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Is it the grain or type of wood

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  • Is it the grain or type of wood

    Everything I've carved on so far has been 1 or 2 in x 3 or so. Grain running North to South. But I have some old pine boards that I have been trying to carve some animals instead of people.
    The grain is running east to west (from the head to the tail). But when I get down to cutting between the legs, for instance, I can just about guarantee that no matter how easy I go, the wood will somehow crack off.
    Do you think this is because the grain is running the wrong way or because its pine? And if I were to try another type of wood such as basswood which way should the grain be oriented?

  • #2
    Basswood most likely would be better, but it sounds like it is grain direction that is your problem. Try laying out your carving (animal) so that the direction of grain is running up & down the legs. If this causes problems with the tail, then you can always gule a piece of wood on the animals bum with the grain running in a horizontal direction to carve the tail.
    If you're looking for me, you'll find me in a pile of wood chips somewhere...


    • #3
      Thanks for the advice my friend.


      • #4
        Soggy nailed it...
        Living among knives and fire.


        • #5
          Thanks, Soggy!

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          • #6
            Aw the WCI to the recuse.....again.
            . . .JoeB


            • #7
              Howdy BWG
              Basswood is wonderful to carve so grab some off that as soon as you can . Pine well not so good. Have attached a photo of an Africa scene I did so you can follow the following bits and pieces.

              All of the 3 main critters in this piece were carved with the grain running the full length of the body from nose to tail. The bulk of the carving job was removing the wood between the legs so this I did on a band saw but you can remove it with saw and chisel just takes more time. In doing it this way 95% of the animal is easily carved as you can cut with the grain easily. This makes it relatively quick to remove the bulk of the wood to get the body shape. This I get to the almost finished stage before doing the fine bits.

              The spindly bits like the lower leg from bottom of the thigh down are the tricky part and that is where the care has to be taken. It is not unusual for a break to occur in doing these bits as the grain runs across the leg rather than up the leg. Usualy it comes about by concentrating on the piece you are working on and without thinking you put pressure on another fragile leg and break it. I take frequant breaks when doing these parts as it helps to keep the mind sharp and helps to keep focused.

              I finish the one end of the animal to the almost finished stage so it is all sanded and shaped and might only need a revision of detail once the whole piece is done. Then I wrap it in bubble wrap with bubble wrap between the legs to support them. This serves to keep the wood clean from skin oil and general grime and the bubble wrap is a constant reminder that hey there is fragile stuff under here. It helps to prevent damage while doing the other half of the animal.

              Once done the spindly bits can be drenched in ultra fine CA glue. This penetrates the wood fibre to a considerable depth. when it hardens it strengthens the leg 10 fold against further breakage.

              Everyone has their own way of doing things the trick is to take out of all of that what works for you. My way of doing things changes as I find better ways to attack a problem. This is how we grow our skills.

              Keep in mind the problem is not always the wood the knife must be razor sharp.When you get to a bit that is difficult strop that knife so that it is super sharp. It needs to be sharp enough to take a slice cleanly out of the edge of a piece of printer paper held with one hand while slicing a piece out of the edge with the other. Another test is to shave the hair on your arm. If it wont do that as good as a razor it isn't sharp. also rest the knife edge on the thumb nail and apply a little pressure with the knife blade on a 45 degree angle The knife should stick on the nail if it slips it isn't close to being sharp. these 3 tricks will help you maintain a good cutting edge.

              You will notice an immediate difference in the performance of the blade.

              Also if you have another knife try that as well as some knives will perform better than others due to slightly different angles on the blades.

              For best results if your blade has a small v shaped edge like the frexcut knives do they can be improved signicantly by using a stone to dress the blade down so that the bevelled edge is removed and the side of the blade is dead flat from the back of the blade all the way to the very edge of the cutting edge.

              I have both types and flat blade wins the vote so have converted one of my bevelled edge knives so far, two to go.

              Hope some of this war and peace effort is of some use to you. Happy carving buddy. Keep at it!!

              Attached Files
              Last edited by Glenn Jennings; 05-20-2022, 08:12 PM.


              • #8
                For carvings with intricate, cross-grain details, the best wood has almost imperceptible grain. That is, the annual growth rings blend together. The more rings per inch, the better. Basswood is the best example. Pine and Fir (conifers) tend to have prominent growth rings and the rings vary from soft, rapid growth to hard, slow growing, narrow bands. The wood tends to split along these bands. Sometimes the split extends ahead of your knife or gouge to where it exits the wood. You can control the splitting (to some degree) by using stop cuts. These are vertical knife or gouge cuts perpendicular to grain fibers.
                Choose the right wood for your carving project. Don't fight it.


                • #9
                  Thanks again to one and all. I know basswood is probably the best to carve, but you know how it goes. I've been holding those boards for a while and, well I already own them.
                  As for sharpness..I've pretty much got a grip on that. Was using an occ blade. Matter of fact that is why I thought I might try to carve the pine in the wrong direction.
                  btw Glenn that Africa is stupendous.