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  #1  
Old 03-30-2009, 04:00 PM
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Default What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

After looking around this forum for the past couple of days I can see I have been trying to learn how to carve not only with the wrong tools (wood chisels); but I have been tackling woods that may be entirely too hard; especially for a beginner: Arizona Ironwood, Mesquite, Mountain Mahogany, Birch and Aspen to name a few; I think Pine was the softest wood I tried.

I have already decided to try it again with the Beginners Carving Tool Set from Little Shaver; and to try an easier wood to carve, however I would still like to use an attractive wood with good grain that finishes up nice.

Would anyone advise this rank beginner, that first tried carving with wood chisels, on several of the easier woods to carve starting with easiest (softer?) wood to more difficult (harder?) woods? I would really appreciate the effort.

One of the things I have been trying to carve with chisels, on pine boards, is an oak leaf pattern to go on one of my rifles. Fortunately I made my several attempts on some old 4X6 pine boards I had laying around. They came out real good. I was able to use the shavings to start the fire in my wood stove; and then those pine boards with my feeble attempts at carving burned nice and hot.

Also I don't believe the twisty wood (vine wrapped) for walking sticks grows here in Idaho, however I really don't know that, where could I buy some for walking sticks and canes?

Thank you
Ken
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Old 03-30-2009, 04:30 PM
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Default Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

Here's something that will give you a rough idea of the "hardness" of some wood. Wood "hardness" is roughly related to the wood's density: the denser the wood, the harder it is.

Claude

Wood Densities
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Old 03-30-2009, 06:30 PM
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Default Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

I think the most popular wood for carves is Basswood. It's soft enough to carve fairly easy, but takes details well. Figured wood, (wood that has a lot of grain), is probably not what you'd want. Basswood has less wood grain. You don't want the wood grain to take away from the shapes and shadows of the carving it'self.
I've only carved Bass myself, but others carve butternut and mahogany, among others.
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Old 03-30-2009, 09:04 PM
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Talking Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

1. basswood
2. basswood
3. basswood
4. basswood
5. basswood
6. basswood
7. basswood
8. basswood
9. basswood
10. basswood
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Old 03-30-2009, 10:59 PM
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Default Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

I like yellow cedar or cypress. It has a nice grain and takes stain well if you want to go that route. Basswood is the king though, if you can get it. If you want to experiment with different woods pallets are a good place to look. You can get the wood for free and some of them come form exotic places and have some neat wood, although some of it is pretty hard. The price is right (watch for nails).
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Old 03-31-2009, 08:19 PM
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Default Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

Hi Ken, I agree that basswood is the easiest to carve but it also marks very easily and I do not consider it suitable for a stick that is going to be used. I would rank big tooth aspen next in ease of carving. It also marks easily but has beautiful figure when oiled. Others of the populus family are similarly easy to carve, such as yellow poplar or magnolia. I personally stay away from pine for walking sticks. It is unpredictable as to when pine may warp or check thus detracting from the design you worked to achieve. My favorites, although somewhat harder than those listed above are the fruit woods. Apple, cherry, and pear, to mention a few that I favor, have very even grain, carve relatively easily, finish nicely, and give a sturdy stick that can be used without fear of marking it too easily.
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Old 03-31-2009, 08:46 PM
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Default Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

No one has mentioned Catalpa, yet. A little harder than butternut.
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Old 04-01-2009, 09:29 AM
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Default Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

I really do appreciate all the replys to my question.
David I browsed through your "sticks", as I did all those available, and yours are exactly the kind I would like to do; particularly the animal carvings on your sticks. Absolutely great! I have many of the woods you suggested; along with some very hard woods like Ironwood. I also have a Catalpa tree in my yard, Smee, that I have taken a few potential sticks from. Thanks for the suggestion.
From what I have seen in this forum I am not interested in Basswood; it may carve easily but does not seem to have any natural beauty to it as does many of the harder woods. I love the different natural grains, colors and contrasts to be found in many woods; fruit woods are a good example; as is Juniper, Mesquite, Mahogany, and many others. I also like to make sticks out of "Digger Pine" with the natural worm holes to be found throughout a good stick. I dont use any paints or stains relying on the natural wood and hand rubbed oil finishes for beauty. I may never learn how to carve as well as the rankest beginner, certainly not as good as the samples of Dave's work I saw; but I can try and hope.
I just completed a Juniper Walking Stick that is designed as both a walking stick and to be used in self defense; with a dozen or so raised, pointed, and hard "volcanos" (I call them) designed to wreak havoc on a bad guys head, clavicle, knees, wrists, or whatever, if the need should arise. This has a flat spot on the top that I was hoping to put a carving on; but I will sand and polish a section of Elk antler, retaining the many little natural knobs and spikes to be found on antlers close to the base. After a period of time the antler knob will achieve a kind of Ivory tone to it from the oils in ones hands.
I plan of ordering my starter kit of the correct tools this week; and see if I can carve more wood than hide, as I did when using chisels.
Today I begin work on an Ironwood Walking Stick; I believe it is finally dry enough.

Thanks once again for all the suggestions; I will keep haunting this place for suggestions and ideas.
Ken
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Old 04-01-2009, 09:33 AM
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Default Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

I find that most woods can be carved. It's just a matter of using the right tools. If it's too hard to be carved with hand tools, than use power tools--and they include anything that works--to remove the bulk of the wood, and then use the hand tools to do the fine detail.

Bob L
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Old 04-01-2009, 09:39 AM
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Default Re: What Are The Top Ten Easiest Woods To Carve?

Logger; thanks for the reminder on "pallets". In the past I have found some Phillipine Mahogany pallets that I used for some scroll work and such, that took a beautifull hand rubbed oil finish. I will look for more of this wood.
I have a huge pile of various hardwoods that I got from a cabinet making shop that I use for scroll work; it is very dry and very hard; beautiful wood; but perhaps far too hard for carving.
Ken
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