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Some questions about carving Kuksas!

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  • Some questions about carving Kuksas!


    I am new in this world of woodcarving, and I would like to ask you some questions about carving Kuksas mostly.

    1. I read some articles and watched some videos about this topic, and I understood that the "best" wood to carve Kuksas would be Birch, correct? Any other good alternatives?

    2. I am from Portugal and I don't really know where to buy specific wood for carving. I saw some stuff on amazon for example, but it all looks to be too small (for Kuksas for example). So my question would be if anyone could tell me a good website to buy wood (birch for Kuksas for example)? Obviously, that ships to Portugal.

    3. Still on the Kuksa topic, what would be a good product to apply to the wood after carved in order to avoid cracks, and later, spillings?

    4. Genereally speaking, what is a good wood to start carving smaller stuff? Preferably something easy to get in Portugal, or ship to.

    I am sorry if my questions are stupid, but I really am very unexperienced.

    Thank you very much!

  • #2

    Can’t help with your questions about carving cups just not my thing.

    Hopefully some of our European members will chime in.

    The most common wood carved is called basswood in the states and lime wood in the UK. It has even straight grain and carves nicely.

    I saw online that Alder is a native species in Portugal. Alder would look like the best choice for general carving of locally available wood.

    This site is handy for wood research.

    Local club


    • #3
      Paulo at the top of this page you will see a dark strip. Click on the Woodcarvingillustrated. Then click on "How To". you will find a lot of information on getting started, tool, safety and in projects you will see plans and tutorials.
      We live in the land of the free because of the brave!


      • #4
        http://Kuksa topic, do not know if you have seen this video it is a good one on the subject. Some kusksa is sealed, and some is not so it depends on what you want. I am not super knowledgeable in this area, I have made a few food-grade items from fruit trees. The wood was from word by mouth I wanted the wood if someone was going to chop down a fruit tree. Dry wood results in most of the time with no risk in cracking, but harder to carve. Fresh wood results in easier carving but also somewhat of a good risk of cracks.

        If you use dried wood, choose something relatively soft, like birch is a good beginning choice. I did a search olivewood is also used for Kuska. Fresh woods Cherry or apple wood, guava, maple and some use oak and burl and walnut, Noted a dried burl, some hardwoods, and most fruit trees is rock hard dried, and often not possible to do it without power tools. Here in the tropics, we use various exotics, like monkeypod, teak.

        A way to prevent fresh wood cracking is to store the project overnight in a paper bag with all the wood shavings added, and slightly opened, so no fungus will appear. When you're finished do this for a few weeks, and then a good chance of it not cracking. I live in the tropics although and humidity in the air is high so fewer worries about cracks.

        Also boiling fresh wood in saltwater should also reduce the cracking a lot when finished carving... but again, dry it for a week or two weeks...., with the wood shavings from the project. I added 3 tea bags of black tea to darken the wood a bit. I will note most burls are really hard to carve even with power tools.

        Another way of preventing cracking is to boil it in milk when done. the milk contains an element that does something to the wood. I have read this is the old school ways of woodworking and preserving, uses that technique, and it seems to work. It may be something you want to try.

        I would suggest starting with a simple piece of wood, nothing fancy, since it takes some practice to make it good, using a different kind of carving style.. It is noted that selling these sometimes they do not recommend using for using hot drinks mainly due to discoloring of wood grain and soaking into the wood. What you do not want to carve is wood that diseased, soft spots in it, wood with wormholes...look hard for holes the size of a needle, wood that is cracked even slightly.

        What you will need is a food-grade finish that is good for hot drinks. I have no experience in a finish as I leave mine unfinished and yes drinks will get into the wood but I like that look. Plus I have limit experience also...there are also books out about this subject. Plus I am sure Brian can add to all this as he has tons more knowledge than I do on this kind of carvings.

        Last edited by Dileon; 04-04-2021, 11:07 AM.


