My current illustration work is now finished and I have been able to complete the 'Birds Lovespoon' commenced earlier. This spoon has been carved from a single piece of New South Wales Rosewood. The completed carving was finished with a product called 'Shellawax Cream', which is some sort of emulsion of shellac and wax. Shellawax is really meant for use on turned articles where the rotating work provides the friction necessary to bring up the polish.
Shellawax was probably not the best choice in this particular case however as I was not able to rub the work heavily or vigorously enough for the polish to work as intended without risking a breakage. My intention was to use an artists oil paint and turps glaze to accentuate the modelling of the forms and I thought the thin sealing layer of shellac would make it easier to adjust the effects of the glaze without permanent staining of the timber. As the finishing progressed with the Shellawax and I struggled to get an absolutely smooth finish, it became evident that the rosewood was taking a polish and colour that would not need the effects of the glaze after all and so I left the timber in its natural colour. A final polish with 'EEE' polish, which is a wax and tripoli powder mixture was the final polish on the work meant to smooth out any tiny irregularities on the surface of the carving.
The New South Wales Rosewood was a very responsive timber to carve, it held detail well but was a little dry and brittle in texture. It had a definite weakness where there was any short grain and there were some tricky sections where a degree of tear-out would occur regardless of cutting direction and scraping tended to pull out the fibres rather than produce fine shavings as you'd expect. However the colour alone makes this timber a handsome choice.
I have been told that the cross grain weakness that I experienced is very much reduced when the timber comes from the butt log or especially any subterranean root timber. I have also been told that the same is the case with Australian Cedar. I have found some Cedar that I have, to be a very woolly timber difficult to carve with any detail and difficult to to bring to a fine finish. Apparently Australian Cedar varies greatly according to the growing conditions the size of the tree and the location in the cut log. I have an opportunity to get some cedar that I am told will be at least as good for carving as the New South Wales Rosewood I have used.