thicker consistency allows me to me to fashion larger teeth, using the same methods as one would using silicone.  24 hours later they will cure up hard with a cloudy white color. In fiberglass they can be shaped with a high speed burr if necessary. 

For large salmon teeth I often color the resin a soft pink with a little touch of red lacquer in the resin and lay in all the lower canine teeth using the touch and lift method and allow them to cure off overnight.  Then I mix up another batch of clear resin and cabasil then cover the pink teeth with a second application of thickened resin and let it cure. The result is a creamy white tooth with a pink core that is an exact match to the semi translucent canine teeth of most salmon. It looks like the natural nerve ending inside the tooth. It looks great, with a little practice on scrap wood you will be able to create some of the most realistic teeth possible.  If they appear too stark simply spray a few coats of Polytranspar Gold Transparent Toner to yellow them a shade or two.

Airbrushing Detail by Timothy Zerbel
Spotting the brown has challenged many of us with an airbrush. I don't personally feel the problem is in the compressor or the airbrush. Browns have nice crisp lines on their spots and halos as well. You can accomplish this effect with NO overspray with a little practice.

 Here's the challenge- Thinning the paint down to the point that it will dry quickly and retarding the drying time just enough to allow you to actually blow a circle of paint onto the carving. The "spider legs" will occur if your paint is drying to quickly on the edge of your circle and in some spots its not. What you are looking for is a nice even drying time. When your airbrush is so close to the work as with spot detail the surrounding air blowing over the paint is making the solvents evaporate to quickly Answer= Retard the drying time!

 Adding retarder will also prevent the problem with tip clogging. Might I suggest switching to lacquer for this spotting detail. Scale Detail Black, Black umber, Wet look gloss, Retarder and Thinner is all you need. you can do this for under 20 bucks. Then take half an hour and practice using different mixtures of these paints to achieve the desired result. The key is in the amount of retarder and the amount of air pressure. Play with it and tell me how it goes. 

Artificial Sand by Ed Walicki
Years ago I noticed a large pile of what looked like sand from a ant hill at the base of a sycamore tree in my backyard. After a closer look it realized it was wood dust. Coarse dust that looked and felt like sand. The tree was being attacked by black ants and the sand looking sawdust was digested wood or for lack of a better term.....Ant Sand.

I scooped up the pile and placed it in a zip lock bag to use later as sand for a carving. After looking around the yard I found two more trees with the same stuff. I let the ants go until I collected a large supply of the "ant sand" and then sprayed all but one of the trees to kill the ants. Don't want to loose my resource! 

Looking to use my new "ant sand" I tried it out on a few test pieces of wood and found it looked wet when it was glued to wood and when watered down glue was sprayed on top of it beads would form as the wood sand repelled the glue. A few days later I took my son to a local hobby shop for something or other and saw them designing a train track layout with a powdered sand they sold. I stood by watching and noticed they had several bottles of rubbing alcohol out. I asked what it was used for, did they have a drinking problem they would like to discuss? they said it was to glue the sand in they had my full attention.  

After looking at other train displays I noticed all the sand looked like sand and didn't look wet from the glue, it was actually flat looking and very level. I watched them sprinkle the sand around the display and then they poured the alcohol into cheap spray bottles and soaked the fake sand with sprays of alcohol. They then loaded up syringes with a matte finish white glue and began dropping little drops of watery glue around the display to bond the sand to the base. I was amazed how well it worked. The alcohol presoaked the sand without disturbing it and the same alcohol sucked up the glue with a wicking action that swept through the sand. One drop of glue bled out to a two inch circle down into the sand. The alcohol then evaporated with the water used to thin the glue and whole diorama hardened in a few hours with no wet look. It looked like dry sand. It was so solid you could rub it and not work one piece of sand loose.   I tried it at home with my new ant sand and it work the same way, perfect. No shine, no wet spotting, no clumping, no loose sand, and a rock hard surface the next morning.   

I returned a week later and thanked them for the info and shared my ant sand find with them and they laughed. They said they make all the sand they need by putting cat litter in a blender on high for 30 seconds and use the alcohol glue method to secure it in place. Cat litter is just clay and the quick blender job just shatters the preformed pellets into tiny rocks and sand looking powder. They said they don't use real sand because it wont absorb the glue and form a solid bond, clay soaks up glue and water and bonds to the base. Probably why the ant sand worked better than real sand.

