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Market stand, questions for working w Balsa wood

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Decided to put together a little farmstand scene for a basing project. Split pieces of balsa wood to give a rough lumber approach, now I'm considering how to do painting/sealing on it, as I have minimal experience w Balsa. 



Want to keep all that little wood grain that popped up when I split them visible. Going to paint it slightly darker with acrylic browns, and then some slightly darker spots and lighter drybrush highlights to accentuate the grain. 

Should I gesso, or stain the balsa before working on it?
Can I just work straight on it and seal it with a varnish afterwards?


Any balsa wood experience/suggestions appreciated.

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My experience is that after working it I sealed with typical mini sealer. Little loose slivers would lift from the wood near straight out and I would have to sand them down or cut them off. Some I couldn't really get to. I found that was because the sealer was too diluted, so I recommend you lay it on heavy or thick, don't thin it unless you can sand it after. My sealer seemed to darken the wood too. Maybe try a test peice and see how responds to your materials. I also recommend sealing it before painting it, the wood absorbs a lot of paint and it is very unpredictable how this occurs so some grain might become more pronounced than an area right beside it. Sealing it before painting should prevent that and let you get the colors on the wood just the way you want. The rougher the wood the worse the effect is. But if you're looking for a worn, used look, you might like that effect. Cut edges take the paint pretty well compared to the long face boards so keep that in mind.

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1 hour ago, Sanael said:

I would think some thinned brown liner and a big brush would do the trick.


Regardless, you need a sign: "the doctor is in" (and of course, the 5¢ tag)

The stall you are looking for is around the corner and across the children's play field. Honestly I'm not so sure that treatment is worth the 5¢, but to each their own. 

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Played around with some scrap last night, liked the results I got from priming w black gesso and layering browns over that. Still need to paint the base and design on the signs portion. Also have some sculpting to do for the wares that will fill the shop. Lots to do. 


The two unfinished planks are boards I was using to test materials on. 


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15 hours ago, Mad Jack said:


 I like the way that came out.


I've also had mostly good results staining wood with tea or coffee before sealing it.



May try coffee/tea on another project. 


For now I'm building out the stuff to fill the space. Will update in another week or two w progress. 

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