How to Clean Your Wood Carving and Wood Burning Projects

How to Clean Your Wood Carving and Wood Burning Projects

Antique Road Show may call it patina … but I call it dirt!

A.K.A.  The Joys of Murphy Oil Soap

In wood crafting – wood carving and wood burning – patina is the natural color change that any wood surface goes through with age because of oxidation.  This darkens the wood because the iron in the wood begins to rust over time.  A clean, fresh piece of white pine will turn into a deep golden-orange color as its patina develops.

This morning I have been taking photos for my next book with Fox Chapel Publishing and needing a backdrop I grabbed one of my very first relief carvings – a photograph box.   But even before I got it to the photography table I knew that carving desperately needed a good cleaning.  What I am posting is the same procedure that I use of my wood burnings.

Because we display our carvings, handle our carvings, and use many of them on a daily bases our artwork does begin to pick up an ugly layer of common household dirt that both dulls  the surface finish and begins to fill in that fine detail carving that you worked so hard to achieve.

This project was carved in butternut, circa 1995, and used in my first book Classic Carving published by Taunton Press.  Over the twenty years of being used as either a jewelry box or photo box, the lid had become quite dingy.

Note here, this is not some precious 200 year old antique … at least not yet!

I use Murphy’s Oil Soap.  Murphy’s is a concentrated wood cleaner that is safe to use around children and pets. Not only can it be used on raw wood but also over most of your polyurethane or acrylic sealers.  Remember to do a small test on the bottom of your project before you work the carving.

  1.  Dust your work well before you begin.  Use condensed air to clean what you can out of the deep details.
  2. Mix about 1 cap of soap with 1 1/2 cups of warm water.
  3. With a kitchen dish washing brush, work one coat of soapy water over the surface of your carving.  Let the soap mix sit on the wood for a few moments so that it can loosen the dirt.
  4. Gently scrub over your carving or burning with the kitchen brush to lift the dirt.
  5. With a large ox-hair brush, work the puddles of dirt out of the crevices and corners.
  6. Use a clean, lint-free cloth to rub away the dirty soap.  You do not need to or want to rinse your work after you have wiped the wood.  The oil in Murphy’s will refreshes your wood surface.
  7. Repeat if necessary.


After my jewelry box thoroughly dried it was ready to be returned to my dresser as my family photo box.  The shine you see on the box edges and carving curves directly comes from Murphy’s Oil Soap.

 

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