Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | March 5, 2010

From Wood to Bronze, the Rest of the Story

As the late great George Preppard said… “I love it when a plan comes together.”

This posting is a follow-up to my posting of November 30, 2009, titled From Wood to Bronze.  In my initial posting, you will read about the bronzing process.  It is a lot more complicated than you might think.

As previously mentioned, I had left 5 wood carvings with Parks Bronze in Enterprize, OR for casting.  In roughly 3 months, each had a mold made and were cast and chased.  I am not sure if you have seen a bronze casting prior to patina but upon fist sight, they are a little disappointing…they are simply rough cast and unfinished bronze is nothing like what you see in art galleries.

The purpose this visit to Parks Bronze was to work with the patina artist, Bart, and take the finished product home.  Saying “work with” is being generous to myself… as basically, I was able to give Bart my thoughts but he is an expert and I am quite sure he would have done just fine without me.

Patina, for those that do not know is the color and finish that you see on bronze art.  The patina is created through the use of various chemicals, mostly ending with the word “nitrate,” water and heat and the methods that they are each applied.  A bit of paint can also be added to patina.  Varying combinations result in different finishes and appearances.  Following the patina is laquer and wax.

One appearance that I wanted to ensure remained is the appearance of being a woodcarving.  I was not looking for high gloss or the look that it had been dipped in urethane… no “glitz” here.  One thing that became abundantly clear when I first saw my bronzes is that these guys are good and every little detail shows up in a casting.  I am always harping on making clean cuts but in a New York second, I spotted a few violations to my own creed showing up in the bronze.

Typically, bronze models are originally sculpted in wax.  When I do a wood carving, want it to look like a wood carving.  I like the hand hewn look and I don’t do paint.  I made to a light stain wash but that is the extent of the color.  So, in a bronze reproduction, I am looking for the same sort of look.  One wood that I very much like to carve in is basswood.  It carves wonderfully but it is cream colored and to get any color, I need to add a stain wash.  I do use Howard Feed N Wax which does give it a rich texture and an appearance that I like.  With a bronze reproduction, Bart was able to add color and texture without it looking like paint.  The guy is a true artist!  Of course, he has also been doing it for 14 years.

Another important ingredient to a fine bronze is a fine base.  As this was my first “go” at this, I had put out a few bid requests.  Life is interesting, the base maker that was the most responsive was also priced competitively.   With my fingers crossed I chose The Base Shop in Loveland, CO to make my bases.  I had them shipped directly to the foundry so I kept my fingers crossed that all would be well.  Well, indeed!  The Base Shop did a wonderful job and their customer service is exceptional.  Not to mention, they have a great web site ( which illustrates the full extent of their capabilities.  It also became clear that adding a nice base to a bronze adds a lot to the total sculpture.  In my case I chose a Walnut base with a cap stone of Emerald Green Pearl Granite.  They are beautiful.

About now, you are probably asking yourself “where are the pictures?”  Well, they are coming.  As we speak, my talented daughter is doing a new web site for me and I decided to add the bronze photos as sort of a “grand opening” to my new site.  So, you’ll just have to wait a couple of weeks.

The Wallowa mountains, where Enterprise and Joseph, Oregon are located are beautiful and to cap off a wonderful trip I found a great place to stay.

I love synchronicity and I got to experience a great piece of synchronicity with this trip.  Although, Joseph, OR is pretty quiet this time of the year, I decided that it might be wise to make room reservations in advance.  The last time we stayed here, we stayed in a place that I wished we had not.  This time, in my search, I reviewed a web site for a bed and breakfast in Joseph named The Bronze Antler Bed and Breakfast ( ).  “Great name” I thought and they had a great web site.  The pictures looked enticing and I had seen the home from the outside during our last trip so I made reservations.  When I arrived at the B&B, I was initially greeted by the proprietor, Heather.  A few moments later, Heather’s husband, Bill, walked in and Heather introduced me.  To my surprise, Heather told Bill things about me that I had not told Heather.  Is Heather psychic?… I wondered.  It turns out that last November, early December, Heather had read my first blog posting, From Wood to Bronze and took the time to look over the rest of my web site.  I thought that was a great coincidence.  As an aside, The Bronze Antler is a beautiful Arts and Crafts home and Heather and Bill are the perfect hosts.  I highly recommend it.

Besides picking up my bronzes, I also left 2 more wood carvings for reproductions to be made… another Orca and a North Coast Falcon.  So, I’ll be heading back to Joseph and Enterprise in about 3 months.  The flowers should be popping out of the ground then.

Don’t forget to watch for my new web site in the near future at

Stay sharp and happy carving.


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