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Always a new challege

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  • Always a new challege

    I've started a new carving on a piece of basswood. The growth rings fun nearly flat to the carving surface, with only the slightest curvature, plus the fact that there is on 7 of them per inch of width.
    It is hard to get the detail I would like. I've tried wetting it with alcohol/water, and power carving. still giving fits. Not going to give up, but it will be interesting to see how it ends.

    Just had to vent some frustration
    . . .JoeB

  • #2
    Yup. Ring count. Anything less in cedar than maybe 12/inch is junk. I look for 20+.
    Might be straight-grained and flawless, really pretty, it's still no more than a fence board.

    The deal is that the wood cells formed early in the season (aka 'spring wood')
    will never, ever have the wall strength to withstand the crushing physics of a knife cut.

    Sorry, JP, it's junk.
    Brian T

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    • #3
      Not giving up just yet
      . . .JoeB

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      • #4
        I agree. I think that it's well worth while to mess with less than ideal wood for the experience.
        You learn with every cut and that helps in years to come. Quality varies. What a surprise!
        If ultra soft was a premium, we would all get no further than balsa.

        I haven't complained about bad wood for a decade when I finally learned what to look for.
        I kept the junk. I made soft splitting wedges from it. Support blocks in clamped glue-ups.

        Like I keep saying, ad nauseum, watch the ring count and save a dollar.

        In a botany histology/microscopy lab, we infiltrated the ultrasoft plant specimens with hard waxes.
        That, we could cut at 15-20 micron sheets to make microscope slides. The hard wax was a good enough support for what we did. (I made more than 3,000 microscope slides. I was quite good at it.)
        Brian T

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        • #5


          MOST Enlightening!

          It appears that I have not been properly considering basswood ring count and the grain direction effect on the carvability of my projects.

          Can someone tell me what ring count in ‘basswood’ is considered poor? good? best?

          Also, is it correct to orient the rings from front to back for figures or from top to bottom for relief carving (rings flat to the carving surface)? Any reason NOT to orient this way?

          Most of my basswood is Northern Minnesota Basswood, winter cut, air dried to a low moisture content (12%-15%), then kiln dried for stability from Arrowhead Wood Products and I think it may be ‘plain sawn’ as shown below.



          While I have not encountered any big problems, I have occasionally encountered a difficult soft spot when attempting very fine detail where even a super sharp narrow tip would not make a clean cut. Is this the result of ring count and or spring growth?

          I have surfed the net and not been able to find the answers to the above questions but did find information that Brian T provided for red cedar. Assuming that cedar is different from basswood I would appreciate any help.

          John

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          • #6
            I buy large shake blocks and posts of western red cedar directly from a local mill.
            (I have been known to buy select fence posts at Home Depot, as well.)
            I get to look over the inventory and pull the particular pieces that I want.
            Clear and 15-40 rings per inch.

            Because the wood grain wavers around really big1-2" knots, I buy a few of those
            that make fantastically sinuously wavy fish bodies.

            For carving then, I split my stock pieces either tangentially (your Plain Sawn)
            or split radially and sacrifice some wood at the fat/outer edge.

            The result is that I always have growth rings running parallel to surfaces,
            never any sorts of sawn cross-cuts.

            JP claims that 7 rings/inch in basswood is really awkward. I'll take that with me.
            15-30 ought to be a common range for many species, pines included.

            Take a ruler when you go shopping. I used to do that.
            Over the years, I find that guessing works just as well!
            Brian T

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            • #7
              Here are some images one is the i/2" basswood, I've put dots at the growth rings, the second is the image I trying to do. I've sent Time Heineke a mail asking him his thoughts of growth rings in basswood since this is where I get my wood
              You do not have permission to view this gallery.
              This gallery has 2 photos.
              . . .JoeB

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              • #8
                Originally posted by johnvansyckel View Post

                MOST Enlightening!

                [FONT=Comic Sans MS]
                ...

                Also, is it correct to orient the rings from front to back for figures or from top to bottom for relief carving (rings flat to the carving surface)? Any reason NOT to orient this way?
                I prefer to have the rings point toward the corner where I put the nose; Dave Stetson points them toward the ears and has the nose on the flat portions... To each his own...
                Originally posted by johnvansyckel View Post
                While I have not encountered any big problems, I have occasionally encountered a difficult soft spot when attempting very fine detail where even a super sharp narrow tip would not make a clean cut. Is this the result of ring count and or spring growth?
                /FONT]
                Try using a slicing cut, if you haven't been. Pressing the blade down like a chisel makes it much harder to get a clean cut than if you used a slicing cut. If you've already been using one, another possible solution for a soft spot, especially if you are planning to paint, it to put a bit of CA (super glue) on the soft spot to harden it.

                Claude
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                • #9
                  John got some more info about growth rings & basswood. Tim informed me tonight that most basswood has between 8-14 growth rings per inch & that northern Wisconsin basswood grows at 1/16" to 1/8" per year. The slabs get are cut in the "plain sawn" metheod. The blocks I get, come in all types of cut, plain, quarter, or rift. Carving slabs I like the curvature running side to side. Block carving kind of depends on what I.m going to carve.
                  . . .JoeB

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                  • #10
                    WOW !!! Thank You All !!!
                    The collective expertise of this forum is incredibile.
                    John

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                    • #11
                      Not experts, just fellow carvers
                      . . .JoeB

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