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What is the best wood for carving?

Discussion in 'Wood Carving & Turning' started by JRay, Feb 26, 2007.

  1. JRay

    JRay New Member

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    I once made an attempt to carve an eagle out of elm, and I didn't get back to it for a couple months and found it to be cracking, therefore I never finished it. Is a certain species better than others. Thanks,
     
  2. Husky137

    Husky137 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I supply hemlock and white pine to a local carver. I don't know if that is because it is good for carving, or because its cheap. She makes some cool stuff out of it though.
     
  3. John Paul Sanborn

    John Paul Sanborn Above average climber

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    It depends on what you are doing with it, if carving wet, then a dryer wood is better, since it will move less.

    If you are going to carve dry blocks then soft, straight grained woods like basswood and butternut. They are very forgiving and easy to use. Basswood is a favorite for painted carvings like decoys. Very boring grain though, sorta like plain vanilla.
     
  4. sawyerDave

    sawyerDave ArboristSite Operative

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    Carving wood

    Almost any wood can be carved. A favorite around here is catalpa.:clap: :clap:
     
  5. timberwolf

    timberwolf Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Butternut is pretty, but tends to fuzz a little unless tools are sharp, cedar can be nice too but does split easy.

    One thing to prevent cracking to tp put the finished work in the freezer for a couple months after working. The moisture is drawn out evenly and cracking and warping is limited.
     
  6. John Paul Sanborn

    John Paul Sanborn Above average climber

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    For turning greenwood blanks I will double bag in paper grocery bags and place them in a cool place, like the basement or garage floor. They dry sloser, so the wood moves less.

    Don't know if it will work for fine cravings, but maybe if it's a roughed blank?
     
  7. Adkpk

    Adkpk Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I just got done sanding some hemlock floors. I noticed it was very splintery. I also have some slabs drying in the yard and it is checking a lot. I don't see how that would be good for carving.
     
  8. buzz sawyer

    buzz sawyer Addicted to ArboristSite

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    You took the words out of my mouth! Catalpa is a great carving and turning wood - interesting grain and VERY stable - very little shrinkage in any direction. I find it about as hard as basswood and not quite as hard as sassafrass. You would think the coarse grain would have hard and soft rings, but it's really pretty consistent.
     
  9. crowboy

    crowboy ArboristSite Lurker

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    The best carving wood is FREE wood! Cracking is a part of the deal when using whole logs. Put a kerf down the back to relieve some of the stress of drying. Also keep your carving away from heat sources,put a plastic garbage bag over it and turn it inside out every day so it won't get moldy. You can varnish it if you're not going to get to it for a while, then just carve it again. Basically, the slower it dries, the less it will crack.
     
  10. Fordman99

    Fordman99 ArboristSite Member

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    dumb ?...sorry!!!

    sorry guys, just seen a few responses from the north east,(Md.,W.V.) what is "Catalpa" wood? i've never heard of it??...(From southern PA.)
     
  11. buzz sawyer

    buzz sawyer Addicted to ArboristSite

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    It's sometimes called catawba or "stogie tree". It's easily recognized by the long slender seed pods in late Summer and Fall.
     
  12. lumberjackchef

    lumberjackchef Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Here is a link that will show some pics of the two major catalpa species:

    http://www.treehelp.com/trees/catalpa/catalpa-types.asp
     
  13. BIG JAKE

    BIG JAKE AboristSite Guru

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    Got a good chuckle out of "stogie tree". :popcorn: Wonder what made 'em think of that?
     
  14. Zac

    Zac ArboristSite Lurker

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    A work buddy of mine says that American elm is the best for carving, but you need to put some type of oil or varnish on it immidiately after carving.
     
  15. buzz sawyer

    buzz sawyer Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Never tried elm. It has an interesting grain - seems like it would be tough to carve. Now that I think about it, I think Peter Toth carved a large one in Wheeling about 30 years ago. I don't recall if he used chainsaws or not. I know he did a lot with chisels and gouges.
     
  16. twoclones

    twoclones ArboristSite Operative

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    Elm Carving

    I have carved elm but it sure would be low on my list of favorites. Cedar, spruce and sycamore are all very good carving woods. Both of these pics are carved from the same elm stump. http://www.woodhacker.com/stumps.html
     
  17. andysheffield

    andysheffield New Member

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    Over here (UK) Laburnum is sought after, nice contrast between the dark brown heartwood and light sapwood makes for some funky carvings.
     
  18. carvinmark

    carvinmark Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I like woods that have a contrast, as long as they aren't too hard to carve.
     

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