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Basswood Outside?

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  • Basswood Outside?

    I keep hearing that basswood is not good for exterior use, but it seems to me that if it is protected by spar varnish, and that is renewed every few years, it would seem logical that the finish would take the punishment of the weather rather than the wood. Everything I see appears to be hearsay, not first hand knowledge based on pieces exposed over an extended period. I personally don't know either way. Is there any fact based, first hand knowledge, here on the forum?
    Last edited by Arthur C.; 04-09-2021, 01:33 PM. Reason: Typo

  • #2
    It is fair to say that any wood or wood finish will change over time. The change will be accelerated if exposed to direct sunlight or weather. My oldest carving that includes basswood was done about 50 years ago. Is has not been outdoors, but was protected with spar varnish. More recently I scraped away much of the spar varnish because it had yellowed. The basswood was unchanged from when I carved it in the 1970's.
    I have many reliefs carved in basswood from Heinecke Wood Products. While none has seen exterior use, there is no sign of cracking, warping, rotting, or color change.


    • #3
      Pacific Northwest First Nations philosophy is that wood (western red cedar) is like people.
      Outdoors (which is where we belong) the wood ages over time, eventually to be returned to earth.
      I attached 8 of my carvings (the animal family) to fence posts some years ago. Every day, I watch them age like I do.

      Even if it takes awhile to get used to the idea, I think it has great value. Welded and CNC carved aluminum might last a long time but wood has more to say.
      ANIMAL FAMILY 005.jpg
      Brian T


      • #4

        I know there are companies who use basswood for canoe paddles shafts so I’m guessing you could be on to something.

        Now growing up my Dad and Uncle Bob built a canvas skinned canoe and each made their own wooden paddle. Three generations of both families used the canoe and paddles to explore, fish and occasional gig frogs. I mention this because Dad and Uncle Bob on multiple occasions would repeat the same conversation concerning the finish they choose for their paddles. Uncle Bob choose to use an oil finish Dad used a marine grade varnish. So when Uncle Bob would need to reapply oil to his paddle every few years Dad gave him a hard time to which the response was well it takes but a few minutes. When Dad need to refinish his and spent hours sanding and a trip to the store because the varnish had dried in the can, Uncle Bob returned the favor.

        My vicarious experience would say you have two choices a polymerizing oil that will require some regular reapplication or a marine grade varnish that will last longer but will require more work when maintenance is needed.

        I have seen tung oil sold that is called marine grade tung oil. I have no idea how it differs from pure tung oil but just a final thought.

        Last edited by Nebraska; 04-10-2021, 08:58 AM.
        Local club