So the next time you need to glue down some sawdust or ant sand remember the alcohol / glue trick. 

Ice Fishing Scene by Cecil Baird
I don't know what the rules are for wood carving but a very convincing ice fishing scene can be made by using a white plastic kitchen cutting board, clear silicone caulking, artificial snow (from WASCO), Plexiglas, black felt, and Enviro-Tex. 

Cut an ice fishing hole in the plastic after cutting the board to fit in the base (I can get any size board I want from an aquaculture supplier). Glue a piece of Plexiglas larger than the hole underneath with black felt under that. After you make your slushy areas by mixing the silicone and snow sprinkle on snow in other areas (you can add boot prints). Place a small foam float cut in half horizontally in the center of the hole already attached to line and a pole resting beside the hole. Add fish on the ice and enjoy. Be sure to have a glass case over it as snow gets dirty and Enviro-Tex gets dusty. 

Airbrush Quick Disconnect by Ed Walicki
Tired of fooling around changing airbrushes out when using one air hose?  Ken Miller of Millers Art Supply introduced me to a air line quick disconnect.  Similar in design to a miniature air tool release, it makes swapping out airbrushes or cleaning them a snap....literally.  Great for when you have a few brushes you want to work with at the same time.  Check with your local art store for these quick disconnects, they are worth the money.

Liquid Casting Urethane.....Great Stuff!!   by Ed Walicki
Liquid urethane can be used for many applications. Capable of withstanding temperatures up to 320 degrees Fahrenheit liquid urethane can be used to construct woodburning pens. Due to it’s bonding strength and penetration ability into wood liquid urethane is perfect for strengthening weak or damaged areas to a plastic like finish that will never peel or disintegrate over time. Other commercial wood fillers bond to the surface of wood, liquid urethane penetrates into the wood surface becoming part of the wood fibers. Minutes later the repaired area may be sanded and finished
(cured urethane will not detail with a wood burner) as desired. Liquid urethane may also be used to waterproof wood for exterior use, simply rub in wet and wipe off quickly and allow to cure. 

Mixing: Mix liquid urethane at a rate of 1:1 by volume in a clean container. Stir quickly and use at once. Never mix more than you can use in 60 seconds. It will begin to harden in one minute and achieve full cure strength in less than an hour. Several small pours are recommended to reduce waste. Once cured it may be sanded and shaped as desired. During the curing process some smoke may develop from the high curing temperatures and proper ventilation is required. As with all chemicals, care must be taken to avoid contact with skin and eyes. 

Clean-UP: Soap and water will remove liquid urethane prior to mixing both components together. Once it begins to gel nothing will dissolve or stop the chemical reaction. It becomes plastic-like in less than a minute and resists all solvents at that point. Any clean up necessary should be done at once prior to gelling, with water.

Setting Fins: Liquid urethane is perfect for setting fins. Simply open fin sockets to the necessary size to accept the fin inserts. Fill the socket with liquid urethane and quickly install and position fin insert. Instantly the liquid urethane will penetrate the wood insert and surrounding socket forming a solid bond in less than a minute. Using this method will insure the fins never develop seam cracks as the carving ages, a problem common with using conventional plastic fillers to set fins.

Waterproofing wood: Place liquid urethane in the freezer for 30 minutes to chill. This will slow the set time considerable allowing you a longer working time before it gels. Using a disposable brush or a clean rag rub the liquid urethane into the wood surface and wipe away excess at once. The liquid urethane will be absorbed into the wood fibers forming a durable plastic like surface to the wood once cured. This surface can be sanded and painted as desired.

Strengthening weak areas: Brush liquid urethane onto thin, damaged or weak areas of your carving to strengthen or replace damaged wood fibers. Multiple coats may be applied within minutes of each other to build up a damaged area. Once cured simply sand to shape. This method prevents wood from breaking on grain lines and makes the repaired area stronger than the surrounding area.

Casting Parts: Liquid urethane is perfect for casting small parts and can be mixed with many different fillers for color and strength variations. Liquid urethane requires a mold release agent on all mold making materials except when used in silicone molds. No release agent is needed with silicone molds.

Woodburning Pens: Due to liquid urethanes ability to withstand high temperatures it is a perfect filler to use in the construction of burning pens. Simply position internal pen components and pour in liquid urethane to lock them in place permanently. Liquid urethane once cured will not conduct electricity so protecting any bare wires from exposure is not necessary.

