Choosing the right one for your project.
WHICH WOODS ARE GREAT FOR CARVING?
The short answer is : you can carve just about any wood! However, each species of wood has it's own set of unique properties, so you will want to choose the right wood for your project.
For carving functional items like spoons and knives which need to stand up to daily use, you will want to choose a hardwood species of wood as they hold up better to long term use and resist picking up food stains.
There are many hardwoods to choose from and they all vary in actual "hardness". The hardest ones can be very difficult to hand carve and may require power tools to work, therefore it's best to choose ones that are on the soft to mid hardness range.
Basswood, Cherry, Chestnut, Ash, Aspen, Poplar, Walnut, Beech, Apple, Pear, Plum are true joys to hand carve. Species like oak, and certain maples are very hard and can be very frustrating to work using hand carving tools.
Project Weekend wood blanks are offered in the following wood varieties:
1) BASSWOOD : BEGINNER LEVEL
Basswood is one of the the softest hardwood species to work with and is a perfect option for beginner carvers. Sharp knives glide through this species as if cutting butter and Basswood finishes to a beautiful and lustrous natural buttercream color.
2) CHERRY : INTERMEDIATE
Cherry wood is a harder species than Basswood and stands up very well to extended use. It has a straight grain and finishes to beautiful rich red and warm reddish brown tones.
3) BLACK WALNUT : INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED
Carving projects with walnut require more time, persistence and patience due to the density and tightness of the wood fibers. But, if you are willing to put in the time, you will reap the rewards. Walnut is prized by woodcarvers for its strength, unique grain patterns and gorgeous rich color.
The trick to carving walnut? Keep your tools sharp!
KILN DRIED WOOD
Kiln-dried wood is wood that has been seasoned and dried in a large oven to remove it's moisture content to reduce the risk of it cracking.
Project Weekend wood blanks are prepared from carefully selected species of kiln dried wood.
The wood is fully dry and the risk of cracking during or after carving is very low. You can purchase and carve your blank in the same day, as no additional drying is required.
Because most of the moisture has been pulled out of the wood, the pores and fibers of the wood have tightly shrunken down requiring more effort from you to carve. Typcially, power tools or specialized hand saws are required to rough out the initial shape of your carving blanks.
SUMMARY: Though a bit more effort to carve, the trick to working with kiln dried wood is to keep your tools sharp and to make small cuts.
For tougher-to-carve hardwoods, soaking the wood briefly in water or spraying it with a mixture of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol will make for a more enjoyable carving experience. The moisture will loosen and soften the outer fibers allowing your tools to carve more easily.
GREEN WOOD : AIR DRIED
Green Wood is wood that has just recently been taken down from a live tree. This means the wood still has sap and moisture locked inside and is considered "wet".
Pro: The high level of moisture in green wood is what makes carving it so enjoyable and is much softer to carve than kiln dried wood, allowing your tools to make butter smooth cuts throughout the fibers. The added bonus, you don't need to have power tools to shape your spoon carving blanks, a carving axe is perfect for this job.
Green Wood can be free! You can collect it by walking your city streets after a wind storm, or talking to city parks gardening staff or local hydro crews to find out when they will be trimming or taking down trees, or call fruit farmers during pruning season, (takes place early spring, late fall). These are all excellent sources for you to get your hands on some free wood.
Con: You have to prep your Green Wood before it's ready to carve into a project. You can't carve it right away as the moisture content of fresh green wood is so high that once you remove the bark some varieties of wood can be soaking wet. Plus, the sap can be a real sticky mess to deal with.
Therefore, you must partially air dry your green wood before you can begin carving. Depending on the species of wood and thickness, this could take a couple of weeks, months, or sometimes years as the pieces must dry slowly in a sheltered location, out of the sun and with good airflow. If they dry too quickly, the fibers will shrink at a too rapid pace causing your beautiful wood piece to crack.
Summary: Carving with green wood is an absolute joy but choosing it for your projects requires careful planning, prepping and dry time before you can begin your project.
If you have the time (and the storage space) to carve with Green Wood, there are numerous articles & resources online to learn how to properly work with it.