        • #5
          The Sammi people, the Reindeer people of Scandinavia, are the ones originally to carve kuksa.
          The wood is birch "burl". This is a growth defect which makes a lump or swelling of wood with very twisted and tangled wood grain fiber. Not common, quite rare and something I do not believe you will find readily for sale from anyone.
          Because of the tangled grain fiber, there's no chance that the kuksa can crack. Interwoven like the fiber in a bird's nest.
          About all we are left with are dozens of various woods to pick from. Plain, straight-grained examples which can and will split/crack unlike a burl.
          I don't want to put you off. Explore the Sammi designs. Make the carving 2X the size you think it should be.
          Portugal, huh? I say make your kuksa from olive wood. Hard and durable and difficult to carve. The result will last your lifetime.
          Brian T


          • #6
            Thank you all for you quick and very informative answers! Already learned a lot in a few minutes. Olive wood should be easy to find here, indeed. I'll try making something with it, even though you (Brian) said it is difficult to carve! Nothing like trying.

            What product should I apply to this type of wood (keeping in mind that it may be used for drinking)? I saw some people using different types of oil, but I have no idea what I should use on it or which specific oil it was. For smaller pieces, which will only be use as decorative elements, can I use a simple wood varnish to make it "last longer"?

            The only stuff I made so far, are small projects like the one from my avatar. I bought some wood that I found online, in blocks, which I'm not sure now, but I think it was basswood. The wood was very hard to saw (into smaller pieces) with the small hand saw that I had at the time though. I'm trying to find something better, with your suggestions and also with the "how-to" which I already started reading (thank you, Randy).

            Once again, thank you to everyone for the answers so far.


            • #7
              Carve two kuksa at a time. Work back and forth between them. The progress is easier.

              Hot boiled milk proteins are the original Sammi wood sealer. I don't know that you will need to do much to olive wood to seal the surface, it is so very fine grained to begin with. Painting the wood with many washes of very hot (160 - 180C) olive oil should work as well.
              Brian T


              • #8
                Thank you very much! I will definitely try that.

                What do you guys think about fruit trees wood for carving? Orange Trees or Plumtrees. I'm asking because those are trees that I have at home and sometimes we need to trim them ir order to avoid going into other person's territory. Thank you.

                EDIT: Not for the Kuksas, but other smaller projects (reference: my avatar).


                • #9
                  The upper and lower sides of branches have different wood anatomy and hardness.
                  It's called "Reaction Wood" The changes seem to be in response to the pull of gravity on the branch.
                  Extra layers of cell wall materials usually making the dried wood much harder.

                  In broadleaf trees, the reaction wood is called "tension wood" and it forms on the top halves of branches.
                  In the conifers, the reaction wood is called "compression wood" which forms in the lower halves of the branches.

                  It is usually so different that it affects the pulp and paper-making industries.

                  So, keep track of which side is "up" on the branches. Split them in half and carve with either one.
                  Brian T


                  • #10
                    Thank you very much, once again! I will also try that in the next couple of weeks, probably even before getting some olive wood for the Kuksas.


                    • #11
                      About 50 years ago, Paulo, one of your countrymen fed me the best ever calamari. And gave me the recipe that I have made many dozens of times since. I owe you guys my gratitude.
                      Brian T


                      • #12
                        We have orange trees they are not known for carving here and not sure why perhaps not big enough? I do know some pen turners use it. My orange trees limbs go into the compost piles...I do not mess with woods are that not quote carving woods, as there is normally a reason as to why. Of course, you can try to carve it and see?


                        • #13
                          Yes, probably it's not good for carving. I asked because it is one that I could access easily. If i give orange tree wood a try I'll let you guys know how it went.

                          But in any case, I'm searching online for some small blocks of basswood or similar to practice for now. Any good recommendations for websites to buy it in Europe? Thank you very much!


                          • #14
                            Your best European equivalent to North American basswood is Lime. Some might be labelled Linden.
                            If mod Claude pops up here, he has a bunch of Euro and UK links to wood suppliers.
                            Brian T


                            • #15
                              Here is a long list of links to resources that Eddy provided: Scroll down a ways to see the list.

                              Here is a database of woods: The key statistic for carving is Janka Hardness. The higher the Janka number, the harder the wood.

                              All the timber merchants I have links to are in the UK.

                              One of the members of this forum is JJF from France. He may have some information about wood sources. I commented in your welcome message that Chris P from Portugal is a carver - he may have some local information for you. His ETSY shop is

                              Look for timber merchants in your area. Since you are interested in smaller carvings, also look for cabinet makers and furniture makers - they often have scraps that are too small for them to use, and you may be able to get for free or a small price.

                              Last edited by Claude; 04-04-2021, 06:42 PM.
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