Glue: Liquid urethane is perfect for gluing many types of plastic, wood, metal, and concrete on contact. Mix a small amount, brush on both parts to be joined and clamp in place for 5 minutes. The chemical bond is permanent and water / solvent resistant.


Preventing paint from drying up in the paint/airbrush bottles by Ed Walicki
Ever open a color of airbrush paint you used a few months ago only to find it dried up from the small amount of air left in the bottle?   Or left paint in a airbrush bottle and it dried up from air entering through the vent hole in the cap? Well, with this simple trick you can prevent that from ever happening again.  

Purchase a can of dusting air like that used to clean off delicate parts, sold in an office supply store.  These cans are full of CO2 gas, a chemical that is heavier than air and will not allow paint to dry in its presence.  

When you are finished painting spray a quick burst of air from the can into the paint bottle.  the CO2 will fill the bottle and displace the air creating a layer of CO2 on the surface of the paint.  CO2 has no adverse effect on the paint, it is used as a propellant in spray paint cans today for this same reason.  These air dusting cans make it easy to seal off paint stored in airbrush bottles.  You simply stick the plastic straw on the can into the paint tube of the bottle and press the button on the can.  The CO2 is forced into the bottle purging any paint that has accumulated in the tube.  After the CO2 bubbles in the bottle from the paint draw tube for a few seconds the bottle is ready to store until next use.  

Keeping Spray Can Nozzles Clean by Don Frank

Spray can nozzles can be really bad about clogging, especially thick heavy  pigmented paints like Kilz. After you are done spraying, instead of turning  the can upside down to clear the nozzle, pull the nozzle off the can and  place it on a can of WD-40. Spray for a second and then replace it on the  paint can. Next time you use the paint, the nozzle will be clean. Just make  sure you spray once into the air to remove any residual WD-40. This works  great. Wish I had know about it 20 years ago. 

Anti-Vibration Glove by Ed Walicki
If your hands go numb after a while power carving like mine try one of the new anti-vibration gloves that are on the market, they really work.  I use one all the time on my right hand while carving, since I carve with my right hand.  The high speed vibration that develops while carving is absorbed by the soft rubber padding of the glove instead of the nerves and muscles of your hand.  I can now carve for hours with no loss of feeling while using the glove.  What is nice about the glove is they fit so well you don't even know you are wearing one.  The finger tips are cut off so you still have a sense of touch while carving.  The material breaths well so your hand does not get sweaty as well.  These gloves are available from Wood Carver Supply at 1-800-284-6229 for around $16.  

Flexible Gloss Coating Second to Ed Walicki
For those looking for the ultimate in gloss for their carvings and a finish that remains flexible give Krylons Triple Thick Clear Glaze a try.  It is crystal clear and will not yellow over time like most other gloss finishes will.  The best feature of all is the flexibility.  Most lacquers become brittle over time and as your carving expands and contracts with temperature changes the finish can crack, known as "crazy cracks."  Triple thick will stretch with your carving and prevent cracking. It dries to a "hard to the touch' finish in a few minutes and with a diamond bright gloss.  One coat equals three coats of regular clear lacquer.  It is available in most any hardware or craft store that sells the Krylon brand name.  the part number is #0500.  If your local dealer does not stock it ask them to order you a case of it on their next order.  they come in small cases of 6 and the price can range from $4-8 per can. 

Note: Since I wrote this piece some carvers have experienced problems using old stock.  It sprayed from the can like Silly String!  So I recommend you make sure you can hear the agitator ball when the can is shaken and it would hurt to fire off a few test sprays in the store when nobody is looking.  I have yet to experience this condition because I buy mine from a local art and craft store that sells it off the shelf as fast as they get it in.  Others haven't been so lucky.  Also keep in mind this finish cannot be sprayed over with any other type of paint, it will not stick.  It MUST only be used for a final gloss coat.

Air Compressor On/Off Switch by Ed Walicki
Have a tankless compressor that only runs when the power switch is on?  Tired of listening to the noise when you are between colors or cleaning the airbrush?  

Plug your compressor into a momentary contact switch like a simple on/off foot pedal.  Now when you need air just step on the foot pedal, when you are done release the pedal.  No more excessive noise while painting.  Note: The foot operated switch MUST BE an on/off switch.  A variable speed foot pedal like the type used in power carving will burn up your compressor, they are not designed for variable power.  Sears sells a nice one for $20.  Once you use one for this you will buy more to use on your bandsaw, table saw, drill press. etc.  They are a great safety feature as well, if something goes wrong just lift your foot to stop the operation instead of fumbling around for an off button.

