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Seeking Advice - How picky are you with defects? Typical sizes sought after?

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  • Seeking Advice - How picky are you with defects? Typical sizes sought after?

    Hello all,

    We are currently producing thousands of board feet of basswood carving blocks, and have a question regarding defects in the wood. As you probably well know, knots, cracks, wane, and streaks are often unavoidable after basswood logs have been sawed and kiln dried. Now that we are in the final production stage of creating these blocks, we are wondering how picky we need to be with eliminating all of this from our blocks. We hate to waste wood, but I understand that certain defects greatly decrease the carvability of the wood. We have eliminated the majority of the defects throughout the production process, but are still left with some stragglers now that we are chopping them to their final lengths. See the pictures below. Almost all of the defects are found at the ends, edges, or corners of the block, which will likely be carved off anyways, correct? Will any streaks in the wood get covered up with paint in most cases? I've actually heard that some carvers enjoy some wane "bark" toward the edges of the blocks because the grain toward the edge of the log carves nicely. I'm sure many of this depends on the carver and the project, but we are seeking a "general rule of thumb" answer.

    Also, what are some common sizes sought after for basswood blocks? We are currently doing 6, 12, 18, and 24 inch lengths at various thicknesses and widths. Any suggestions?

    Thank you so much in advance. We truly value your input, because without it, we wouldn't be able to produce the quality products you desire, and would be doing this blindly.

    Happy carving!!

    -Janish Woodworks, Inc
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    Last edited by janishwoodworks; 05-22-2018, 12:14 PM.

  • #2
    Many basswood carvers are doing caricatures that will be painted in final form, but some of us prefer natural finishes. Personally, I carve large reliefs which usually require glue-ups, so defects can be placed in unimportant areas or avoided. If you are selling online, it would be ethical to state to possibility of defects. If selling in person at shows, etc. the buyer can select the blocks.

    I agree with your desire to maximize the uses of cut logs.


    • #3
      Thank you for the feedback! I agree that we should state the possibility of defects. The other thought we had was selling defected blocks by the pound at a reduced cost at our retail store so people can pick through them. Anything to keep from wasting precious wood haha.

      Any thoughts on sizing we should offer?


      • #4
        I don't hesitate to buy defective wood pieces by the pound when I can pick through it.
        Might be a project that pops up in my head and I'm holding the perfect piece.
        Maybe there's a knot that I can ignore or easily work around for a carving.
        Maybe the flow of curved grain around a big knot is a fish body.

        All in all, I'm inclined to buy bigger(?) pieces, knowing that I will cut them down for most of my needs.
        Birch: 6/4 x 8" x 4', 6' or 8'.
        Yellow Cedar: 3" x 6" x 72"
        Western Red Cedar: 24" x 12" x 8" shake blocks, 5"x 5" x 64" posts. 3.5" x 3.5" x 8' or 10' fence posts, 24" lengths of hollow log 4-6" walls.

        If I had to, I'd be looking for much the same in basswood.
        Brian T


        • #5
          Robson Valley, thank you for your input! Do you believe that most carvers have the capabilities of cutting down their carving stock to the desired length like you do? Or do you think offering them cut to standard shorter lengths would be desirable for many? Sounds like maybe we need to offer a little of both, but don't want to spread ourselves too thin. Thank you in advance


          • #6
            I tend to buy my stock in 12" lengths then cut them down to the size I need and this usually gives me at least 2 caricatures per piece of wood. I would be willing to buy the defective stock by the pound or some other discount but I'd be very unhappy if I got a piece with a knot that was in a location that I couldn't use after paying full price. I usually don't mind any streaks that may be in the wood and just consider that character.


