Back the early eighties I was sculpting in many mediums to see what I would like vs what I didn’t like. I didn’t like fiberglass. I loved carving wood. I was getting educated in going from clay to bronze and at the time enjoyed the process.

The people at Modern Art Foundry in New York were very good and giving as they taught me how to chase and patina my pieces. I got pretty good at it… which brings up this story.

As you may know, adding various patinas to bronze is done by a combination of heat and chemistry. I began to wonder what would happen to a piece of wood sculpture if similar chemistry, in this case iron oxide, and heat with a blow torch were added to the surface of a piece of maple.

The first few attempts proved that the process would indeed change the surface of the wood but the trick was learning how to apply the heat so the wood wouldn’t burn. There was a very narrow window where I could get enough heat for the chemistry to work but one step beyond that and I’d be getting smoke and scorching.

Eventually I got the touch and timing of what I was trying to do and I began to use it on some smaller pieces .  As I expected a piece of maple would take on a beautiful dark brown color. What I didn’t expect was the chemical result would completely seal the wood with a hard shinny coat that didn’t even need waxing. The piece no longer looked like wood at all.

I sent this piece to New York for a juried show and received a merit award for coming up with something totally new in wood sculpture. It has been in my own permanent collection since then.

Abstract sculpture in maple with heat and chemicl treatment

C-3 Maple w/patina 25″x22″x12″

If you want to try it be my guest but practice on scrap until you get the hang of it, The process is touchy. Mix the iron oxide in water. Brush the solution onto the sculpture. With a constantly moving torch go over the piece applying heat… just enough heat . Too little it won’t work. Too much and you’ll have a piece of burnt wood.  Have fun.

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