Making Real Looking Rocks by Ed Walicki
Just as with making your own driftwood, making rocks with fire is just as realistic and easy to do.  I rough out the rocks on the bandsaw and carve some character into them using a course carbide burr.  Carve them fast and rough, don't worry about gouge marks or saw marks.  When you are done they should look like peeled potatoes, or whatever shape you are looking to create.  Once done take them outside and set them on an old BBQ grate and with a propane torch set them on fire.  Burn the surface to remove any imperfections on the entire rock.  The longer you allow them to burn the smoother the detail will be.  I generally just scorch them a few minutes on both sides.  Then with a stiff wire brush I scrub off the charred wood, leaving a raised grain pattern that looks exactly like a weather rock.  One coat of sealer to kill the smell, followed by a coat of wet gesso and water washes of color.  The end result is a realistic rock in both texture and shape.

Color Study Pad by Ed Walicki
Take some patterns to a local printing shop (Kinkos, CopyMax, or the like) and have then shrink the patterns to the size of a small tablet.  Have them run off a few dozen copies and bind them into a small booklet for you to use in the field to take color notes.  I made a few of these books for Trout & Salmon, Bass and Panfish and one for saltwater fish for those times I visit the Zoo or the Pet Shop.  It's nice to have a basic outline of a fish to take notes, especially when used with a color chart mentioned below.

Quick Color Reference Chart by Ed Walicki
Toss a color chart of the brand of paint you use in your tackle box or fly vest.  Then the next time you land a fish you can compare colors in the fish to colors on your chart and write a quick paint schedule for your next carving.  You would be surprised how much this can help your painting techniques.  I wish the paint people would get smart and make fishing hats with their color chips on them instead of paper brochures!  Just one of those things that makes you wonder why somebody hasn't already thought of this.

Dragon Fly Wings by Ed Walicki
I have several ways to pull off to say. The easiest by far is to use maple leaf spinners that fall from the trees. They have raised veining and are paper thin. I press them in an old book and allow them to dry. Then you just trim them to shape, insert and paint....done.

Another method, draw in veins on rice paper and brush on a coat of clear Elmer's glue to seal and firm up the wing. 

Another method, buy some thin, and I mean very thin pieces of maple you would find in a model airplane hobby shop work well for making wood wings. I carve them to shape by grinding away some surface wood leaving raised veins in the wing then I boil them for a few minutes to raise the grain to give the wing a soft velvet look when painted.  

Or for the most realistic wings possible, search the web for dragon fly images has an image search feature that works well.  Choose the dragonfly that suits your needs.  Then download the high res image to your hardrive and open it in a photo editing program like Photoshop, Corel Draw, Image Composer, ect. and resize the print size of the image to the actual size of a real dragonfly.  Then on a piece of transparent film print the image in color and simply cut out the wings.  You will get a transparent wing with actual coloration already done.  Carve and paint a wood body, make some legs from copper wire and insert the wings, your done! 

You can even run the thin sheets of wood I mentioned above through your color printer by taping the wood to a piece of paper or just feeding it in by itself and let the printer do the painting for you.  Now, if anybody from Hewlett Packard is reading this call me, I have an idea for a HP Fish Painter I would like to run past you.  :-)

More on Dragon Fly Wings by Jim Roberts
Take real dragonfly wings collected from the bug screen of your car and photocopy them onto OHP transparency film at Office Depot. Cut out, paint & use. This works well for other insects as well (butterflies incl) and I see nothing in the IWFCA rules that forbids it. 

Flexible Patterns by Ed Walicki
There will be times when you will want to carve a fish shown on a pattern in a slightly different pose.  When that time arrives there is a simple way of using that pattern to carve hundreds of different poses from one pattern.  Purchase a roll or a few large sheets of closed cell foam, I use the foam Sears sells as tool box drawer liners that is about 3/8" thick.  Cut out the top and side pattern profiles and transfer the pattern outlines to the foam.  Cut out the foam pattern with your woodburner or scissors, a woodburner on high cuts through foam like a hot knife in butter!   Separate the pieces and place the pattern on your wood block. Bend the foam pattern to any shape desired, you will not lose or alter any body proportions with this process.   Tail up, tail down, curved left, curved right, anything is possible and all from one single pattern.  Once the desired pose is obtained simply pin the foam side pattern down to hold it in place and do the same thing with the top profile pattern.   A great thing about this method is if you heavily animate the top profile the pattern length shortens somewhat, to correct for the loss of length due to animation simply stretch the foam pattern to the needed length, small amounts will never be noticed in a top profile, try that with a paper pattern. Once the foam pattern is pined in place draw around the pattern with a pencil. Next, cut away the excess wood with a bandsaw and begin your carving!   I use this method allot when carving a stream of trout all in different poses and all from the same pattern.  I have even used this method to carve a stringer of perch that all fit draped over each other by using a foam top profile to layer all the fish in different poses for a natural stacked look.  And best of all you now have a multi-use pattern that will last forever so store it in a place you wont forget easy. 

