No announcement yet.

Cedar vs Basswood

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Cedar vs Basswood

    I'm just starting out and purchased some basswood. Its really easy to carve with a pocket knife. My question is how much harder would cedar be to carve using the knife? I was going to see if I can get some scrapes from homedepot to put my blade to it and try it out but I thought I would ask and see what kind of information I can get from anyone that is working with Cedar.

  • #2
    Welcome. This is a really good shop to stop in.

    I've been carving western red cedar in the Pacific Northwest for a long time.
    Take a ruler and do ring counts. Even cedar fence posts are sometimes really good wood. 5/4 cedar deck boards.
    Can you find a cedar mill and score some shake blocks? All 24" tall, you can split out any size pieces that you want.

    a) less that 15 rings/inch is fence board crap, far too soft even with carving-sharp tools.
    b) 15-30 rings/inch is really nice
    c)30+ gets kind of boney but is still good.
    = =
    Don't expect WRC to hold any fine detail. Look at a pile of west coast carvings to get ideas.
    3D stuff, bowls and other dishes, story & totem poles, relief carvings, form-line carvings.

    Small and large pieces will POP off your carvings when you least expect it. No prying, just slicing cuts.
    Keep you floor clean so that you can find them and glue them back in place.

    Most conifers (spruce, pine, fir, Dougfir, juniper and Easern Red Cedar) work about as much in the same ways.
    Brian T


    • #3
      I have carved several pieces of Wood spirits in found wood Cedar, they make a very good carving and finishes very good, but naturally Basswood is going to be allot easier, but doesn't have the character of Cedar logs.
      Mark N. Akers
      My Etsy Store:


      • #4
        I use Basswood for things I plan to paint for the most part. Cedars can vary a lot in density and texture. Most of the cedar I have carved is eastern red cedar. I have some issue with the dust allergy even with a mask. And tools can dull pretty fast do to the high silica content the wood. But I do like the finished product with cedar. It is always unique. I have done a number of walking sticks that are classics.
        We live in the land of the free because of the brave!


        • #5
          I carved a canoe paddle from a cedar board once. Makes a decent paddle and much easier to carve than the one I made from ash. I have some Alaskan yellow cedar that is really a pure joy to carve. Great carving wood. Carves very smoothly but what I really like about it is that it is very aromatic. Just wonderful to carve.
          MMD7NP - Best wood moisture meter
          Wagner - Best paint sprayer for home use


          • #6
            I've carved a number of woodspirits from sections of cedar logs from my place up in east Tennessee. As Randy said the density and hardness can vary from piece to piece depending on how long ago it was cut and how much it has cured. Cedar purchased from a woodcarving supply store is your best bet because it's been cured specifically with carving in mind. Cedar picked up at the local lumber yard that's been sitting out in the back-40 for who knows how long will probably give you a fit. I've found cedar to vary from very soft and splits easily, to so hard that it will burn up a Kutzall burr. But there is no denying that it is a pretty wood if you can learn to work with it.


            • #7
              40 year old cedar shake blocks cut like new. They do not ripen as they dry.
              By contrast, many hardwoods such as birch and alder will go from cheese to bone.

              I suggest that a ring-count is the most reliable indicator of conifer wood density.
              That was a costly learning experience.
              Brian T


              • #8
                We have to be careful what mean when we say cedar. Western Red Cedar is Thuja plicata; Eastern Red Cedar is Juniperus virginiana; and Southern Red Cedar is Juniperus silicicola (Juniperus viriginiana var. silicicola) These all have different hardness indexes and other physical characteristics.

                My FaceBook Page:

                My Pinterest Page:

                My ETSY Shop:


                • #9
                  I find it hard to believe the hardness indices. Ring count differences with show varying amounts of heavily lignified seasonal late wood.
                  This does change the hardness. That count has been a really good carving wood quality characteristic.
                  What I see also is that the conifers do exhibit similar hardness characters all related to ring counts.
                  Brian T


                  • #10
                    Thanks everyone for the great information regarding Cedar. What do you think about these 2 I'm thinking about trying out? Has anyone used either one before? I'm looking for a nice wood to carve a nativity for my family.
                    Spanish Cedar Turning Square
                    Cedar Aromatic 4/4 Lumber


                    • #11
                      To be as blunt as usual: I would not depend on that Spanish cedar because the growth rings look to be huge.
                      Instead, I'd ask for 15+ rings per inch and buy some, just to try it. You're asking for annual rings of 1/16" thick or less.
                      The Aromatic cedar looks like a good ring count. I like the great figure in the wood.

                      We have juniper in drier zones south of me that looks much the same.
                      I never got the chance to stick a gouge into it.

                      Lots of stop cuts then carve towards them. Conifer woods pop open when you least expect it.
                      Keep the floor clean so you can find the chunks that come off. NO prying cuts.
                      I could give you a block of western red cedar = you would find much the same character.
                      Brian T


                      • #12
                        Thanks Brian T.,
                        That link I posted is for a local Lumber company. I will go and pick out the 15+ rings as you mentioned for the Spanish cedar. I'm also going to pick-up the Aromatic cedar.
                        I also found Mahogany Turning Squares
                        I really like how the Mahogany looks but if its going to be very difficult to curve a nativity I would just go with one of the Cedars. Has anyone worked on the Mahogany I mention here?


                        • #13
                          One last thing that I discovered: Tell them right up front what you want the wood for.
                          I did and got all the help I needed. Even other carvers coming into the store (Home Depot) knew what I found.
                          Two nearly perfect western red cedar fence posts.
                          Q: look at the cedar and redwood fenceposts, too.
                          Brian T