I get a lot of requests for information on wood. Carvers want to know about what kind of
to buy to carve, why does it make a good caving wood and how to select it. I will attempt
to answer those questions and more in this section. I will start off with some "good to know"
information followed by a discussion of different kinds of wood. I am starting with
basswood and will add other woods as time permits. So, check back from time to time
and see what I have added.
If you have comments or suggestions please email. I try to answer all emails.
KILN DRIED VS AIR DRIED (MOISTURE CONTENT)
Dried wood falls into 2 categories: air dried and kiln dried. Quality, air dried wood has
a moisture content between 12% and 20%, on average. This is wood which has been
dried by exposure to air out of doors, or in an unheated shed for some length of time.
Kiln dried wood has been dried with artifical heat in a strictly controlled chamber.
Finish grades of kiln dried wood have a moisture content of 6% to 12%. Kiln dried wood
tends to be softer than air because the kiln process stops the hardening process. Air
dried wood gets harder and harder the longer it is dried in the air. This is why furniture
makers prefer air dried wood has been drying for many years.
Carvers prefer kiln dried wood but thick wood dried in a kiln has some built-in problems.
Defects such as honeycombing, splitting and checking can occur. It is better to use glued
up wood for larger projects. By using glued up wood, which is at least 2 layers laminated
together with an adhesive so that all the grains are running essetially parallel, can
greatly reduce the occurrence of such defects. An addition benefit of laminated wood is
improved strength and stablitly.
(Tilia Americana)Family Tiliaceae
Common names: linden, beetree, whitewood, lime. It grows throughout the eastern
North America. Northern basswood tends to be more white and softer than
Most carvings (at least in the United States) are done in basswood. Basswood is
used because it is relatively soft, has a straight grain, holds cuts well and is mostly
knot free. It work easily with tools, making it a premier carving wood. It is poor
is holding nails and in bending, but moderate in gluing and good for holding
paint. It does not burn particularly well.
The trees have straight trunks, with most of the bole limb-free, and narrow, short
crowns. The bark is initially dark green and shiny, developing to a grayish color
with deep furrows. the sapwood is white to cream, while the heartwood is
pale to reddish brown or tan with some darker streaks. When dry, the wood has
a pleasant smell and is soft and light, with a fine, even texture.
I only met one carver that was allergic to basswood. It is so non-allergenic
that the shavings and sawdust are used in horse stalls. Having said that, I recommend
that you take the same precautions with basswood as other woods. Always wear
a mask when grinding it.