            • #7
              I buy my basswood from a distributor in the city ( Halifax N.S. ), so I only make one purchase a year. Never really sure what I will be carving for the next 365 days, so I buy large pieces. Usually 3" x 7" x 10 or 12 ft long and in a rough sawn form.
              I think most carvers who buy blocks like you show in your pictures perhaps have bandsaws to start with so they will be able to layout their carving and cut around the blemishes shown in your pictures. The only one that would give me any concern would be #3 ( and even that one would work for most of what I carve) . Just be honest and up-front with folks and you shouldn't have any problems.
              my .02 cents (canadian) worth
              If you're looking for me, you'll find me in a pile of wood chips somewhere...


              • #8
                I prefer larger blocks a well, something like 4" x 8" x 48" is a good workable size. That way I can cut a 6" piece for a couple of birds, or a 24" piece for a gracefully curving fish. I can easily cut to length, but not so easy to go the other way. I try not to do glue-ups since that leaves a line when cutting across it. As far as blemishes go, I could work around the ones you show, but price should reflect net usable wood. In the cases shown, I would probably cut out the blemished part rather than try to figure out how to work around it (unless it was to be a feature of the finished piece).



                • #9
                  Zero defects, no color and straight grain only
                  Buffalo Bif


                  • #10
                    Soggy: pennies are gone. We have to say "It's our 5 cents worth."

                    Janish: Sorry but I have no ready answer for you. Lots of carvers buy bandsaw rough outs. Lots of carvers work in hand-sized pieces.
                    I have no sense of who is prepared to resaw and who isn't. Maybe wait and trawl for a week's opinions.

                    Everybody should talk about sizes, too.
                    Brian T


                    • #11
                      I buy smaller size because of storage restrictions. A 24" piece for me would be max. Most of what I do is 2" thick, but up to 6" would be nice. So you see, we all have different needs. Maybe cut to order would be easier? Blemishes no problem here.


                      • #12
                        I don't do basswood, so maybe I should just sit back down. But you gave me the mic, so here goes.

                        Buying online or from a catalog, I would prefer to have the choice of defect-free. I would not buy something known to have a defect unless I had a specific project in mind, could examine the piece, and then make a judgement that I could 'carve out' the defect. The problem is that you (vendor) need to make a marketing decision as to what you call a 'second' and how bad it has to be to be called a 'third' or 'fourth' or 'stovewood'. Then you have to make those guidelines and descriptions clear to the potential buyer.

                        Speaking of 'seconds' and 'stovewood', here is a shot of my favorite mandolin builder. Check out what's in his fireplace.
                        BWebers Stovewood.jpg

                        HonketyHank toot toot


                        • #13
                          I expect blemish free when ordering online, but will buy pieces with blemishes at a reduced price upon inspection if they are suitable to my style. You will have to offer sites from 1x1 up to at least 4x4 to compete with other online vendors and to meet the needs of most carvers. I would go with 12,18 and 24 inch lengths, but reserve some uncut logs for special orders and cut as requested.


                          • #14
                            If I'm picking it out and the price is good, then I don't mind a defect or two. But if I'm ordering good quality wood online and paying for good quality wood and shipping, then I feel a little cheated when I get a piece with a visible defect. If I get two pieces like that, then I will buy elsewhere. I would offer 6 and 12" lengths in different widths and thicknesses, with custom sizes available, cut to customer specifications. All that I have bought has been planed to size, but I probably woulbn't mind if it was rough cut. And most of what I have ordered has been actual a 1x8 12 inches long really measures one inch thick and eight inches wide, rather than 3/4 x 7 1/2". Hope this helps!
                            'If it wasn't for caffeine, I wouldn't have any personality at all!"



                            • #15
                              I used to purchase defective pieces of basswood from Smoky Mountain Woodcarvers. They kept a box of all their waste pieces next to their wood display. I agree with Mike. If I'm paying full price and then run into a slew of defects then I wont go back to that source. In fact, this happened to me the one and only time I purchased basswood at Woodcraft. However, if I'm buying wood at a reduced price and know ahead of time of the risks I'm willing to work around whatever the defect is. I'm more of a whittler than a carver and prefer 1" x 1" x 12"; 1-1/2" x , 1-1/2" x 12" ; 2" x 2' x 12", and 2" x 3" x 12".