Black walnut sculpture left profile

An Abstract Piece in Black Walnut

Here are a few photos of my latest piece, Enfold. I love the sheen of the wood. I’ll admit that it was achieved through a lot of trial-and-error, and plain old hard work.

After Enfold was professionally mounted onto its base and returned to my studio, I felt unhappy with the finish. The natural imperfections in the wood seemed to detract, rather than enhance, the appearance of the piece. I wanted a more “clean” finish — the forms of Enfold seemed to call for it. After applying Danish oil, then sanding the oil off, applying wax, sanding that off, and applying another coat of wax (hours and hours of effort!), I’d finally removed many of the surface flaws. Then I was ready to burnish.

My mentor Lorrie had taught me to burnish with a metal spoon, and that’s what I’ve done with all my previous wood pieces. Enfold was different — I wanted to burnish the entire surface. I could see that I’d be 150 years old by the time I finished covering the entire area using the spoon, so I turned to the Internet. In this article from Kitchen Cabinet Kings, I got the idea of using some of the black walnut pieces that I’d saved when I first began the piece. I always save scraps at the beginning of a wood carving, in case I need them later to fill in cracks. Well!… The burnishing process sped up exponentially, and in less than two hours Enfold had a natural shine that I was finally happy with.

One of the things I love about sculpture is that I’m always learning!

Closeup of hand burnishing wood Black walnut wood scraps

Black walnut sculpture right profile Black walnut sculpture detail

About the author

Learn about Carol Griffin's background and view her abstract figurative sculptures and still life drawings.