View Full Version : Grren Wood Carving Questions

Steve Friedman
07-03-2008, 12:18 PM
These may be very simple questions, but I have only been carving (bowls and spoons) for a few months.

I recently carved a spoon from a 4" diameter branch from a birch tree that I had cut less than an hour earlier and was shocked by how wet the wood was under the bark. It also left an annoying residue (sap?) on the knives that had to be constantly wiped away. It made me wonder whether there an optimal time to wait after cutting a fresh piece of wood before starting to carve. My question are:

Is it OK to use wood immediately after it has been cut or better to wait a few days or weeks before carving?

Is there a rule of thumb as to how long a log can sit before it becomes too dry to carve?

Does the diameter of the wood or the species make a difference?

Thanks for any feedback.


John Schreiber
07-05-2008, 3:28 PM
Hi Steve, Welcome to the creek; wade on in.

I can answer some of your questions in a general manner based on my experience.

Different species and times of year, the moisture of fresh cut wood will be very different. It can be so wet that it is unpleasant to work with, but the fresher the wood is, the easier it is to cut/carve. However the wetter it is, the more it will crack and change in size and shape as it dries.

Depending on what you are carving, different amounts of dryness are optimum. Removing lots of stock is much easier when it is fresh, but detail work is just as easy when the wood is harder. You can carve wood even if it's fully dry, but some species which carve easily when fresh will be very difficult to carve when they get drier.

For wood which has been debarked as a general rule it goes from fresh to as dry as it is going to be over the course of one year per inch of thickness. That can be accelerated greatly by drying in a kiln or in other ways.

Dave Lindgren
07-06-2008, 2:46 AM
According to Wille Sundqvist in the book "Swedish Carving Techniques" wood should be cut in the fall or early winter, when the sap is down, for carving bowls and spoons. If the ends are sealed properly, or it is kept in a plastic bag in the freezer, it can then be used at any time.

It depends a lot on the variety of wood also. I have carved spoons out of California live oak that had been sold as seasoned firewood. Softer woods, such as red Alder can be carved easily right up until it starts decaying. Myrtle is always nearly impossible to carve, wet, dry, or otherwise.

If the wood you were carving was just recently cut, the sap was probably full up in the branches for summer growth. Let it set for a couple of weeks, preferably in sawdust or shredded paper, until this spring sap drys a little. It is a good idea, though, to split any billets or branches at the center pith to reduce cracking.