Monday, January 16, 2017

Wood Rustification with Iron Acetate

Make New Wood Look Old

I see the word "rustic" all over the internet with regards to woodworking and other wood related crafts and this is my attempt at making wood look rustic. I decided I wanted to make new wood look old, partly because it is cheaper than reclaimed lumber and partly because I can control the aging process. I followed this blog exactly and these are my results and thoughts on the process. This blog goes into more detail about the vinegar stain and how it affects specific wood. Here is a cool blog that goes into using different vinegar mixes. So many choices! Apple cider vinegar gives a nice reddish tone when applied after black tea.

Take the time to watch this video and the companion video for some background on iron acetate and how it works on wood. He's a handful but full of knowledge and the bit at the end of the companion video about adding food coloring is a pretty cool effect. I learned that adding tea to the wood added tannins, which increase the effect the iron acetate has on the wood. Softer woods, like the cheap pine I used from Home Depot, are low in tannins and don't react much with the iron acetate. Does red wine work? Maybe for the next experiment. ;)

The Supplies

Steel wool
White vinegar
Jars - I used old pasta jars but anything that can hold boiling water works
Wood - I used pine scraps but use whatever you want to stain!

The Process

A word of caution, I stumbled across this blog about exploding jar full of steel wool and vinegar saying that this mixture produces iron acetate, which gives you the stain color, heat, due to the oxidation of the metal, and HYDROGEN GAS!! Leave the lid off and be careful, we all remember what happens when you mix hydrogen and heat in a closed container. My jar made a slight hissing noise when I took the lid off after an hour, meaning the gas was already building!

Wash the steel wool with soap and water to remove the rust protection on the steel, we want it to rust! Let that sit for a day or two uncovered, stirring occasionally. Also brew your tea if you will use it, it can sit for a day with the tea bags in it, just don't drink it due to the bacteria that might be growing. I painted the tea on the wood for three coats while the iron acetate brewed, letting it dry for at least an hour each time. I then painted one coat of the iron acetate on half of the wood after the acetate brewed for one day and did the other half after two days.

Coming from a CG background, I was always taught to consider the story behind an object when adding texture. I wanted to make something that resembled something actually reclaimed, I'm used to seeing old fences and barns that look like they are about to fall over. The iron acetate technique is great for adding color, but I wanted to add more character. I experimented with adding nail holes, screw holes and chiseling out chunks of the wood to simulate wear and tear. I even left a nail in the board to synthesize a memory of the carpenter bending a nail and leaving it in the wood. If you want it to look old, then put it through some hardship!

The Results

Before my test

After the test. Just tea and a wire brush

Finished product!

Success! My table suffered a beating :( but it was worth it! The bottom half of the piece was done with a single coat of tea and the top was done with three. The right half got a double coat of iron acetate, while the left got a single coat. At first glance, the single coat of tea had a large impact on the final color but I think that was because I didn't shake up the iron acetate before applying so less iron was transferred to the wood. The second coat of iron acetate did have a big affect though. The rusted nail and screw also turned out well. The added nail holes look authentic, the screw holes also work and have some cool tear out. The chisel holes look cool but unmotivated, maybe that can be used more skillfully next time?


Next time, I would like to try different teas and different vinegar. Apple cider vinegar could have a cool amber look and the chamomile tea isn't too heavy in tannins, so a black tea would have a different effect. I'm interested in whether the color of the tea has a large effect or just the tannin content - the color of the tea didn't stick around much once it dried. The vinegar solution did a great job of darkening the low points around the nail and other holes.

USE A DROP CLOTH! My table can be planed and sanded, but next time I will definitely cover my precious table.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Foam carved ruins for Bernie

An adventure in Foam Carving

Meet Bernie the Beardie! She was my buddy for close to 4 years, until she tragically caught a cold and never recovered. At this point she was strong and healthy, and she needed a private and dark place to sleep and a sunny spot to hang out during the day. Her current situation was ok, but I wanted to make something better and more customized than she had.

