Ostrich Skin Technique

Whack wood with a ball peen hammer, then wet it, and the dimples turn into pimples. Who knew? Only the ancient Chinese until now. December 31, 2012

Question
I have a long time client asking if I can replicate this finish on parts of a display cabinet I am building for them. The product info on this lamp example says that the artist "pulls" wood up with an "ancient Chinese technique". It is then painted and buffed to expose the high points of wood that were pulled up. Giving it a faux ostrich skin look. I am wondering how you actually pull the bumps out of the wood? I understand the finishing process but I am looking for the technique that makes the bumps.


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Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
One technique is to dimple the wood. Do it gently enough so that no fibers break, you are just locally compressing fibers. You can buy steel domed punches at Harbor Freight for metal working. Then remove the surface of the wood until it is nearly flush with the bottom of the dimples. Now wet the wood so that the compressed fibers swell. You now have pimples. I watched a video of Frank Klaus do that to make a water tight sharpening box. He tapped a wire into the edge of the wood, jointed the edge till flush with the bottom of the compressed wood, and then nailed the box together. The wood swelled when the water hit is so he basically made a wood o-ring.



From the original questioner:
I used a ball and peen hammer to dent, planed till flush, applied hot water to surface, and then with a cloth laid over the piece I used an iron to steam out the dents.