Making a Driftwood Sculpture

By Bruce Johnson

Leigh Ann and I slipped away for a few days to celebrate a “milestone” birthday along the Carolina coastline, which we nearly had to ourselves. While Leigh Ann picked up seashells, I scoured the beach for a unique piece of driftwood to bring back as a souvenir of our vacation. But then, a few days later, I posed the same question you might have asked — “What can I do with it now?” One possibility:  make an artistic sculpture out of it. Take a look!The first step is to let your driftwood dry out, preferably outside, just in case any small insects had come along with it. If you do find any bugs, simply place the driftwood into a plastic bag, spray in an insecticide, taking care not to spray it directly on the wood where it might leave a stain. Then seal the fumes inside the bag, and leave it sealed overnight.

Once the wood was dry and free of any insects, I used a stiff bristle brush to clean off any sand, dirt, and loose wood fibers.

For a more dramatic effect, you can scrub it with a wire bristle brush to remove the softer wood fibers between the harder growth rings.

To seal the porous wood, yet not make it look artificial, I prefer to mist it lightly with an aerosol can of  Minwax® Clear Lacquer. You can continue to spray additional coats until you achieve the precise look you want, ranging from very natural to a high-gloss finish.

To give your driftwood sculpture that professional gallery look, use a piece of scrap wood to make a base for it. Since our focus is the natural, light grain of the driftwood, I prefer to stain the base black for contrast using a convenient tube of water based Minwax® “Onyx” Express Color Wiping Stain & Finish.

The one-step Express Color™ still allows the grain of the wood to show slightly as I wipe off the excess stain, and also provides a protective finish at the same time.

The last step in our sculpture is to drill a small hole in both the finished base and the underside of the driftwood, using a finish nail as the mounting post.

And when you’re all done, you’ll have more than just some photos on your computer as a reminder of your latest vacation. And what I thought was going to be in my office, Leigh Ann has snagged for herself – but I took that as a compliment!

Until next time,

Thanks for stopping by!

Bruce

 

 

About Bruce Johnson

Author-craftsman Bruce Johnson has introduced millions of do-it-yourselfers, craftspeople and antique collectors to the world of wood finishing and antique restoration. As the official spokesperson for Minwax®, the leading manufacturer of wood finishing and wood care products, Bruce motivates people to take the initiative to beautify their surroundings. Through his many books, magazine articles and columns, as well as frequent appearances on national television talk shows, Johnson is recognized as an authority in the do-it-yourself community. Appearing on PBS, HGTV, The Discovery Channel, and currently hosting “DIY Woodworking” and “Build A Log Cabin”, on the DIY cable network, Johnson has brought the illustrious craft of wood finishing to the forefront of the American home. An expert in wood refinishing, antique restoration, and home improvement, Bruce has published more than a dozen books on these topics, including Fifty Simple Ways To Save Your House, The Wood Finisher, The Weekend Refinisher, and The Official Identification and Price Guide to the Arts and Crafts Movement. For more than 20-years, he penned an antique refinishing advice column, "Knock on Wood," which ran in dozens of antique/collectibles publications. Currently, he writes a column on Arts & Crafts for Style 1900 magazine. A rare combination of craftsman and journalist, Johnson began his career as a high school English teacher, but left teaching to set up his "Knock on Wood Antique Repair & Restoration" shop. He spent the next 10 years as a full-time professional refinisher, but eventually returned to writing. Yet, Johnson says, he won't ever be without a workbench and a couple of refinishing projects down in the basement. Johnson is also the founder and director of the Arts and Crafts Conference and Antique Show held every February in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Grove Park Inn. The conference, which includes the largest Arts and Crafts antiques show, attracts more than 1500 Arts and Crafts collectors each year to its many seminars, tours, demonstrations and exhibits. Johnson is proud to have played a role in reviving interest in designers like Gustav Stickley, who founded the Arts and Crafts movement. His latest book, “Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture,” was awarded the 2009 Thomas Wolfe Literary Award. These furnishings are treasured by such collectors as Steven Spielberg and Bruce Willis, among many others.

11 comments on “Making a Driftwood Sculpture

  1. Loren

    hello! I just love minwax and I have been using it forever. It always gives me the shade I want and can’t live without it. I have many project on my blog using minwax. Coming over from SNAP.

    Reply
  2. Trisha D.

    Stopping over from the Snap! Conference. I’m Trisha D. and I blog at Black and White Obsession about remodeling our dated home, adventurous DIY projects, unique craft projects and more!! We’ve used Minwax for many, many projects with nearly flawless results!!

    My MIL and I are working on a HUGE livingroom overhaul which includes a few Driftwood pieces. We had no idea where to start, so thank you for providing these exceptional tips!!

    Reply
  3. Aimee

    What a unique idea! We don’t have driftwood here in Utah, but we do have a lot of other interesting finds that could work for something like this.

    Oh, by the way, we met at SNAP last year. We were at the fun dinner table the first night. :) Glad to know you will be coming back again this year too.

    Reply
  4. Marissa Huntsman

    Hi Bruce! I’m Marissa and I just love this little tutorial on driftwood sculpture!

    Reply
  5. Samantha @ Five Heart Home

    This is gorgeous, Bruce! I inherited some driftwood pieces from my dad and this would be a great way to display them. :)

    And thank you for being a sponsor for SNAP Conference this year…looking forward to my first time attending!

    Reply
  6. Kathleen @ Fearlessly Creative Mammas

    Hi! I’m Kathleen and SNAP introduced me to your blog. I love going to the beach, even though I live in freezing cold Idaho. I really love the way this driftwood turned out. We always collect things like this and rocks on our trips, but I never do anything with them. This is a great way to display them. Thanks for the idea.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      Thanks for reading, Kathleen. Good luck with displaying your collections. Those are always fun projects to complete. Hope to see you at SNAP next month!

      Reply
  7. Lourine

    Hi I just baught a beaityful driftwood sculpture from our local nursary by chance. It has a carving of a old man on it and I would love to know if the product you refering to would protect it from rain as I intend to incorporate it in a bonsai.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      Since you’re going to be using it outdoors, Lourine, I would recommend you apply a couple of coats of Minwax Helmsman Teak Oil. I suspect that the wood is very dry so you may need to apply two or three coats, according to the directions on the can. I must warn you however, driftwood always seems to be very light in color from being bleached out by the sun, so when you apply any oil to it it may darken considerably. If you’re not sure whether or not you will like that, be sure to do a test spot on the underside where it won’t show before coating the entire piece. Good luck!

      Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *