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Butternut Splitting Question

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  • Butternut Splitting Question

    Yesterday, I was carving a small Santa from a 2 x 2 x 6" block of butternut. This is the first time carving it and I loved the smooth finish left by the knife blade and I was enjoying the afternoon. Then it happened, while making a shaving type of cut down towards a stop cut I had already made, the wood split. The odd thing is that the wood did not split where my knife was, but about 3/8" in from where my knife was. Even though I did not have my hand directly in-line with the path of the intended cut, the break being off from where my cut was caused the knife and my hand to rotate enough to cut my hand. Three hours and three stitches later, I was back looking at the split. There was no appearance from any angle or side that indicated and pre-existing check or crack.

    Does anyone know if this is common in butternut? All of my previous experience is with basswood. I am not blaming the wood, as I know the accident is from operator error. (I have a left-handed cut and puncture protective glove in a drawer about three feet from where I was sitting.) I was just wondering if this was common in butternut.



    PS There was not tendon or other damage as the cut was not deep, but more or less created a good size flap of skin. Also, there was no financial hit as I have long ago covered my annual out-of-pocket limit.
    Last edited by PittsburghTim; 11-20-2022, 01:13 PM.

  • #2
    Oh je Tim, wish you good recovery. Be well soon. On your question I cannot help...Here, we have no butternut.


    • #3
      I have not experienced any splitting tendency in butternut, even when doing whittling-type cuts. Here are some examples:

      You do not have permission to view this gallery.
      This gallery has 3 photos.


      • #4
        I've not experienced this with butternut, either. Kind of a freak accident, I guess. I've trained myself over the years to keep my hands out of harm's way...mostly. Swinging a 3 pound sledge to cut rivets, missing the chisel and hitting one's hand will do that training, tout-suite.


        • #5
          I've only carved fairly deep relief in butternut, but never had a problem with splitting, although a cut will run on you. Love butternut. There must have been a stress in the wood that wasn't visible, to state the obvious, lol! Glad you're OK, Tim...I think we've all made your mistake in one form or another.


          • #6
            Sorry about the stitches. I have been there more than I am willing to admit. Like the other I have never had an issue with splitting when carving butternut. But any wood can split with changing temp or humidity. I have had a carving that was in one room for over a year never an issue. Moved it to the other side of the house and a month or so later it split right across the nose. I live in an area were humidity can go from 40% to 80% + in the blink of an eye.
            Last edited by Randy; 11-20-2022, 08:42 PM.
            We live in the land of the free because of the brave! Semper Fi


            • #7
              Tim, i have carved a good bit of butternut, but mostly with a gouge and mallet, and i have seen it come off in larger pieces then what my gouge is taking off, my experience is this isn't something that happens allot, but i think with the grain of butternut it can occur, especially if it contains several worm holes.
              Mark N. Akers
              My Etsy Store:


              • #8
                Hope you heal quickly, Tim. I've carved butternut with a knife and it is a nice wood to use and never experienced what you had happen.
                Living among knives and fire.


                • #9
                  There is an old saying drying wood splits at times you can not see it until it causes an issue. You hit it as your carving an item,... it is going to pop or cause issues as you had. Not normal but this goes for any wood. Rare problem yes, but it can happen. Wood is this weird bear, where it can hold metal, rocks, splits from drying, soft and hard places in the same wood, and more. You need to beware. When I was first carving I learned the hard way by going to ER one too many times to get sewn up. I bought this big first aid kit and it stays in the shop near where I am working. Although I can say I have not had a big cut or burr chewed up hamburger meat in over nine years but you learn how to keep body parts out of the way as the number one factor.

                  Just a thought ..... Most people use holding devices and vises, I use a block fasten on a piece wood method on all my carving that keep the hands off the carving and both hands on the tools most of the time...I make these to fit the carving size. This major keeps you safe as your pushing the tool away from body parts. I found this method the best for me. If the carving has fragile areas I will add pillows or soft foam to support those areas from breakage. I learned it from an old master carver in Japan as I am non stop moving the wood around as I carve.

                  . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di


                  • #10
                    DiLeon, I had a simple bench hook similar to the one in the picture that was inches from me at the time of my mishap. I had some knives and palm gouges on it and did not remove the clutter as I should have. In a way, this was a cheap and relatively harmless reminder as I am using my cut-resistant Kevlar glove and the bench hook again. It's a bit too easy to become complacent when you do something for years without any issues. I also have a good supply of first aid supplies given my carving and woodworking hobbies. I had cleaned my cut with hydrogen peroxide and was ready to bandage and tape it up, but decided to go to the local satellite ER as I am diabetic and didn't want to take a chance. I'm glad that I went as it had been about 7 years from my last tetanus booster and I am sure that it is healing faster than it would have if I had played doctor at home.

                    Thanks to all for the good wishes,

                    Last edited by PittsburghTim; 11-23-2022, 07:42 PM.