The Supplies

Styrofoam block, you can get them from Amazon boxes or buy them in large blocks.
Styrofoam cutter, a thin stick that can cut small things or do designs.
Styrofoam carving kit, the wire foam cutter was by far the most helpful tool I used.
Woodburning tool, this worked pretty well but can get too hot for styrofoam.
Silicone sealant and pump, available at any hardware store.
Paint, got some for $1/tube at a crafts store. Americana is cheap and works great.
    Black (x2), light grey and dark grey. Feel free to get other colors!
Tile grout, gives a nice texture to the foam.
Respirator and goggles, also a well ventilated space! Outdoors preferred. 
Work gloves for the silicone, they will be sticky and covered in silicone afterward.

The Design

I did some research on DIY reptile decorations and decided I wanted to try my hand at making something resembling the crumbling ruins of a stone structure. See the Amon Hen picture below for the kind of look I was going for. Amon Hen was the place in the Lord of The Rings (Fellowship) where Aragorn fights off the Orcs. The set always appealed to me and I thought it was a cool looking place to house a dragon. Being my first foam carving project, I decided to design something that simpler but still kept some portion of the reference.

I started the drawings in Photoshop, then moved to Maya for the 3D modeling. I worked back and forth between both applications to come up with a basic design. I then drew life size versions of the design drawings to help me cut the styrofoam correctly. These worked perfectly and gave me a reference while I cut the foam.

Top view on the left and a view of the long side on the right

Not the best, but it helped me figure out the shape in 3D space.

The Process

I followed this blog post almost exactly, except for the painting step. I also used hot foam carving tools rather than saws and knives. I'm not sure it made a huge difference, but I got some good detail out of it. Be careful with the styrofoam cutter, those things are easy to break and styrofoam is stronger than you think it is. I also bought a styrofoam carving kit that included a hot wire tool, that thing was awesome! It was kind of like the table saw styrofoam world in that it would tear through styrofoam but couldn't do detail or go backwards. The last tool I bought was a woodburning tool, which is basically a soldering iron with changeable heads.

Cut out the basic shape and hot glued the pieces together.

Bernie loves to supervise.

A look at the structure with the columns and cave.

Carving tools worked! I was able to make a cliff and semi-believable eroded rock.

Covered in tile grout and painted black all over, eventually.

I followed that with a few passes of dry brushed dark grey and light grey. 
Follow with a coat of silicone.

Success! It look likes rock! How awesome is that?

Final Thoughts

So much fun! I could have done without the green paint (added after the above picture was taken), it doesn't look much like moss. I'm not pleased with the sturdiness of the silicone and the styrofoam. It was pretty easy to peel apart and expose the chunks of styrofoam for the eating. Next time I need to spend more time melting the outside of the foam to make a hard casing and also find a more solid way to coat paint. It didn't help that the silicone wasn't applied flat, so Bernie could grab those pieces and pull.

I'm pretty impressed for how well it turned out. The foam is relatively cheap, as well as the paint, and the tools will last forever. Easily a repeatable project!

Coasters for a White Elephant Gift

Texan Tree Bark Coasters

My family did a White Elephant for Christmas gifts this year and someone jokingly asked for coasters. Little did she know that I would actually do it! We are almost all from Texas, so I thought a Texas outline with the Texan flag would be a nice touch.

This is a continuation of my Woodburning Series.



Tree bark coasters - Etsy link
  •  Would've done this if I had trees nearby
Wood burning tool - this
Mod Podge to seal the final product -  this
Image to transfer - I used photoshop but any printed image works.

Photo editing in Photoshop

Don't forget to flip the image!

I started with an outline of Texas that I found on Google. I then put a Texas flag inside the outline and masked it with the outline. I thought the blue and red would look weird, or at least not as cool as brown so I went for a different color scheme than usual. I decided on Aggie Maroon for the blue and Longhorn Burnt Orange for the red. This works perfect for the family because we have Aggies and Longhorns! I flipped the image and copied it until 8 filled the page, save those trees!


Test complete!
The transfer worked pretty well, even with the color shift to a more yellow hue. The transfer wasn't perfect but I knew that was because of the changes in the wood's surface, which would not be an issue with the coasters.

