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  • Newbie info

    Hello everyone, I am completely new to wood carving, and I’d like to source my wood locally (and preferably free!).. unfortunately I still have no knowledge about carving so I figured I would ask
    1) so far I’m under the impression that we need to let wood dry out well (if it was freshly fallen)?
    and 2) are any of the following wood types well suited for carving...
    • Red spruce (Picea rubens)
    • White pine (Pinus strobus)
    • Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
    • Red oak (Quercus rubra)
    • Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
    • Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
    • White ash (Fraxinus americana)
    • Eastern larch (Larix laricina)
    those are most of the trees found commonly where I live. Any info on finding/treating/carving found wood will be fantastic, thanks in advance everyone!

  • #2
    You can carve wet or “green” wood it presents some challenges most notably the wood often cracks as it dries.

    None of the woods you have listed would be woods I would recommend. Some are woods that come with health concerns.

    This site provides information on different woods. https://www.wood-database.com/western-larch/

    http://www.loesshillssawmill.com Loess Hills offers reasonable prices and shipping. I would recommend getting some Basswood so you can get off to a good start.

    Now, information I see online indicating you should have Aspen in your area. I frequently carve aspen and have successfully carved it when only partially dry. So if you want local wood go get an Aspen log and get to work.

    This is carved from aspen and my Aspen pile.
    filedata/fetch?id=1196628&d=1616269583&type=thumb
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    This gallery has 1 photos.
    Last edited by Nebraska; 04-01-2021, 08:58 AM.
    Ed
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/HiddenInWood https://www.facebook.com/CentralNebraskaWoodCarvers

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    • #3
      Hello Hex. Welcome to the forum. Click on http://woodcarvingillustrated.com Then click on "How To" you will find alot of information on getting started. Information on safety, woods, tools, and projects.
      We live in the land of the free because of the brave!

      https://www.pinterest.com/carvingbarn0363/

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      • #4
        Hax: you should be able to find Basswood where you live as well. Check with any nearby lumber mills to see if they have cut-off ends of the logs they'll give you. Most of the cut-offs just get chopped into chips...

        Claude
        My FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ClaudesWoodCarving/

        My Pinterest Page: https://www.pinterest.com/cfreaner/

        My ETSY Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudesWoodcarving

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        • #5
          I started out carving "free" wood, but you are smarter than I am in that you are asking others first! You can carve pretty much any kind of wood if you want to bad enough and you have the right tools. That doesn't necessarily mean that you should. Wood somewhat easier to carve when it is green than when it is dry, but easier is a relative term, depending on your skill and tools and the size of the carving. For example, hickory is tough whether green or dry, no matter what tools you use. That's why it makes good ax handles! But it's not a lot of fun to carve and could easily discourage you from carving anything! A lot of evergreen species may have a lot of sticky sap that gets all over you and your tools when green and they may be very splintery when dry. Some wood drys out quickly and develops splits/cracks, especially if the bark is removed. You generally need to paint the ends with a sealer and the let the wood dry one year per inch of thickness. Removing bark can help prevent insect damage, and it is generally better to split larger pieces, so that the pith in the middle can be removed and it can dry quicker. Read up on it a bit and don't let all of this discourage you from trying. Free wood doesn't cost you anything except your time. I still have stacks and sticks of wood that I gathered out in my garage. A lot were for making canes and some were for bases and other things. I carved spoons out of wood from the lumber store. But I discovered that basswood was a lot easier to carve and it generally didn't have any hidden surprises, like knots or inclusions, and it didn't split or crack after I invested a lot of hours in carving it. The last four on your list might be worth trying, but I wouldn't recommend the others so much. Have fun with it!
          'If it wasn't for caffeine, I wouldn't have any personality at all!"

          http://mikepounders.weebly.com/
          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-...61450667252958
          http://centralarkansaswoodcarvers.blogspot.com/

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          • #6
            Welcome to the forum, Hax. When starting out wood carving there are many things to learn, from sharpening to various "techniques." I'd suggest getting some basswood first and learn the preliminary stuff before branching off to various other woods. When I started I wasn't even sure what type of carving I wanted to do and got hooked on caricature carving.

            Lots to learn, so just jump in and get started.
            Bill
            Living among knives and fire.

            http://www.westernwoodartist.com

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            • #7
              All the above advice is sage, especially like Mike's post. I have to cast my vote for starting with basswood, it should be available to you. once you get comfortable carving it ventures to the other wood. Oh, check to see if there is a local carving club. they will be of amazing help, I bet. Looking forward to seeing some of your work.
              . . .JoeB

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              • #8
                Agree with Joe, learn the skill with basswood, then progress with other woods. My first woodcarving bought a cheap bunch of tools and a block of walnut. Got few books...unlike the other arts such as painting and drawing, the books did not talk about the basic skills plus the best woods to use as a beginner. I was chopping on that wood and getting tiny little pieces, so tiny it would take a year or longer to get the shape I was wanting, too hard and no patience all of it got thrown into the corner...I quit wood carving and went on to sculpt in clay.

