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  #1  
Old 05-18-2005, 03:33 PM
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Default Carving Problem

This is probably a silly question but ...

At present, whether carving or turning, I always use seasoned wood, since otherwise the finished piece will almost certainly warp or crack. Although I have a kiln, it is only possible to season planks up to about 4 inches thick and beyond this they tend to always check during the seasoning process.

The trouble is I was hoping to do a larger carving from a block of wood, perhaps 8” thick or larger and I don’t know what wood to use.

As far as I can see I only have two options.

Either I use wet wood and then just hope that the end piece doesn’t crack or warp.
Or I could laminate several blocks of seasoned wood together but then I don’t see how I can stop the joins from showing.

I’m really stuck and would appreciate any help anyone could give me on this.

Yvonne
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  #2  
Old 05-18-2005, 03:55 PM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

Hi Yvonne,
Looking at your work you have far greater talent than I do, but I have greater years, for what that's worth, so here are a few thoughts. I carve mostly green wood and have moderate success re: checking. I seal it as soon as I'm done with an area of the carving, and at least daily, in Anchorseal, a water-soluable wax that paints on milky white and dries nearly clear. The next day I carve right through it. This seems to work for me.
I used to wrap my carving in a wet towel every day, no wax, and after weeks and weeks of a fresh wet towel, it usually didn't crack.
A few months back, I read in a book on bowl carving from green wood, that coating it in peanut oil daily, the moisture would be replaced with Peanut oil, which doesn't turn rancid and is food quality oil, within about 6 weeks from the time the bowl was carved to 1/2" thickness. I tried it and maybe I didn't carve it thin enough, but I had some checking.
Avoid using the very center of the tree if carving green. That seems to be where I have the greatest problems with checking! I like doing large carvings and have a hard time resisting using the whole log. If I'd avoid that heart wood I'd be happier....
What a lot of turners do, I'm sure you know, is capitalize on the seams when glueing up dry wood, by using contrasting woods. That can be very beautiful, but it may or may not be what you're looking for.
I wish you the best in this!
Wade
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Old 05-18-2005, 07:45 PM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

Yvonne,
If you are looking for a wood similar to basswood to carve, try Willow.
It doesn't seem to check as much as other woods I have carved wet.

If you can get a large block that is all sapwood, checking should be reduced.

I also freeze my wet carvings sealed inside a plastic bag between carving sessions.
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Old 05-18-2005, 09:57 PM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

Yvonne,

Curing a piece that size without some splits is darn near impossible especially if you plan on using a log that will allow you to only take the full section and square it up. If you can get a log large enough to split it lengthwise, remove the central core (heartwood) and still manage a square or rectangular piece of the size you want +10% to allow for some shrinkage and minor checking on the ends, you stand a better chance of success. Better yet, if your log is large enough to allow you to quarter it and still get the size piece you desire. Then I'd heavilly wax the ends, after roughing to size, and set it aside to dry. Kiln drying will speed things up a lot, but if you have a kiln, you probably have a moisture meter to check the progress with.

You should be able to find a basswood large enough to accomodate your needs. Maybe even a large aspen. If you can find a clear white pine log, or sugar pine, these would work, too. Expect a little splitting with the pine though, even after the project is complete. Pine seems to have a lot of compression and tension stresses that want to be relieved after carving.

good luck, and let us know what you decide.

Al
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Old 05-19-2005, 09:06 AM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

As usual great advice here I find the quartering of the log will almost reduce all the cracks and those that do occur go to the back of the carving. As you know I do large carvings and one thing I find is that if I can get them done quick enough, or I am able to spray them down with water and cover them with a large plastic garbage bag between sessions, then once they are stained I give them a complete coat of spar (Marine) varnish it reduces the cracks almost completly. Having said that some woods will check no matter what you do to them.
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Old 06-19-2005, 03:34 AM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

Yvonne If you can get some red wood blocks then you can find wood that big.I just carved an Indian chief out of a piece
10"thick 10"wide and 22" tall I live in oregon so the red wood is easy for me to get that size.....Ron
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Old 06-19-2005, 04:53 AM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

Thanks I really appreciate the feedback.

I’m still a little unclear though.

