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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When staining basswood--I use a water base conditioner. I have tried several other options but the water base conditioner gives me the most consistent and even color. The only drawback is I sometimes get warping from the conditioner. The pieces I am staining are carved--usually on one side. (flat pieces not in the round) And what I think is happening is that because of so much end grain being exposed (from the carving), that the conditioner soaks in so much more on the carved side of it. I have a nearly 36" piece (boards glued together) that is carved on one side only, and am concerned that it will warp or possibly split. My thoughts are to clamp it after applying conditioner and let it sit for a few days. (I could pre condition small areas where the clamps will be so that area is cured) I am wondering if I should run a fan over the carved area to help it dry quicker and equally (because it has absorbed more) to the uncarved side. Logically that seems like a good idea, ( however I have been bit in the butt before by ideas that seemed good at the time) so I certainly would welcome any advise or thoughts. Thanks
 

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I do carving too so I know exactly where you are coming from. When you carve one side of a board you end up weaking one side of the board and the pressures from the other side overpower the carved side and the carved side cups. If you have enough thickness between the background and the back of the panel it would help if you could make some relief cuts on the back side with a fluting router bit. It's like when they make molding, they put a molding profile on one side but they make some cuts on the back side to help prevent warpage. If there isn't enough wood you need to try to dry the wood on the back side and get a finish on it to seal it so it doesn't absorbe moisture from the air and swell. To dry the wood you might set the panel in a sunny location back side up. If you could get it to bow backwards before the finishing that would be great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the input Steve and cabinetman. Do you think my plan of putting wb conditioner on both sides at the same time then clamping and putting a fan directed at the carved side is a good idea? ( Again my reasoning for putting fan on carved side is to help it dry more equal to the uncarved side, as the carved side is going to absorb so much more.) Or should I put water based conditioner on carved side and water only on back side and for the first couple days of drying occasionally wipe water on back side, then after maybe two days put water base conditioner on back side? That way I could keep adding moisture to the back side before putting on wood conditioner. I am thinking that if I put conditioner on first and then add additional coats of water that I may dilute the conditioner? Steve---glad to hear from a fellow woodcarver--you undoubtedly experienced the problems of so much exposed end grain and the problems it causes. Nothing worse than spending all the time carving something and then screw it up finishing it. I heat my home with wood, but don't seem to get any more heat from designer firewood than regular firewood! Again thanks Steve and cabinetman for your input.
 

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Thanks for the input Steve and cabinetman. Do you think my plan of putting wb conditioner on both sides at the same time then clamping and putting a fan directed at the carved side is a good idea? ( Again my reasoning for putting fan on carved side is to help it dry more equal to the uncarved side, as the carved side is going to absorb so much more.) Or should I put water based conditioner on carved side and water only on back side and for the first couple days of drying occasionally wipe water on back side, then after maybe two days put water base conditioner on back side? That way I could keep adding moisture to the back side before putting on wood conditioner. I am thinking that if I put conditioner on first and then add additional coats of water that I may dilute the conditioner? Steve---glad to hear from a fellow woodcarver--you undoubtedly experienced the problems of so much exposed end grain and the problems it causes. Nothing worse than spending all the time carving something and then screw it up finishing it. I heat my home with wood, but don't seem to get any more heat from designer firewood than regular firewood! Again thanks Steve and cabinetman for your input.
The last thing you want to do is put the conditioner on the back side. The side with the carving on it is weaker than the back side and if you moisturize the back with the conditioner it will put pressure on the board to cup toward the face side. It wouldn't hurt to clamp it flat and put a fan on it but I would put sticks under it so air could circulate around it. Then once you get it stained I would put a finish on both sides but try not to put a wet coat on the back. If you have the means of spraying, spray the back with light coats.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks Steve I should have known that because sometimes a carving will warp just because of the carving and was always told to lay it face down when not carving it and it always came back to normal by doing that. Yeah I planned on elevating it so air could circulate all around it. With your help I am starting to feel a lot more confident that the finish part of it wont be the downfall of the project.
 

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Do you think my plan of putting wb conditioner on both sides at the same time then clamping and putting a fan directed at the carved side is a good idea? ( Again my reasoning for putting fan on carved side is to help it dry more equal to the uncarved side, as the carved side is going to absorb so much more.) Or should I put water based conditioner on carved side and water only on back side and for the first couple days of drying occasionally wipe water on back side, then after maybe two days put water base conditioner on back side? That way I could keep adding moisture to the back side before putting on wood conditioner. I am thinking that if I put conditioner on first and then add additional coats of water that I may dilute the conditioner?
Showing what your piece is may help determine how to treat it. Posting a picture would make what we are talking about more easily understood. Most of my carving is done in softwoods. Some are made to be visible from both sides, so if anything was done for a conditioner to one side, it was done to the other. You might also try a non waterbase conditioner/sealer.

I wouldn't recommend doing any flash drying techniques. We can think that there is some degree of predictability on what wood will do. Maintaining some degree of balance far outweighs the methods of correction. When we think we have succeeded, and temporarily we may have, the wood can return to a state of its choice.

The pictures below are of two of my carvings done in soft woods. The relief is deep. No conditioner was used, and the panel remained stable.
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46822d1340802576t-art-woodcarving-lost-art-2mo1irk.jpg
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46821d1340802479t-art-woodcarving-lost-art-28iz1n5.jpg






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What would help more than anything to prevent warpage of your relief carving is to put the panel in some kind of frame. It doesn't have to be a panel like this door. It could be as simple as a picture frame. The panel will tend to warp with the crown being on the back side without something to hold it straight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Really nice work Steve and Cabinetman . Below is picture of my attempt at carving this "project". It is 36" in diameter and after carving about a third of the way around it , it seemed as though it was 36 feet in diameter!! :laughing: Have a ways to go yet, but on the downhill side for sure. As you guys can tell there is a quite a bit of carving and time involved with this, hence my concerns about doing everything possible to not screw it up finishing it. Hope the picture helps. Don't know why two pictures posted of it, but on original reply it only showed one, but on preview post it showed two but wouldn't let me delete one?
 

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Bill Judd is a professional relief/sign carver who works a lot in glue-ups. His standard trick is the make every joint 5 degrees, cupped towards the back side. They all flatten out by the time they're finished.

I'm not sure that making fret cuts in the back side will help much but reduce the tension that would prevent or resist cupping to the front side. . . . since all that will be carved up.

Chip carving doesn't have such large areas of deep, relieved wood so I'd expect no changes.
 
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