Please recommend a cheap and non-rotting medium for carvings and/or lanterns
November 25, 2011 8:19 AM   Subscribe

What is a good medium for carving lanterns that is cheap, durable and non-flammable?

I have a friend who is very talented when it comes to carving and he's looking for a cheap and durable material that he can work with. Something that doesn't rot within a short period of time is preferred.
posted by h00py to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Marky at 9:00 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Soapstone is the best material i can think of for what you're talking about, but probably isn't as cheap as you'd like.

I can't really think of anything else that fits the bill that would have the translucency that I think you're looking for.
posted by cmoj at 9:05 AM on November 25, 2011

He could make the basic shape in clay, carve it when it's leather-hard (very easy), then fire it.
Porcelain would be translucent.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:21 AM on November 25, 2011

Be warned - soapstone is a term that describes a number of geological entities, some of which are as translucent as your average concrete block. So if your friend wants to go that route, they probably need to have the material in hand to decide if this is what they want to go with. Carving soapstone is very different from carving organic materials, so your friend's talents may not directly apply.

Looking at their work, they ought to consider chip carving in basswood. No, you can't illuminate it from behind with fire, but it's a worthwhile medium that might respond well to their technique.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:25 AM on November 25, 2011

At craft stores, you can get artificial pumpkins designed for carving. They're supposed to behave like real pumpkins, but they don't rot and are lightweight.
posted by freshwater at 9:36 AM on November 25, 2011

posted by jamjam at 9:40 AM on November 25, 2011

Hypertufa. Japanese lantern.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:24 PM on November 25, 2011

Soapstone is actually one specific thing: a rock made of compressed talc. However, stores can and will call other things soapstone if they feel like it. Something that might work, although I don't know how cheap it is, is alabaster. Alabaster is a rock form of gypsum, with the same low hardness as soapstone. It can be translucent when thin enough.
posted by Gneisskate at 4:38 PM on November 25, 2011

Aerated concrete
posted by Tom-B at 6:19 PM on November 25, 2011

I don't know what the international union of pure and applied geology (or whoever is in charge of such things) says, I just know I've encountered some widely different species all labeled soapstone. Right now my stock is two 60 bound blocks that I got (from Lee Valley) which are quite opaque and quite different from massive talc, but they carve alright and suit my purposes.

If you really want translucent, make sure you can look at it before you buy it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:03 AM on November 26, 2011

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