As I understand it, cracking or warping mainly occurs due to the moisture content in the wood dropping too quickly, resulting in shrinkage in the grain. To avoid this the moisture content needs to be reduced at a slow even rate through the whole of the timber, which basically allows the core to shrink at the same rate as the outside, thus avoiding stresses which lead to cracks.

If you use wet wood and then use wax or water to stop it cracking during carving, at the end, the wood will still have a very high moisture content. Obviously as soon as you stop applying the wax or the wet towel the moisture content is no longer controlled and so the wood will start to dry from the outside in causing extra stress to build up on the outer layers, again resulting in cracking.

If you use oil, basically all you’re doing is replacing the moisture in the wood with the oil, which means it is not as stable as seasoned wood and therefore cracking sometimes still occurs.

So if I use wet wood I can now see how I can stop it checking during the carving stage but I’m still unsure how to reduce the moisture content in the finished carving, without cracking.

You often see large eagles or other animals that appear to be carved out of one solid piece and I just can’t understand how they have got away without it cracking or warping.

As to the wood, as far as I’m aware, aspen isn’t that easy to get hold of in the UK and in fact I don’t know anyone who even sells it. I did manage to get redwood once but the supplier I bought it from has stopped selling it. In fact if anyone does know where I can get a large piece of Redwood in England I would love to hear from them.

I was hoping the final carving would be in pristine condition with no cracking at all and so I don’t think any type of Pine would meet my needs.

I was thinking of using Lime but I’m having difficulty even getting hold of a large piece of this wood and so Willow or Basswood, as suggested, definitely might be another option.

I’m too busy with other work to start the project straight away or even have enough time to read or post on this forum as much as I would like but I will let you know how I get on when I do finally make a start on it. That’s if I can find some wood.

Yvonne
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Old 06-19-2005, 08:48 AM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

Yvonne,
Here's my take on the drying process:
When you're carving, the wood is exposed and losing moisture. When you stop and seal it up with wax, the moisture content adjusts or equalizes some inside the wood. So it may have been 40% wet in the center and 20% on the outer area, but while it's sealed it will equalize to maybe 30% throughout. Then when you carve again, the outside will be drying. Sealing, it may be 15 on the outside, 30 inside, but equalize to 23%. Opening again by carving, the outside dries, sealing again, you may have 14 outside, 22 inside, adjusting to the difference. All these numbers are off the top of my head, and the process may take weeks or months to fully cure, but it adjusts to an equal or near equal moisture in the heart and outer wood as it goes and never reaches that extreme contrast of , say, 40% in the heart and 14% in the outer layer, which creates the stress/contrast and splits.
I hope someone can give you a better answer, and a Shorter one, because I'd like to know a better way too. I believe this is working for me pretty well though.
Of course you can always start with dry wood. It's considerably harder, has lots more dust, but it's not prone to the same problems of wet green wood.
Have a great day!
Wade
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Old 06-19-2005, 08:56 AM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

One more note,
If you just seal the end grain it will dry faster than if you seal the whole log as moisture slowly evaporates through the sides and runs out the ends with the grain cross-cut...in a sense it's like a group of straws or hollow tubes bound together. It's purpose in nature was to pump water up the tree. Start out with a log longer than what you want to carve by a foot or so each end, keep it sealed, seal again if any cracks begin--check it every day or two--and you'll have it dry in 3 to 24 months depending on the type of wood.
Wade
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Old 06-19-2005, 11:25 PM
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Default Re: Carving Problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvonne_A
I’m still a little unclear though.

To avoid this the moisture content needs to be reduced at a slow even rate through the whole of the timber, which basically allows the core to shrink at the same rate as the outside, thus avoiding stresses which lead to cracks.

Yvonne
Yvonne,
Half of this assumption is incorrect.

The "core" or heartwood is dense and (for the most part) does not shrink during the drying process.

The wood surrounding the heartwood is porous and shrinks considerably while drying. When the outside wood gets too tight (like a girdle) something has to give.
The result is a pie slice shaped crack that runs from the outside to the center.

Most carvers of logs make a cut along the length of the wood half way through the log. This cut helps relieve the stress the occurs during drying.

Last edited by rick-in-seattle; 06-19-2005 at 11:29 PM.
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