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Cottonwood vs Basswood

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  • Cottonwood vs Basswood

    I read somewhere that cottonwood is much easier to carve and cheaper to purchase than basswood. I'm not talking about the bark but the actual wood it's self.
    Has anybody had any experience carving cottonwood?

  • #2
    If it really was that good, you would see it as far more popular than it is now.
    Locally, we see some as chainsaw carvings that are almost furry with shreddings.
    Let dry then go over the carving with a propane bottle torch to burn off the fuzzies.

    Nobody here even wants cottonwood for home heating in wood stoves.

    The deal is, if the wood is super-soft, your tools need to be "carving sharp"
    so that they cut the wood rather than crush it. Western Red Cedar can be that soft, too.

    Like the knife you use to cut a very over-ripe tomato with a leathery skin!
    Brian T


    • #3
      Tangerman (remember him?) lists both eastern and black cottonwood with workability of 1 which is easy-the same as basswood. He shows similar characteristics to basswood and yellow poplar. My limited experience is knives used for carving almost any wood must be carving sharp to give a smooth finish.


      • #4

        Strictly hear say but I have been told that cottonwood is hard on cutting tools.

        Also cottonwood is a fast growing tree that means large growth rings.

        Since I’ve never seen cottonwood carving blocks for sale. Are you planning to start with green wood and dry yourself? Because that is a whole different conversation.

        Curious I did a search for cottonwood carvings found 0 photos of cottonwood carvings that were not cottonwood bark.
        Living in a pile of chips.


        • #5
          Cottonwood bark is hard on tools because of grit carried into bark crevices by the wind. Cottonwood root is the wood of choice for Native American (Hopi) carvers of Kachina figures. This is a Cottonwood Root carving:



          • #6
            Here's a data comparison for the two woods.

            Eastern Cottonwood:
            Black Cottonwood:

            The key datum is Janka Hardness: The higher the number, the harder the wood.

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