Woods Best Suited for Carving

Few of us can pass a fine piece of cabinet work without wanting to rub our hands over the surface if only to assure ourselves that the piece is real and not a bit of our imagination. In so doing we are paying a slight tribute to the beauty of the wood. We may think this is not the reason, but if it isn't, what else can it be? I have a table in my workshop I recently made of mahogany for my use as a writing table. It's been there about ten days and in that time, with only one exception, people who came into the shop have looked at it, caressed the top with their finger tips, and spoken of the beauty of the wood.

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Never mind the workmanship; that's beside the point. This to me is quite understandable. I do it myself and ponder on the beauty of the grain and wonderful feel of the surface.

1. Make "Dutchman" large enough to cover sap pocket completely. Make sides square-grain to run in same direction as stock.
2. Scribe around "Dutchman" placed over sap pocket with point of knife.
3. Make back-cut inside scribed line. Remove stock to 1/16.-inch depth less than thickness of "Dutchman." Bottom off. Pare stopcuts to scribed line for press fit.
4. Glue sides of cut-out. Press "Dutch man" in place. Let glue set. Pare off top of "Dutchman." Proceed with carving.

Probably the four most common woods used for carving in this country are white pine, white oak, walnut, and mahogany. I have used all four varieties in my work and what I found out about these woods is summarized in the following comments.

White Oak. A coarse-grained, dense, hard wood (Image 4). Fine detail is difficult to develop in this wood because the alternate layers of hard and soft wood tend to make the tools jump and chatter. The wood is best for large, bold carvings, and its use, to a great extent, is confined to church work. It would be difficult to find a better wood for this purpose for the reason that the massive effects that must be developed in church carvings are best executed in a strong, hard, dependable wood. I have found it difficult to work unless the carving tools are shaped up with a longer lead on the heel than that used for woods of a different character. With this longer lead on the tools, care must be exercised in malleting the tools into the wood to avoid breakage.


(a) After stopcuts are completed and stock is removed, to smooth off the bottom of a sinking or carved section, use long bent chisel as shown above.
(b) If cut is across grain, hold chisel so that its cutting edge is at a skew- an angle-with the "run" of the cut. Move tool forward in direction of arrow, not sidewise.
With care, the bottom should come off smooth with few if any tool marks. Make sure sides are pared off before "bottoming."

PURPOSE-To Prevent Tools from Overrunning Design
1. Hold firmer chisel vertical, bevel towards stock to be cut away and in side scribed line (No. 3). Mallet chisel down gently to about 1/8-inch cut. Follow all around inside scribed lines.
2. Remove stock inside chiseled lines, cutting side to side (No. 4) with either firmer or long bent chisel. