View Full Version : wood preference for carving

Johnm Chase
01-21-2009, 2:31 PM
I am new to carving and enjoying it. I started carving with Basswood and found it OK but chippy. My first carving was in some Lilac I had an old tree that died a few years ago. Its was pretty good but hard on the small V tools, actually had to replace the tool. I didn't know it was damaging the tool. Recently I started on some Cottonwood we have a lot of it in New Mexico. It carves like butter and no chipping. I was wondering what woods others carve. I have been doing mostly Caricature carving and wood spirits.

Joe Chritz
01-21-2009, 2:49 PM
I once made a stick for hot dogs and marshmallows. Does that qualify me for an opinion? ;)

I really have nothing of value to add other than hopefully a laugh.


Mike Henderson
01-21-2009, 3:34 PM
I find basswood fairly easy to carve. Honduras mahogany is also good for carving.

I don't know what brand of V-tool you were using, but you certainly should have been able to sharpen them even if they were damaged.


Johnm Chase
01-22-2009, 12:45 PM
I use Pfeil tools and this is/was a 1mm v parting tool the wings and very thin and hard to see during use the wood being very hard chipped a wing. I did manage to sharpen it but in the process due to the two bevels I lost some of the depth in the V

John Schreiber
01-22-2009, 2:54 PM
Real mahogany is the nicest carving wood I've ever used. Basswood varies from source to source, but can be very good. Basswood doesn't add much personality to the piece though. Some of the nicest things I've done have been in woods which are difficult to carve like white oak. It's hard work, and the grain usually fights you, but the product has extra beauty.

If mahogany wern't so expensive, I would use it all the time.

Myron Redding
01-24-2009, 11:05 AM
kiln dried #2 spruce is one of the best carving woods for fish and birds I have ever carved with.The grain in most instances is smooth and easy to cut, though their is some prep work reguired if you plan to paint or stain it, but the results are well worth the effort. :)

Matt Sollars
01-24-2009, 11:21 AM
i've always used basswood.....not too rough on you, but strong enough to hold a sharp edge.

george wilson
02-05-2009, 1:51 PM
Grinling Gibbons used limewood. They had some for sale at Woodcraft in Richmond last year. It was pretty expensive. I don't think it's quite the same as basswood. I don't think basswood could take the detail he got when he carved the Dutch lace creavat he wore to a party as I joke,IIRC,or it might have been a client who wore it. Many of my books are packed up.

I am wondering what good I could ever do if the world's greatest carver was a GRINNING GIBBON!! Gibbons had quite a good size business,employing a fair number of carvers. He often forged quick and dirty special chisels for special use.

Samuel A. Livingstone
02-05-2009, 8:11 PM
Lime wood is another name for English Linden tree or in America basswood. Very little difference if any between the American and English versions. The American basswood is called Linden especially landscapers seeling the trees.

Similar to the American maple and English Sycamore name confusion. Both are maples with the English maple softer than American sugar maple. Do not pay more for a fancy name.

george wilson
02-05-2009, 8:44 PM
There are about 125 species of maple. I have heard sycamore called lowland maple. Sycamore has thousands of very highly visible medullar rays that are not nearly so remarkable as the other maples,like sugar maple,that you commonly see. They are not as wide as Oak medullar rays,but every bit as pronounced.

I never cared to work in bass wood,or limewood,so haven't given them much thought. There are some different species of limewood in Europe.I think sommer(?) lime has better carving properties than bass.

randall rosenthal
02-05-2009, 9:15 PM
i like white pine....hardly anyone else does...but im into it.

David Keller NC
02-06-2009, 1:40 PM
John (and others) - all basswood is not created equal. I've carved some of the Southern Appalacian basswood, and although inexpensive, it's really not suitable. It has both hard and soft spots, and some of those soft spots are really soft.

I've also had the pleasure of using basswood from Heinicke. This stuff is superb - there is very little grain, the wood's incredibly consistent in density, and the growth rings are very tightly packed together - probably from slow growth in a Wisconsin forest. Highly recommended, and you can order just about any size you want directly from them, and get it shipped UPS.

Phil Warnement
02-07-2009, 9:29 AM
Could you please specify?

David Keller NC
02-07-2009, 12:07 PM
Phil - Here you go. Outstanding customer service, and better than outstanding carving stock. One note, however, they do sell large panels that are glue-ups. For most folks, the lack of visible grain structure makes this a non-issue, but I think they can supply one-board substantially sized planks if that's what you want, you'll just need to call them and ask.


george wilson
02-07-2009, 12:43 PM
P.S.: Harpsichord keyboards were made of lime or bass wood,but making them is not a carving issue. Just done for lightness of keyboard touch. My only use of bass wood was for these.

Jose Kilpatrick
02-17-2009, 5:20 PM
No once likes cedar heartwood? Or is that just a Texas thing? Or am I confusing 'Whittling' with Carving?