Now that you have made your vary own wood carving, you are probably wondering how long they last? After all, wood can decompose and rot given enough time and conditions.
Wood carvings can last anywhere between a few decades to several lifetimes or more depending on how they were treated and where they are stored. They can easily last several decades outside if out of direct sunlight and are regularly treated and sealed. They can last almost indefinitely indoors and the wood sealed.
There are many different ways to protect your wood carvings. Most of the time you don’t even have to apply a wood sealer for them to last if you are storing them indoors and away from direct sunlight or damage.
If the wood carving is being stored outdoors, it would be ideal to place it in a spot that is away from direct sunlight, stored on something that promotes water drainage like a rock, and is using an outdoor varnish rated for UV protection.
The biggest issues you may face for keeping your wood carvings intact over the years will be wood rot, bug damage, and UV damage. But there are many ways to protect your wood carving from harm.
Ways to Care For and Protect Your Wood Carvings
Caring for your wood carving is easy to do and in most cases, just require the perfect place to store it.
The best ways to make sure you can protect your smaller wood carvings is to store them in a cool, dry place like a bookshelf or a china cabinet that is out of direct sunlight or curious hands. This will make sure they aren’t disturbed by the suns UV rays, moisture, or direct damage from mishandling.
As an extra measure, you can apply a wood finish to your wood carving to seal the wood away from the elements and add a protective layer to protect the wood from direct damage.
Some of my favorite wood finishes are all natural versions like Tung Oil and Bees Wax as they are easy enough to apply and dry to provide a protective layer that allows the wood grain to show through. Plus, these finishes enhances the color of the wood and makes them look vibrant.
Beeswax Wood Finishes
If you want an easy to apply wood finish that is non toxic and food safe, check out Interstate Woodworks Beeswax Wood Finish and Polish. It is made of just beeswax and mineral oil plus is super easy to apply. You can pick up your own jar for a great price on Amazon by clicking here.
Beeswax wood finish pastes are very easy to apply, all you need is a soft cloth, scoop a small amount of the finish into the rag (start with the size of a dime) and just rub it in. Allow the finish to dry for 10 to 20 minutes and it will be ready to handle!
Once dry, you can buff the finish to a smooth and shiny gloss, making your work of art stand out and allow the wood grain to show their true colors. This option is perfect for beginners and hobbyists.
The only downside is that this finish is not very heat resistant. If the sculpture is allowed to sit in the sun or in a warm space, the beeswax will start to get soft and tacky. Just keep the sculpture in a cool location out of direct sunlight and you wont have any problems.
Tung Oil Finishes
Another great food safe option is using all natural Tung Oil to protect your wood carvings. Unlike many other oils, tung oil will naturally harden and create a protective layer on the wood.
The only downside is that tung oil takes between 3 to 7 days to fully dry and it is recommended to add 3 to 5 layers to create a good protective layer to the wood.
Even with the longer drying time, tung oil is one of the best options for an all natural protective coat that is food safe when fully dried. The one I like the most is made by WoodRiver as it is 100% pure filtered tung oil with no extra processing. You can pick up some on Amazon by clicking here.
Danish Oil Wood Finishes
Finally, one of my favorite wood finishes that provides the wood with a great protective layer and drys faster than Tung Oil is using Danish Oil. Most varieties are all natural and once dry provide a non toxic finish (read the product packaging).
The danish oil that I have been using for a while and really like is Watco Danish Oil and it comes in different colors. It is super easy to apply and only takes 4 to 8 hours to dry. Sometimes I add two layers for extra protection. You can pick some up on Amazon for a great price by clicking here.
Danish oil easily penetrates the wood and hardens to create a non peeling protective layer that is resistant to chipping and water. All you need to do is apply a thin layer to the wood and let sit for 5 minutes. Then rub the oil into the wood with a soft cloth until the surface is dry and let dry for 4 to 8 hours.
Some variants of danish oil are non toxic and safe for food surfaces and utensils when fully dried. Watco states that once dry, their danish oil is food safe.
Caring for and Weatherproofing Outdoor Wood Carvings
Caring for an outdoor wood sculpture requires some extra thought as you will be battling the elements, insects, and direct sunlight that when all combined, can quickly deteriorate your work of art.
The best way to protect your outdoor wood carvings is to place them in a shaded area away from direct sunlight, set them on top of a stone or other object that promotes water drainage, and seal with a quality UV protective varnish.
I have used regular UV protective varnishes to great effect for outdoor wooden benches and sculptures, but the one that most people find to be most effective are marine grade spar varnishes. These are typically more durable than regular varnishes and provide a great UV protective layer to keep your sculpture from deteriorating.
The easiest way I have found to apply the varnish is to first brush off any wood chips or dust from the carving and then wipe down the sculpture with the matching solvent to the brand of varnish.
Once the varnish has dried off, you will want to combine some thinner and your chosen varnish (read the product label for combination and product recommendations) and apply the varnish mixture with a rag to the sculpture.
Most Durable wood for Outdoor Carvings
While no wood is completely rot-proof, there are several varieties that are very rot resistant and are easy to carve. While many of these types of wood can withstand the brutal outdoor environments for years, it is still best to seal them and keep them treated regularly to extend their life.
In order for wood to rot, the wood needs to have a moisture content between 20-30%, the air needs to contain at least 20% oxegen, and the outdoor temperature needs to be within 70 to 80 degrees F. Most places that people live will experience all three of these conditions in various times of the year, making some times of the year (like summer) more prone to wood rot than others.
Here are some great options for woodcarvers who want to make outdoor carvings. Most of these will have a lot of sapwood and high amounts of extractives (like resin and terpenes).
Black walnut is a beautiful wood medium to work with and is quite durable to decay, but can have problems with insects. It can be a little difficult to work with and is recommended to use sharp tools and a mallet.
The wood is quite heavy and stiff, allowing you to continuously chip away with a chisel and mallet, but it can be a more expensive option.
Cedar (Spanish and Western Red)
Cedar woods are well known for their rot resistance and aromatic scent, making them quite popular for woodworking. They naturally repel bugs and last for a long time outdoors untreated.
The wood is easy enough to work with, but has a high chance to split along the grain when working on it. This can be frustrating to some and pose a significant challenge to others.
Cypress is a very durable wood and has decent decay resistance. While it is primarily used for indoor woodwork, you can use them outside and it is recommended to coat them for best results.
One popular option to carving cypress is carving the cypress knees themselves. They produce a beautiful carving but do require you to use very sharp tools for best results.
Mahogony is a great option for wood carvers and due to its density, allows the wood to resist wood rot and insects quite well.
The wood is relatively easy to cut and is a popular option for its coloration and fine wood grain. It does have a tendency to split along the grain if you aren’t careful, so take small cuts if you are experiencing problems.