Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sig's Eagle

I don't get to do a lot of carving, and when I do it's often a simple decorative surface treatment on a new piece of work. This particular job was different. Sig brought me an antique carved eagle that had been in his family for several generations; it had large parts of its wings and feathers missing, and the arrows clutched in its powerful talons were broken. It looked to have been gessoed and gilded in an earlier life, but most of that was gone now, as were several coats of paint, revealing old, dark, oiled pine underneath. Sig's directive: replace the missing sections and fix the broken spots so they look like they've never been missing or broken. Simple enough.

When I work on anything I think might be valuable, I like to get an opinion as to what I can do to it without affecting that value. My friend Barbara, who has an antiques appraisal business, told me as long as what I did was reversible, I could do what I pleased. With that as my stepping off point, I used hide glue to attach sugar pine blocks to the missing sections, and I got out my carving tools.

The carving was fun: as long as the tools were sharp, the pine carved easily and crisply. Matching the old finish took a bit of doing: multiple coats of dyes and acrylic colors built up in glazes, combined with a bit of orange shellac. The good news is you really can't tell what's old and what's new, and I'm not going to tell either.


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