                Later picked up woodcarving again and learn the basics on this forum, only until I got the skill down was I able to create the form I was shooting for. Older with more patience I picked up wood again,...decided to learn the skill no matter what stood in the way....one thing about wood carving the learning is ongoing. But it is said often a great form of mediation which we can major use these days of a pandemic and government issues. Today I carve exotic hardwoods, each different kind of wood has its own carving issues, hardness, tightness of cells, sap, knots, the direction of grain and patterns, and wet or dry, even where the wood comes from. Good to learn one wood, best easy to carve and move on to the next. After you learned how to sharpen your tools, how to use the tools and gain some skill then expand to other woods if you so desire.

                One thing great about this forum each one of us is different although and you may get ten different opinions....then you just pick the one you think may work for you and try it. If it is not good for you then pick the next opinion. It is all in the process of the learning curve.

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                • #9
                  Hello everyone, thanks again for the replies. I just had another quick question.. I understand most of you guys are telling me to start in basswood, but if I wanted to save a few dollars, I was wondering what the deal is with construction lumber, such as 2x4s or other pressure treated wood... would lumber like that be acceptable to practice some skills on, or would that be a no-no? I’m asking because construction sites almost always have dumpsters with pieces of junk wood, and itd be great to save money while I’m just learning.

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                  • #10
                    OH, you can use that wood, you bet. I've seen some accomplished carver do well with construction lumber, but I still maintain that there should be some basswood in the northern area that you live in. My 2¢, if I were to use construction lumber it would be to whittle not carve, for all the construction lumber I've tried to use, it just splinter and was hard to even attempt to get any detail, again my 2¢. Is there any aspen in your area?
                    . . .JoeB

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                    • #11
                      You are free to start your woodcarving any way your choose, but a common mistake is to save money by starting with cheap tools or cheap wood. These choices will make the learning process much more difficult. For many the difficulties are enough to cause them to quit - "Why would anyone want to carve?" Do whatever will make your first project a success, will make you want to do another project. There is no secret: start with really sharp tools and "forgiving" wood.
                      Last edited by pallin; 04-03-2021, 04:34 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Pressure treated wood is toxic. Made poisonous to resist decay.
                        Don't use that for anything but its intended purpose.

                        You won't come close to replicating what you see others carve unless you use good tools and good wood. Plus, they carve a lot in one single kind of wood. One part of this is "learning the wood." What you can and can't do with your tools, how sharp they have to be, how thick a cut you can make and so on.
                        After a year of steady carving, try a second wood. You will quickly understand how much you learned about wood.

                        Brian T

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                        • #13
                          All good advice. As I mentioned, look for basswood at local lumber mills. Stay away from most pines - the hard/soft/hard/soft of the growth rings make it difficult to achieve much detail. Yes, people carve pine and fir...but until you have really sharp tools and understand the wood, I'd recommend sticking with basswood.

                          Claude
                          My FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ClaudesWoodCarving/

                          My Pinterest Page: https://www.pinterest.com/cfreaner/

                          My ETSY Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudesWoodcarving

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The Pacific Northwest coast is the Western Red Cedar carver's paradise. This is where you learn to carve WRC by carving WRC. I always caution carvers to never fall in love with any carving.
                            We will cook supper over yesterday's wood carvings.

                            You become a Picasso with gluing pieces back on, to be carved again tomorrow.
                            I tell people that I carve FP wood. Fence s.
                            I've bought some 4"x4" that were clear for 12' and straight and 25+ rings per inch.

                            Last night, I spent a couple of hours in the shop and got no real carving done.
                            I messed with crooked knives in "try wood" (try to do your best) for an hour.
                            Then I got out a big strip of WRC and spent an hour with my adzes chipping textured surface.
                            Quite pleased with my progress BUT my LH strikes are still so very different from my RH strikes!

                            Cedar shake blocks are split here. 12" x 8" x 24", maybe 18 kg (40lbs) fresh.
                            Carvers can pick through the stalls. $5.00 each, your choice.
                            I can pick out some split near big knots that put a big wave in the wood grain,
                            great for naturally curved fish bodies.
                            Same mill deal for split rail fence posts 5" x 5" x 64".
                            They still keep the dog houses from blowing away in the wind.

                            Good big wood is so very hard to come by any more that glue-ups have become the norm.

                            Yellow cedar is much the same. Beautiful stuff and still available in 12" x 24" x 96" pieces. Big.

                            Alder for masks is an art all unto itself. I will never start, it's a lifetime of apprenticeship to master.
                            Birch. I guess it's like hard basswood. Sharp tools and it's easy to do good detail.
                            Brian T

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                            • #15
                              Construction wood here is no good ...get that carving roughed and one hit can knock out a section of wood most likely the nose and goodbye nose, or you making a simple eye and you hit another pop-out piece this time it is a big splitter. So you try little hits, that work until you get another knock-out piece. I got pine once that one had sap which was hard as rocks in some places that is super hard to tool... some the wood fuzzed and broke at the edges. It was not my carving skills it was the kind of wood. There are lots of carvable wood some are easy to carve and others are a major learning curve. And the treated wood is poisonous which makes that one a no-go.

                              When I first started carving I tried to save money....not a good choice. As often the cheap tool was not a good tool or a cheap wood or bad wood was often good for the junk woodpile or trash can. Ended up buying better tools, and stop using bad woods. I spent more money, more time wasted, in the end, trying to save a few dollars.
                              Last edited by Dileon; 04-03-2021, 09:24 PM.

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