Scale Tipping Pens for paint.  by Glen Butler
I have tried several methods of tipping the fish scales with silver or gold when painting the burned scales. I used a liner brush and then tried a fine tipped marking pen. The pen worked for awhile, but tended to clog and once in a while it discharged a blob of paint. I now use one of the old fashioned calligrapher pens which have removable metal tips. These come in various sizes and work well (but don't press too hard or you may scratch the painted surface). They are easy to clean and, unlike marking pens, one tip can be used for any color.

Fool Proof Eye Protection from Jeff Leonard
Hey, have you ever painted for hours only to ruin all your hard work chipping paint while cleaning off the eye? Well, I tried quite a few eye protectors out there. I even have used latex mold building compound and Vaseline. They work okay but I always break a sweat carefully scoring the edge of the eye and trying to get that stuff off in one piece is next to impossible for me anyway. Gets you nervous just thinking about it, huh? Well, I think I have found a way that I can't even mess up.

Take round a piece of clay, just about a large as the eye itself and about 1/8 " thick. Press the clay lightly on the pupil working it neatly out toward the edge. Presto, your done! No more worries about getting the masking compound or liquid eye protector on your sculpting epoxy or even the eye socket itself, what you see is what you get. Then you are finished your masterpiece gently remove the clay, lightly buff the eye and gloss away. 

I have performed this feat successfully even after drinking huge amounts of coffee. ;)

I hope this helps somebody out there out. Good Luck!

P.S. I have to give credit to my friend Ron Reynolds, a superb wildlife artist, for showing me this idea.

Prevent Airbrush Tip Build-up While Spraying  by Ed Walicki
Since switching over from lacquer to water acrylics I noticed while spraying water acrylic paints through my airbrush I would experience a distorted spray pattern due to the build up of dried paint on the tip of the needle.  Sometimes getting this dried paint off would be difficult and require disassembly.  I found that by removing the needle and applying a good coat of automotive type paste wax and buffing it smooth from time to time would prevent dried paint from sticking.  I would also do the same to the air cap that surrounded the needle at the tip of the airbrush.  Once this was done I no longer had a problem with build up.  Keep in mind this only works with water based acrylics, lacquer solvents will strip away the wax coating.  

Accurately Mixing And Storing Paint  from Ed Walickisyringecolor.JPG (8684 bytes)
How many of us over the years accidentally mixed up a color that we would of given anything to reproduce again from adding a little of this and a little of that.  That one of a kind match to your reference color...and no idea how it evolved.  Giving some thought to how paint stores mix house paint gallon after gallon, all exactly the same I decided to use that principle on a smaller scale.  I began using large syringes to store my pre-thinned water acrylics.  Available at every drug store for less than a dollar each  They are transparent and provide accurate measurements down the side,  making 1cc measurement easy and dispensing color clean and quick.  Using a large bore eighteen gauge needle allowed even the heaviest of metallics to flow from the syringe with ease without any dripping while at rest on my bench.  Once I  finished squirting one cc of this, and four cc's of that, I simply replaced the protective cap on the needle and stored the syringe.  I have been doing this for years and have never had paint dry in the syringe since there is no air contacting the paint.  I would get some settling from time to time which was easily corrected by drawing some air into the syringe and shaking the paint vigorously.   Once mixed simply point the needle to the ceiling and push the plunger until all the air is expelled and paint flows from the needle.  Once I mixed the correct value of colors I was planning to use I put them also in syringes and labeled them for use.   If I was going to spray a particular fish I would simply remove the pre-mixed syringes from my drawer and squirt some paint into the color cup of my airbrush.  Any unused paint is quickly drawn back into the syringe from the color cup between color changes, no waste!!

