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Thread: Butternut Wood

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Saluda, NC
    Posts
    39

    Butternut Wood

    Compared to basswood, how does butternut carve?

    I'd like to experiment with butternut but I haven't been able to find a source.

    Would appreciate any recommendations.

    Thank you.

    Scott C.
    Saluda, NC

  2. #2
    I think it carves about the same, may be a tad harder depending on the board.

    Have you tried Steve Wall Lumber in Mayodan or The Hardwood Store in Gibsonville?

    You can have it shipped.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    SW Missouri
    Posts
    27
    I'm asked this question a lot, as I carve roses in both basswood and butternut. They start as a single piece of wood, and with a lot of luck, stay that way 'til finished.

    I would say they carve about the same, as far as hardness is concerned.... both being very easy to carve, assuming you have decent wood to start with. The real difference (to me) is butternut is more brittle. If you look closely, you'll see it has small, dark "dots" all over it... these are actually air holes/pockets, which is what makes it brittle (compared to basswood). So much so, that it adds to my carving time, simply because it's butternut..... 40 hours for a basswood rose and 50 hours for a butternut rose. The extra time is due to making sure I'm not carving against the grain. With basswood, my knife will want to "dig in" if going the wrong way.... where as with butternut, the wood will tend to break/flake out. Not a good thing when carving details.

    Both will hold detail well, with the edge going to basswood. I find I can make basswood thinner compared to butternut.... one reason, I use light to see through basswood to check for thickness in most areas. I can't do that with butternut.

    Butternut (also known as white walnut) is liked by most carvers due to it's ability to carve easily and beautiful grain. The problem today is that it's also liked by worms and fungus. Many carvers like the worm holes, as they consider it adding character to their work. In the case of my roses, the holes are a deterrent. Finding hole-free wood is getting harder every day. If you're looking for a source, you might contact George Bledsoe at:

    http://www.loesshillssawmill.com/bas...butternut.html


    Basswood: Butternut:

    Basswood.jpgButternut.jpg
    .... Dave

    Old carvers never die.... they just whittle away.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Saluda, NC
    Posts
    39
    Thank you, Dave. Appreciate the info on butternut. I will follow up with George Bledsoe.

    I was / am very impressed with your rose carvings. Getting the petals so thin is impressive.

    Do you use knives and gouges only or do you also use power grinders (Dremel, etc.)?

    How do you hold the work.

    Thanks again for the info on butternut.

    Scott C.
    Saluda, NC

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    SW Missouri
    Posts
    27
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Cardais View Post
    Do you use knives and gouges only or do you also use power grinders (Dremel, etc.)? How do you hold the work. Saluda, NC
    I hand-hold the carvings when I make them. They're too fragile to hold any other way, that I know of.

    90% of the work is done with a carving knife, with the balance done with various gouges and V-tools. I have tried to rough carve the bulk wood using a Foredom but didn't like the results and found it didn't save me much time. I also carve in public where using power is not an option.

    That being said, there are times where using a micro-motor carver proves the best option, given what the wood lets me do. When the wood is especially flakey, I use a small diamond ball under the outer petal rolls to clean up the fuzzies I can't get with a small veiner. I then go back with a veiner and clean fuzzies made by the ball.... a vicious cycle.

    Another place where I use a tear-drop shaped bit (sparingly, and not very often) is to shape the edges of the outer petals. I can usually do this with a knife.

    Lastly, the very center of the top is sometimes cleaned up with a dental bit (ball shaped) when a knife won't work. Since this is end-grain, the small, inner petals are hard to form and can be dressed up with the ball. This happens to about 1/3 of my carvings. I may start doing this to all of the future ones, as the hollowed area looks a bit more natural. (see pic) If you look carefully, you can see a petal deep inside the center hole. This was done with a knife, with a dental bit to finish the center of them (there's actually 3 inside that hole).

    DSC04122.jpgSDC 07.jpg
    .... Dave

    Old carvers never die.... they just whittle away.

  6. #6
    Dave,

    Its always great to admire someone's skill.

    Can't be appreciated fully unless you've tried it.

    A few years ago I was fortunate to come across a 14" wide 12 foot long butternut board. I understand it is getting harder to find.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Saluda, NC
    Posts
    39
    Beautiful work, Dave. Carving in public sounds like fun.

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