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Discussion Starter #1
Hi!

I'm totally new to this forum and hope you can enlighten me!

As concisely as possible: I'm a "part time" artist who works with wood and colored pencils. The pencils I use are a bit "waxy" and cling to soft woods beautifully! I have been using pine boards that I can find at craft stores. They're great, but sometimes come with knots and/or harder, darker lines/grains/rings/ whatever you call them.

What I'm looking for is a soft, clean wood.... and wondered if there was anything other than pine that might suit me better. I don't know if that's possible, but that's why I'm here to ask.

Lately I've been doing a lot of house portraits. He'res my last completed project, just so you can get an idea. Look closely at the sky and you'll see the harder grain of the wood coming through. Maybe it adds character, but it bothers me.

Also, any advice on this?: I have a house portrait coming up of a house that is HUGE! If I do it on these craft store pine boards, the house pic will probably be pretty small... just so I can get it all in. If I wanted to make it bigger, and get a bigger piece of board (assuming craft stores don't have anything bigger), how could I go about that? Who do I call and talk to and what do I say???

All advice is appreciated and welcome!!

Thanks!

-Judy
 

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Welcome to the club.
That's nice work. Not only is pine a problem with the knots, you run the risk of sap bleading through the paint, especially at the knots. Can the boards you use be plywood and trim with solid wood? If so you could use baltic birch plywood. There may be an occasional boat patch but there won't be any knots. There are a number of different woods that you could use if you want solid wood. You might use basswood. It will be very light in color like baltic birch and not have as many knots as pine. You might also use soft maple. If you are going to make your own solid wood panels your going to need a jointer, some pipe clamps, a belt sander and a random orbital sander. You could also have a local cabinet shop make the panels for you.
 

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Absent Minded Alicorn
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Welcome to the forums!
I'm leaning to what Steve said.
Maybe basswood?
Main problem here for you is you don't have that many tools at your disposal to make the panels with. You would probably have to buy wood that is already surfaced and possibly glue together pieces.

At first I thought poplar for some reason, but then I remembered the green streaks running through it.
 

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+1 on the idea of plywood. If your pencils work the way you desire on plywood, it offers many advantages, size being the top of the list. It comes in 4'x8' sheets standard so if you have a way to cut it (or have someone cut it for you), you could make your panels any size you wanted. Many of the big box stores will sell 1/2 sheets of plywood and some may even make cuts for you at a small charge. Edge the plywood with solid wood (frame) and you are done.

Plywood is more stable than solid wood and will not warp the way solid wood can with environmental changes. In addition, you have several different thicknesses to choose from with plywood.
 

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scrumpet said:
Hi!

I'm totally new to this forum and hope you can enlighten me!

As concisely as possible: I'm a "part time" artist who works with wood and colored pencils. The pencils I use are a bit "waxy" and cling to soft woods beautifully! I have been using pine boards that I can find at craft stores. They're great, but sometimes come with knots and/or harder, darker lines/grains/rings/ whatever you call them.

What I'm looking for is a soft, clean wood.... and wondered if there was anything other than pine that might suit me better. I don't know if that's possible, but that's why I'm here to ask.

Lately I've been doing a lot of house portraits. He'res my last completed project, just so you can get an idea. Look closely at the sky and you'll see the harder grain of the wood coming through. Maybe it adds character, but it bothers me.

Also, any advice on this?: I have a house portrait coming up of a house that is HUGE! If I do it on these craft store pine boards, the house pic will probably be pretty small... just so I can get it all in. If I wanted to make it bigger, and get a bigger piece of board (assuming craft stores don't have anything bigger), how could I go about that? Who do I call and talk to and what do I say???

All advice is appreciated and welcome!!

Thanks!

-Judy
Hi Judy, welcome. Do you live in a coastal area? If there are any boat builders around you can check with them. Lots of boats use a balsa core system in their hulls. It's pretty pricey but I think it comes in 4X4 sheets about 1/2 inches thick. It's a very soft wood with very little graining that might work for you.
 

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The standard for art is usually basswood, but the panels are almost always treated before use. Most pigments will be effected by the pH of a raw substrate so you should prime or ground them before drawing. Depending on the ground you use you can also minimize the grain of the wood.

You can find a pretty large variety of sizes and shapes at most art sites/stores:

http://www.utrechtart.com/Panels---Boards---Wood-Canvas.utrecht
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for all your replies!! You've all given me some ideas and some roads to go down, it's been very helpful!

Steve- So far, (knock on wood, hehe) I haven't had any problems with sap. In fact sometimes I incorporate the wood into my pics via wood burning (as in a wooden chair would actually be burned and stained instead of drawn), and sometimes the sap sizzles and smells great! With these latest house portraits, I haven't done that. But I really haven't had any problems with sap.

And just to make note: it's not paint that I use... it's colored pencil that I apply directly to the wood.

When you said "If you are going to make your own solid wood panels your going to need a jointer, some pipe clamps, a belt sander and a random orbital sander."... Totally lost me... I think I might be in over my head.

I'm very weary about plywood as some have suggested. It seems "cheap" to me.... it might be a good idea, but I just don't know what to do with it, and not sure it'll work, but I'll give it consideration. I want to keep my mind open and listen to your suggestions.

Cabinetman- Yes, I use wood because the wood, the pencils, and I work well together, ;)

Fromeasttowest- "The standard for art is usually basswood, but the panels are almost always treated before use."... Not sure what to say... the standard for art?? What standard and what art? Confused... I'm not trying to do what other artists do (not even sure what that is)... just trying to make what works for me, better!

