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Rock hard basswood over time?

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  • Rock hard basswood over time?

    I bought my basswood about 4 years ago. We have very very little humidity in the northern Arizona desert so things just keep getting drier. Is it possible that basswood could get really really hard or am I that bad a sharpener? My knife won’t shave but I can’t seem to get it sharper.

  • #2
    No personal experience but betting the answer is yes the wood could get hard. Don’t have an opinion about your sharpening ability.

    I was carving with a group in the Scottsdale area one winter and a guy was telling me how much wood he had brought with him from the Midwest had shrunk after coming to AZ a couple years before.
    So I would think it would effect carvability.
    Local club


    • #3
      You might try spraying the basswood with a 50/50 mixture of water & alcohol, or get a fresh piece. All wood varies over time. Don't waste your time with un-carveable wood.


      • #4
        I really wet my wood the night before with the 50/50, then keep it damp while carving, let it dry thoroughly before any sanding. If you're going to be a carver it is important to learn how to sharpen your knives. After I'm satisfied with good TomZ sharpening I keep my knife in working shape by stropping. I never, well almost never, pick a knife at the start of a carving succession without stropping it. I use the Flexcut Slipstrop, with their gold compound, most for my blades. I have a 2" Sq. x 12" piece of wood that set up for the different gouges that I use, I carve a convex grove using the gouge that I'll be sharpening, then I carve the concave grove below it to sharpen the same gouge. You can get about six sets per side on the smaller gouges and 4 for the larger gouges.

        You'll never enjoy carving with dull tools, just my 2¢
        . . .JoeB


        • #5
          You might try a carving trick used by First Nations here in the PacNW.
          Most of the masks you see are carved from alder. It is cheese when fresh
          and bone when it dries (I lost a 12' log in the early days as I didn't understand that.)
          I use pieces of it for mallets now.

          So what you do is work like crazy and carve boldly.
          Then submerge your carving in a bucket of water with a rock until tomorrow.
          You need to see the wood thinner than 1" as fast as you can go.

          Best of luck.
          In a past life, in a dendrology lab, I used to cook wood blocks in boiling water for an hour
          to get something soft enough to cut thin (15 micrometer) sections.
          As an experiment, do this first to see to what degree you can soften the whole block.
          Then keep it in a bucket.
          Brian T


          • #6
            I’ll give the 50/50 mix a try. Maybe it is a combination of uber hard old wood and my sharpening inability.

            Where can someone get a TomZ? I’m not seeing them sold anywhere. If they are not available is there something that might be an equivalent?


            • #7
              Originally posted by Natenaaron View Post
              I’ll give the 50/50 mix a try. Maybe it is a combination of uber hard old wood and my sharpening inability.

              Where can someone get a TomZ? I’m not seeing them sold anywhere. If they are not available is there something that might be an equivalent?
              Tom is on could PM him. Also with Spokane carvers...*** PLEASE CALL BEFORE PURCHASING TO VERIFY AVAILABILITY For Tomz knife massager.***
              Tom Ellis (509)891-5834 or [email protected] I have one best purchase I ever made.


              • #8
                Sorry I missed your last line when I responded earlier. If your knife won’t shave you would be correct that it is isn’t ready to carve.

                First there are great instructional videos on YouTube on sharpening carving knives and tools.

                Second there are several carving clubs in Arizona I’m sure one of the members would be willing to show you the error of your ways.

                Third if your going to spring for a sharpening device which I only recommend if you plan to get serious about carving. Consider a Burke Tote.

                I guess I will one question. What sort of knife are we talking about?


                Rincon Carvers
                Rincon Country West RV Resort
                4555 S Mission Rd
                Tucson AZ 85746
                Al Jensen 520/889-7751 Active Oct-April.
                now over 65 members (3/97)
                Email: Al Jensen

                Jeff Kuchlak
                Arizona Woodturners Assoc.
                5646 E. Inglewood
                Mesa, AZ 85205
                Phone: 602.396.2006

                Larry Smith
                Southwest Woodcarvers Assoc. Inc.
                P.O. Box 13133
                Tucson, AZ 85712
                Phone: 602.885.3867

                John Peterson
                Grand Canyon State Woodcarvers
                P.O. Box 9112
                Scottsdale, AZ 85252-9112
                Phone: 602.471.7231

                Gary McCaslin
                Arizona Assoc. Of Fine Woodworkers
                P.O. Box 44264
                Phoenix, AZ 85064-4262
                Phone: 602.998.8889

                Ralph Parkinson
                Harrison Woodworkers Club
                P.O. Box 1093
                Harrison, AZ 72602-1093
                Phone: 501.741.6674

                Local club


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Natenaaron View Post
                  If they are not available is there something that might be an equivalent?
                  If you're handy, perhaps you can build one.... (Not an equivalent to the TomZ, but does the job.)

                  Old carvers never die... they just whittle away.


                  • #10
                    I won't tell you that you're wasting your money on an expensive sharpener because I know that the kickback would be tremendous. But I will tell you that you don't need an expensive sharpener to keep your knives in razor sharp condition. Specialty sharpeners and buffing wheel set-ups are great for a quick tune-up but if used on a regular basis they only reduce the life expectancy of your knives. Many, perhaps even most, carving knife manufacturers sell their knives pre-sharpened and wood ready right out of the packaging. Good stropping practice will keep them razor sharp indefinitely. The one exception is if a point in broken off or an edge is chipped and even then I'd recommend manual honing on sandpaper over power honing.


                    • #11
                      I am very familiar with the steps to sharpen but it doesn’t work. I have never been able to sharpen my hand tools. Not matter what I did I messed something up so instead of remaining frustrated and quitting yet again I am going with the power sharpener

                      I just ordered the TomZ. I like the slow speed and I will be able to sharpen other tools as well. I think it will be a good buy.

                      I have two knives an Allen Goodman knife and a flex cut knife, that I can lay my hands on. I also have a Cape Forge traveler set that seems to have gone traveling without me. I will be buying 4 more tools here soon that will be another thread.

                      I’m sure all those carving clubs are great resources but they are between 4 and 6 hours drive away.


                      • #12
                        I’ll also order some more basswood to use as a comparison.


                        • #13
                          Not everybody can get comfortable with freehand sharpening. I was taught well. I decided that I was going to learn to be really good at it. I am. It took a lot of practice. Bigger jobs like changing bevel angles. Changing one gouge edge into another. Repairing damaged and blunt edges.

                          All I ever read is that the TomZ is the answer for many carvers. Anything to making chips again.
                          Pay close attention to how the bevel angle is held constant throughout the entire process.
                          Your entire body becomes the jig in freehand.
                          Brian T


                          • #14
                            Some time back, I mentioned I was going to try storing my wood in an unused freezer. This looks like a good place to update that info. The freezer storage is working very well! Basswood I had that was hard is now soft, as the moisture among the wood seems to have equalized. When I open the freezer I get the wonderful smell of fresh wood! As a side note, I have also had good luck softening hard basswood by leaving it in a room I cool with a swamp cooler. So the wood will take up moisture naturally, but it does take time. Not helpful if you are in a hurry to carve.


                            • #15
                              Interesting idea Sappy. We cool the whole house with a swamp cooler. I will bring some home to see if it works