Storing Power Carving Burrs by Ed Walickimagstrip.JPG (6847 bytes)
I often lost tiny burrs from my bench while carving.  I owned all the fancy display cases, however only spent time replacing the burrs I was using after I finished carving, by then most had fallen on the floor.  I purchased a magnetic tool holder at a local hardware store.  It was a long magnetic strip (24") and strong enough to hold a large hammer.  I fastened the strip to the edge of my work bench, now between burr changes I simply toss the bit it the direction of the magnet and it takes over from there.   The magnet is so strong it will literally take the burrs from my hand as it passes by.  No more searching the floor for tiny diamond burrs.

Using Incandescent Light To Show Up Detail from Ed Walicki   
While carving light colored wood under florescent lighting it is often difficult to see the detail I am carving, and because of this I used to over carve soft areas.  I found that by using a clamp on style light with a medium wattage incandescent bulb positioned at an angle to my work I could cast shadows across the surface making the soft detail stand out as I worked.  These lights have a bendable "snake" style shaft for easy positioning in all angles and can be clamped to your bench or chair.

Sizing and Aligning Fish Eye Holes from Ed Walicki
Grinding fish eye holes can be frustrating at times, too large, too small.  I found that by gluing a glass eye of the proper size to a nail head with 5-minute epoxy I had a tool that allowed me to quickly check the eye holes as I worked.  Because this worked so well I made up a set for all sizes from 4mm-22mm, and use them with each carving.   By using them in pairs at the same time you can quickly check the alignment using the nail portion extending from the eye, simply look down over the top of the fish and see that the nails for one straight line across.  If not adjust as necessary by moving one eye back and the other forward until they align.

Handling Pectoral & Pelvic Fins While Carving from Tom Wolftomtip.JPG (6998 bytes)
Holding these fins by the base can be difficult while carving.  By cutting the fins out in pairs you will always have a handle to hold on to.  After detailing simply separate them and install.


Painting Detail Without Overspray by Ed Walicki
Using an airbrush to spray crisp details has always been a difficult task for me. The spray pattern always left a soft edge of overspray instead of the hard edge I was trying to create.  A friend in the auto body repair business gave me a product called "Liquid-Mask" that they use for protecting emblems and small trim pieces from overspray.  You simply brush it on places you want protected and spray your paint.   Once the paint is dried simply wash off the liquid mask with water.  I tried it with lacquer and it worked great!! Worried this might not work with water based paints since you have to wash it off and in turn might wash off the painted areas you just sprayed I decided to try the same technique using rubber cement over water based acrylic paint.  It worked perfect, once it dried I could peel it away with no effect to the paint it covered.  Rubber cement will not work with lacquer because of the solvents in lacquer, but the combination of the two products will cover all your painting mask needs. Liquid Mask is available in any automotive paint supply store and rubber cement is available most anywhere.

Making Realistic Pike Teeth from Ed Walicki

Here's a trick for creating those toothy pads on a pikes tongue.  Take a fresh bar of hand soap (only because the fresher it is the softer it is) and with a toothpick, or airbrush needle poke hundreds of holes in the soap surface, all the same depth and very close together in an area of the size you need to cover in your carving.  Try and make all your holes at the same angle.   I like to mark the needle with a piece of tape so I pierce the soap evenly on each hole.  Once this is done work a thin layer of white silicone (tub and tile type works fine, found in any hardware store, try and find the "paintable" type...paint wont stick to pure silicone) into the hole by pressing it firmly into the surface with your thumb.  Once you are confident every hole is filled with silicone apply a thicker layer on top of the last and set it aside to cure for 48 hours.   After it has cured simply peel off the toothy pad and trim it to your desired shape.  I like to cut the second layer away with a razor blade to reduce the thickness to a membrane of teeth.  Trial fit the pads in place then glue them in using the same silicone, glue will not stick to silicone, it only sticks to itself.   Last, spray a very thinned out coat of yellow to kill the stark white appearance, since most pike don't have very good dental plans!

Smoothing Out Head Details by Ed Walicki
Those areas of the head you want to have a hard smooth surface on like the maxillary bone, girdle, top of the head and around the eye are easily created by brushing on a coat of wood glue.  The glue dries with a hard plastic like finish eliminating any fuzzing in these smooth areas that have no texture.  Blend the edges by brushing them with water to reduce the glue viscosity.  This works great for adipose fins too!





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