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Wood

A traditional and ancient material used for paintings, encaustic being no exception. Compared to other supports, wood offers ease as well as many options in framing (unlike paper). There are choices to consider when picking the right type of wood for your painting. Take care in this process and remember to always use sustainable and eco-friendly material (see fsc) and recycle. Below you can find some suggestions on how and what to pick.

Dimensional lumber: this product expands and contracts across the grain, not with the grain; the amount of expansion depends on how much moisture the wood is retaining. Cracking and checking can and will occur over time. Warping and twisting of the wood is possible; however, this does not always happen- particularly with quarter-sawn lumber. A good example of how dimensional lumber will effect encaustic is to look at the fayum portraits. This information is not to discourage you from working on this traditional material, yet only serves as cautionary advice.

Plywood: depending on the quality and the amount of plies, is the most economical and stable choice for encaustic. Eight to ten ply is suggested; the fewer the plies, the more likelihood of warping and twisting. Plywood has a long history of being structurally sound; woodworkers have been using it for centuries. Plywood also provides a large surface area free of inclusions. You should choose a high grade material such as birch, maple, or oak; in most instances the inner ply(s) are of a differing species than the veneer. I personally choose this product, not only for the above mentioned higher qualities, but the ease in cutting and framing.

Masonite, MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard), Particle Board, Oriented Strand Board and Other Composites: this material is not recommended for finished works. This type of material is often structurally sound and resists warping and twisting, which make them great for beginners or samples, but not for quality work. The problem within the structure of the material; it is constructed from particles (sawdust, wood chips, etc.), held together by industrial glues, sometimes containing such chemicals- like formaldehyde (generally speaking). In some cases the product is easily effected by heat. The products composite also make the material more susceptible to fire; burning much faster than dimensional lumber and even quality plywood. Some might argue and feel safe with some or all of the above material, but the choice is yours to make; this is only a suggestion and references non-specific commercial lumber/masonite/MDF/etc.

NOTE: This does not include commercially produced artist boards or hardboards- merely non specific masonite and hardboard panels purchased from construction and hardware/lumber suppliers that, without specific knowledge on these products, it is hard to know what is suitable for encaustic or artist panels.

Size, Thickness, Cradled or Not Cradled: it is important to choose a good piece of wood, clear of defects, warping, etc; proper dimension is in addition to type. Cradled panels offer visual depth but only serve the purpose of supporting thin material. A cradled panel is useful when working portable and large scale to reduce weight. High grade 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick plywood is sufficient with works smaller than two feet. When building your own, paintings less than a foot which are built cradled, often only waste material as well as time and effort. You can also choose, instead of cradled panels, to frame your work for a substantial look; framing also protects the fragile edges and supports the entirety of the piece.

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---------------------------------------{ A Note to Readers }---------------------------------------




Revisiting old topics and filling in holes is quite a chore, yet a necessary one, one that will offer more quality information. For example: recent activity and questions surrounding hardboard and/or masonite, has directed our attention to fill in the blanks on that topic (currently under revision/addition), as well as, more about gesso (specifically encaustic gesso) and other topics (search the tabs), all are in the works. 

Prior years were to get as much general information as possible up and available- a starting point. More and more however, new topics are focused and detailed, and old ones will be getting revisiting; removing any possibility of confusion. 

I should point out that this is a one person operation (takes me awhile to get around to everything, ohh yeah, I should make some art), Anyway, where was I?, oh! one person operation..., even though I tend to refer in posts and topics as we, it is to remove the need to revisit things later when it really is we. All of this whilst working, making art, and whatever may be the case.

As always, I welcome any opinions, comments, and questions- simply contact me.

Thank you
Sincerely
Jonathan Parks