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Carving Argentine Osage Orange

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  • Carving Argentine Osage Orange

    (editted to correct my 'Osage Orange' to 'Argentine Osage Orange' - thanks)

    You may recall a previous thread I started about Yellowheart and color change. I started a 3-balls-in-a-cage doodad project with what I thought was yellowheart but which actually was Argentine Osage Orange (AOO). I decided to start a new thread on my feelings about AOO after finishing that project.


    AOO is quite hard. I definitely do not recommend it for chip carving. I could manage only very thin shavings except at the beginning when I used a #7 3/8" gouge to hog out some of the waste wood. But I had trouble with that gouge digging into the grain (see below).

    AOO has long, strong, fibers but the interfiber strength is relatively weak. This means your blade will very easily go between the fibers instead of where you want it to go, thus splitting instead of cutting. Even with a very sharp blade and even if not really cutting right into the grain.

    And here is the kicker. AOO has alternating layers about 1/8" thick where the grain reverses direction. The photo below is the cutoff stub from my 3-ball project. The vendor put a thin coat of was on the outer surfaces and this allows us to see the grain. Note the arrows indicating grain direction.

    All this means that I was able to carve the three balls in my project without too much problem as long as I was ultra careful in a few spots where I could see I would get tearout or splitting. But the bars of the cage were a nightmare. I just needed to dress up those surfaces to plane out the mill marks. I couldn't get do it without major ugliness. That should have been the easiest part of the project. I finally gave up with my attempts at shaving those surfaces with a knife and just sanded all the outer surfaces with 150, then 320, rounding the edges to avoid splinters and snags. I didn't want to do that, preferring the hand shaved look.

    So I really really would not recommend the wood for any relief type carving.

    I can see why the Native Americans preferred this wood for bows. The strong fibers with weaker interfiber filling should make this wood behave just like fiberglass - flexible and strong.

    I'll do a thread with a before and after on the project tomorrow. OO-raw-2.jpg
    Last edited by honketyhank; 02-22-2017, 11:26 AM.

  • #2
    That is different than the American Osage Orange, it is Argentine Osage Orange with a Janka hardness of 2380, American Osage Orange is more yellow and has a Janka hardness of 2760, Compare that to basswood Janka hardness of 410.


    • #3
      Thanks, dogcatcher. If the gringo stuff is like the Argentine stuff but harder, I'll say 'no thanks' on the next project.


      • #4
        The layered grain will test your sanity, like carving a slab of burl. Maybe power carving.


        • #5
          I've run into situations like this in the past and have reverted to carving cross grain to get past the area. If your tools are sharp, it might work. The last project was done in Mesquite which is about as hard as the AOO. Try it, you might find that it works OK