Some of what you've all said has gone straight over my head (being honest) but a lot has been helpful! Lots of you are obviously talented and knowledgeable when it comes to woodworking!
Thanks for all your replies!!! I appreciate it!!

-Judy
 

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Sap bleeding through your work may not ever happen but it can, especially if the picture was ever set somewhere in direct sun. Sometimes warming pine wood gets the juices flowing.

What I said about the equipment that would be necessary is basswood lumber comes in different widths with rough edges from when the boards were cut from a log. The boards would have to be cut to the lengths you need and machine the edges so that they are smooth and straight to glue together. A jointer is used to mill the edges of the wood so they can be glued together. With the boards milled ready to glue you assemble them with carpenters glue laying on two pipe clamps on the bottom and one in the center on top. The clamps pressure the wood together making a good joint. After about 3 hours this time of year the panel will be glued up and ready to take out of the clamps. The face of the wood never lines up perfectly so I normally sand the panel off with a belt sander to make the panel smooth and flat. The belt sander especially in the hands of a beginner will make little dents in the wood that are difficult to impossible to see until finishing is done. If you sand over the panel with a random orbital sander afterwards it will minimize these marks.

I don't think using plywood would cheapen your project. Baltic Birch plywood would be more stable than solid wood for your work. The larger pictures you make the more problems you are going to have with warpage using solid wood. In any case whether you use plywood or solid you should seal the back side of your pictures with some coating. Warpage is normally caused by the moisture from the air getting to one side of a panel more than the other.

I'm not sure where the basswood for art wood comes from either. I know it's a wood that wood carvers and sculptures like but I didn't know it was preferred for other media. I tried it for sculpture before and didn't like it but then at the time I was struggling with getting my chisels sharp enough. Perhaps someday I should try it again. I suggested basswood for your work because of it's tight bland grain. It doesn't have all the grain patterns to cover up with your pens.

 

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My daughter is an artist and often works on wood substrates. The pine boards you buy at Home Depot and lumber yards is construction lumber. It has typically been kiln dried to around 12%. This is high moisture content for work that will be indoors. The result is that the boards can warp, twist, crack and bleed once in a heated environment. She has quite a few pieces that have twisted badly using cheap boards. This lumber comes in different grades with higher prices on the boards that have no or few knots and imperfections. Generally, the surface has a slightly wavy surface from the marks left by a planer which will show and need to be sanded.

When another poster spoke about standard wood panels for artists, some artists use wood panels specifically made for this purpose. Many are plywood but a different plywood than construction plywood. You wouldn't know it was plywood, particularly if framed. With some panels, you only see end grain in a small area around the edge, others are framed with solid wood and you can't see any edge grain. Some of the panels are thick and artists may continue the work around the edges. For longevity and avoiding other issues with solid wood, these are pretty nice for any medium and are ready to use.

http://www.dickblick.com/products/american-easel-wood-painting-panels/
 

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I don't know where you are from. In the midwest at least Aspen is a very white, pretty much grainless, and is readily available at places like Mills Fleet Farm and Menards. Both retailers have glued up panels available so that wider boards are available.
 

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The reason basswood is commonly used, to the point where it is considered a standard practice, is that it has specific qualities you want if you're using solid wood panels as a substrate. Some of them are aspects you mentioned, like a fairly uniform grain. It is also relatively inexpensive, has a hardness that makes it easy to work with yet durable, has a more neutral pH than some other woods, doesn't have the sap issues that pine does ... the list could go on. In terms of its qualities as a substrate for a wide variety of media and techniques it's about as ideal as you're going to get.

If you want the character of the wood to play a more pronounced role in the final work then you aren't going to find a single right answer because you'll need to match various types of wood to various effects you're looking for; in which case you probably need to start with an good reference book and some time for research.
 

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Group think

First off Scrumpet, let me say I love your work. Really nice.

I apologize because I can't answer your question directly but maybe I can add to the 'group think'.

Unless this is some well known art technique covered in books and such, I believe you're going have to experiment with not only the type of wood, but perhaps the surface texture.

What I mean is, you've ruled out hardwoods but I'm wondering what sanding level the surfaces of these hardwoods were brought to. If they were smoothed with a high grit sandpaper (very fine) they can be quite slick and don't even receive stains very well. Perhaps bringing the boards you buy back down to a courser grit would aid your pencils.

Also, if you look at this from a 'painting' perspective, grain bleeding though is more a matter of primer. Have you consider, or have you ever tried, treating the areas where there will be lighter tones with some sort of white pigmented primer treatment first?

That'd be sweet if that was all you need wouldn't it?

Now that I think about it, do you use any sort of initial primer or sealer for your woods?

If I were you (or that talented lol), I'd be lining up several test pieces and trying different treatments and or wood types. Search for the perfect combination (and then keep it all to yourself. lol).
 

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Group think 2.0

I forgot to mention to you that my local hardware store sells an upgraded kilm dried pine with far fewer knots. I'm also looking forward to doing something with that type wood.

Also, if you are sold purely on a soft wood do you know about the Janka hardness rating scale for woods? It might help you develop a list of soft woods to try.

Here's but one link to the scale. http://tinytimbers.com/pdf/chart_janka.pdf

Finally, are you aware that you can buy all sorts of exotic woods online, which might be suitable for the size of the panels you're talking about.
 
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