Large Bellamy Eagle–Finishing Up


I’ve decided to finish the eagle in gold leaf. The smoother the surface the better with gold leaf. But I really don’t want to do any sanding and lose the crispness of the carving. So the first thing I did was to dye the wood with a water based dye. The water raises the grain. Once dry I go over it lightly with a red scotch pad to get rid of the whiskers and make it smooth again. As you can see, basswood does not take stain or dye well. I stained it in case I decide to age it. Any worn away paint or gold won’t have bright, clean, new looking wood showing through. 

After scuffing the raised grain with a scuff pad I seal the wood with varnish. This will keep the wood from sucking up the gilding size, or glue, causing the gold not to stick. Once dry, I’ll use a scuff pad to get rid of the gloss for the next step.


This is the final coating before the sizing goes on. This is a burnishing sealer. Once dry it can be lightly sanded very smooth and polished, or burnished, with a soft cloth or brush. This smooth finish will help the gold leaf to shine more and have less of a matte finish. This is a very thin and light coat. I’ll scuff this when it’s dry and apply another thin coat. After that is dry I’ll lightly sand it smooth with some 600 grit sandpaper and polish it with a cloth. Then I’ll apply the sizing over that smooth surface. The glue will set up with a shine and help to make the gold shine as much as possible. As soon as my gold is delivered I’ll get started.


Here is what it looks like with the sizing or glue. It’s actually just slow drying varnish. Notice how shiny it is. The smooth, shiny surface helps make the gold look more brilliant.


The carving started as a 48″ x 30″ blank of basswood. This is what was removed to created the eagle. Probably more than half of the wood was wasted. There are ways of gluing up the blanks with less waste, but that requires many more glue joints, all of which will someday (at least 100 years with today’s glues) fail. This is 2″ thick wood. I use the cut offs to make heads for the smaller eagles. 


Here is the eagle finished. It took about $200 worth of gold leaf. Because I used basswood, this eagle will never be hung up outside. Because of that I used acrylic paints, which dry flat. A little burnishing with some furniture wax gives it a nice soft shine. There will be no aging done to this one. It looks too nice like this.


And here it is hanging on my kitchen wall. That is, until someone buys it. It’s big and impressive. 


And another view from the distance. A link to purchase the pattern is below. If you’re interested in buying the eagle, visit my store for eagles.


Big Bellamy: Pattern


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I first saw this eagle at an exhibition of John Bellamy’s work. It is large and impressive. I’ve wanted to carve one ever since, but haven’t had the time. I finally got some free time. Here is the pattern. It measures 30″ tall, 48″ wide and 4″ thick. 


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edward flores
3 years ago

dear sir , is the red burnishing sealer , water base , or oil base ? thankyou