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Are 2x4's good to carve with or is Bass wood much better for a beginner?

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  • Are 2x4's good to carve with or is Bass wood much better for a beginner?

    Hi All
    Curious if I can start carving with some old 2x4 scraps I have or should I get some bass wood to start? Don't want to get bad habits from the start or not carve with the correct materials.

    Thanks in advance
    Dean-O

  • #2
    Welcome to wood carving. My recommendation would be to get some basswood. It will make your experience more pleasant.
    These guys are offering some deeply discounted beginner packages shipped to your home.
    http://www.loesshillssawmill.com/ I’ve been buying from them for years.
    7807F8C1-25E8-4779-A79D-B9152D7DB7C5.jpeg

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    • #3
      I did my very first Santa carving on a piece of 2X4 the contractors left behind during our house remodel in 1997. Never so frustrated in my life. This was before I found out about good quality basswood from a good distributor. Listen to Nebraska and get good quality basswood. It will save your hands, your good nature, and it will keep you from saying bad words while you carve!

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      • #4
        Construction grade 2x4s of pine, fir, or hemlock tend to have alternating growth rings that are hard, then soft. This makes carving very difficult & frustrating. The wood splits and tears. The experienced carvers tell you that your tools need to be sharper, but that doesn't make the carving easier. So you quit. Or you go to a hobby store and buy some "basswood" that is dry and hard - about as unpleasant as the 2x4.
        You could spend the rest of your life experimenting with available woods. There are some other than basswood. But why?

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        • #5
          Thanks for the replies. What about carving with paraffin wax or jewelers wax to practice. Or is there nothing better than practicing the using bass wood?

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          • #6
            You could carve wax or soap, but it tells you nothing about wood grain. One of the principal challenges of learning woodcarving is how to "read" the grain so you make your cuts in the right direction.
            For example, if you were carving the grooves in this design, and you're using a knife, where would you start and end each angled cut? Hint: the grain runs left to right.

            fish3.jpg
            Last edited by pallin; 04-20-2020, 01:21 PM.

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            • #7
              If you go to the dark strip at the top of this page that says FAQ, click the Woodcarverillustrated.com, it will take you to the WCI homepage. Click on (How To). You will find a lot of information about tool. wood and safety . In the section (projects & pattern) there are a number of pages with patterns and tutorials.
              We live in the land of the free because of the brave! Semper Fi
              https://www.pinterest.com/carvingbarn0363/

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              • #8
                You may be thinking, "I'm not planning to carve anything like that." Okay, but the same principle applies if you're carving the curvy strands of a cowboy's beard (or Santa's).

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                • #9
                  Sooner, rather than later, you are going to have to "learn the wood."
                  What you can and can't do with your cuts, the sharpness of your edges.
                  These things all change from one wood species to the next.

                  I like to carve both western red cedar and yellow cedar.
                  BUT, I'm quite careful about selecting wood quality.
                  SPF (spruce/pine/fir) construction lumber is junk for carving.
                  Maybe a nice piece comes along but even those are not the place to start.

                  Basswood varies in quality as well. Big differences between branches and main stem wood.
                  Differences between northern basswood and southern basswood.
                  Some mills are mindful and know the differences, some don't care as long as it's a sale.

                  So you watch top-notch carvers. You can bet they are using top-notch wood and carving sharp tools.
                  Very much a monkey-see, monkey-do thing to get a result that begins to approach some Youtube things.

                  Besides Loess Hills sawmill, many carvers are entirely pleased with basswood from Heineke.
                  I don't carve basswood so sorry, no link.

                  If you got this far, good luck with it, help is on the way.
                  Brian T

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                  • #10
                    Good advice from all
                    . . .JoeB

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                    • #11
                      Take the time to get GOOD basswood. There's been a couple of suppliers suggested who have a proven track record. I've been told that a lot of the craft stores sell inferior (hard) wood, although I've never bought from them. I have bought from Heineke a few years ago and it was the best carving wood that i have ever experienced , but due to cost of shipping to Canada I had to look for a closer source.
                      I'm afraid if you start with a poor quality of wood ( 2x4's) you will soon become discouraged and loose interest in carving.
                      And as others have said , "sharp" tools are just as, if not more important than the wood you use.
                      Good luck , and dont be afraid to ask questions.
                      Wayne
                      If you're looking for me, you'll find me in a pile of wood chips somewhere...

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                      • #12
                        Sometimes you may "happen upon" some wood the carves nicely. In my case, I found the core wood in a cabinet door (veneered with mahogany on both sides) was basswood. I used it to carve Boy Scout neckerchief slides. Great learning experiences - for me: Note: some of the slides are carved from woods picked up along the trails - like manzanita or aspen.

                        climber.jpgslides.jpg
                        Last edited by pallin; 04-20-2020, 04:04 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Pallin, I would say I would want to start on the left and go to the right.

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                          • #14
                            If you think of the woodgrain as layers of fibers, every cut at an angle to those layers should be "down slope." When the angle to the grain changes direction, the cut changes direction. So, in the example I gave, the cutting direction on one side of the "V" groove is opposite the other side, and it goes from the crest of one curve to the next trough (the red arrows in the sketch below):

                            grain.jpg
                            Last edited by pallin; 04-21-2020, 05:46 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Carving a curved track, Pallin's diagram shows how a V-tool always has one wing jammed into the grain
                              as the other wing cuts in the "downhill" direction. It takes 8 cuts with a pair of skews to carve a circle.
                              Brian T

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