Not too bad!
Transfer all 4 and that's most of the work! I decided against doing double-sided, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I knew I would freak if both sides didn't match up perfectly when you flip them. I calmed myself down by looking at all the coasters I own and realizing that they ALL have a top side to them. I did a double coat of modge podge on the top and sides with a single coat on the bottom. I doubt these will see much spillage, but they are protected if they do. Danish oil was something I considered, but I thought the stain would take away from the colors I had chosen. 

It's hard to tell, but the white parts of the image don't get any ink so they let 100% of the wood through. Pretty cool if you ask me! So just make sure you don't leave spots on the image that are almost white next to pure white, that would look blotchy.

Final Thoughts

The transfers were pretty fast for the coasters, about 20 minutes or so a piece. The color came out nice and matches wood color pretty well. A more brown town might have been offputting and the full saturation of the colors from my photo editing would have been too much. Now I know to expect the color of the wood to mix with the ink from the paper!

I learned that leaving a bit of paper on the edges that contain no ink is a great idea. It makes it easier to lift the paper without having to scratch at the coaster once the paper is stuck to the coaster. With wood this flat, you can easily leave scratch marks that are visible from an angle where the light is being reflected. I think the best approach is to have extra strips of paper that you place under these outside areas so that when the whole image is stuck to the paper you can just lift up from the corners. Also, only lift up half the paper at once! I had the paper come off entirely before and it takes some time to make sure you are perfectly lined up again.

The coasters were $19 with shipping, which is not at all a bad price! Most white elephants have a limit of $20 or so, so this is a perfect fit. I think one side of the coasters was slightly flatter than the other, most likely due to the bevel on the saw blade. It wasn't a huge change but something to keep in mind for the next round.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Photo Transfer for Skippy

Photo Transfer Success!

I set out to do a photo transfer to give to my girlfriend in memoriam of her pet that she had to put to sleep. I knew it had to be done well and kept secret until it was finished. This is a continuation of my Woodburning Series.



Wood to transfer image to - used this - $3 with a coupon!
Wood burning tool - this
Mod Podge to seal the final product -  this
Image to transfer - I used photoshop but any printed image works.


Photo creeping on Facebook

Snuck around on Facebook until I found a good pic of the dog :)


Photo editing in Photoshop

Took the original image into Photoshop, cutout the shape of the dog that I wanted and went to town with filters. I added an edge detection filter to bring out the outlines, helps with a wooden piece like this and adds a nice look to the hair. Then I did some work with the color levels to make it more monochromatic and saturated.


Test the transfer process!

Laying out the test prints
Displaying 20161217_212648.jpg
Tests complete!

I did 4 tests to see whether I wanted to use the wood burning method or mod podge method. I decided on wood burning because I wanted to see the wood underneath the image. It also made the image feel more like a part of the wood. I also tested whether I wanted color, black and white or a grayscale image. I went with color since the dark black was not a nice look. I even tested a coat of shellac, man was that NOT the way to go or what?


Give it a whirl!

Finished product!
The process was pretty easy, especially with the perfectly flat surface I was working with. 


Final Thoughts

The perfectly machined wood from Michael's made a HUGE impact on the speed and quality of the work. I realized that I spent so much time trying to transfer the test images on to a bumpy piece of wood, but I basically transferred all I could transfer in the first few minutes. The flat tip of the wood burning tool doesn't go into the crevices of the wood and it leaves gaps. One could use a different tip if the bumpy wood was desired, it would just take more time and attention. I made the mistake of sanding the wood and I think that caused the lines in the face. :( Oh well, at least it wasn't too bad.

The paper moved midway through! AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! I was impatient and kept lifting the paper to check on the progress. Once I got below the eyes, the paper lifted completely off the wood! Luckily I found some unique spots on the ears that I could line up perfectly. Lesson learned, have patience and keep that paper stuck at all costs! I probably should have started going from the other direction midway through.

I didn't actually intend to use the basswood with bark, but it worked out better than my initial idea! I wanted an oval version of this, but they didn't have anything in the right size. Luckily, I left with the basswood and the bark actually really accentuates the colors in the printout!