The following is for your own knowledge and for those do-it-your-selfers.
Cracking and Splitting
Over time, due to the nature of wood, your carving may likely develop splits or cracks. This is not the case with all carvings but is expected to happen from time to time. All projects are carved from different pieces of wood which means each will react differently over time.
As the wood stabilizes to humidity conditions the outer rings often loose moisture quicker than the inner rings, this is why at times you may see cracks develop unexpectedly. This is nothing to fear and only ads to the character of the piece. repairs can be made if necessary.
How to slow down or prevent the cracks from progressing:
The first coat of preservative (stain or paint) soaks into the open wood pores and plugs them. This slows down the drying process and helps to reduce and prevent checking and splitting. Then a clear coat of spar urethane or Varathane (dependent on whether the piece is being placed indoors or outdoors) is applied this helps control excessive moisture intake and loss. This extends the life of the carving.
One thing to remember is that your carving will continue to 'breathe' and release moisture over time and, if left unprotected, will do so more quickly.
Keep your carving slightly elevated off any surface to allow moisture out
through the base. You can do this by placing flat stones or furniture
pads under the carving. The idea is to keep it elevated from the floor
or other surface to allow continuous airflow.
After time, your carving will begin to stabilize its moisture content and cracking will be less of a concern if it is kept in same environment.
If your carvings are placed outside, it is highly recommend that you coat it once a year with a good Spar varnish (ie. Helmsman, or other outdoor spar) to make it last for years to come. You may find that the clear coat will not need re-coating so often but it is good to maintain it anyway at least once ever 2-3 years.
Further preservation and preventative measures:
Annually, you can apply more sealant to the carving - a wood stain
clear coat. It will make the carving shinier, but will improve the
chances of it not splitting. The more coats, the more shine, and the
less chance of splitting.
Placement: Create a breathable surface for your carving to sit on. Avoid placing directly on the grass or soil as this encourages rot due to moisture and mildew. A bed of gravel/stones is ideal...something that won't allow pooling of moisture and lack of airflow. If you bring your carving in for the winter, it is best to put it in a cool shed, or your unheated garage.
Placing a carving in front of or near a fireplace is the perfect rustic setting for some of my carvings, but blazing hot fires might also contribute to a split personality -which may eventually require repairs.
the simplest method to get rid of unsightly cracks is by simply putting
a matching or similar color of wood into the crack. This makes it less visible
and even though the crack is there still it is hardly noticeable and
adds to the character of the piece instead of being an eye sore. Spray
paints work great for this purpose.
If you plan on fixing a crack yourself or want to try to stop it before it gets worse, mix up some very fine saw dust up with wood glue and fill the crack with as much of it as possible. The saw dust helps thicken the glue to keep it from running out of the cracks while the glue itself helps stabilize. You can also try other epoxy glues.
Allow the glue to dry fully, then lightly sand and repaint area. If your carving is natural wood and clear stained you will see this repair much clearly. However, it is possible to find a paint that is similar to the natural wood colors which -even if it's not perfect- should look pretty dang good. Some stores carry a variety of colored wood fillers but glue should be used to fill the crack first to aid with holding the wood together as fillers often don't bond well, they just fill.
*Remember to put a clear finish once it's all fixed to your liking (if carving is always indoors, this is optional).
Nothing of course is better to fix a crack than wood itself. I have found shims and other such thin pieces of wood to work great to fix cracks and prevent further cracking. This requires a bit of glue to all surfaces, fitting, trimming and repainting or staining.
If you have a question feel free to call anytime 506-260-9464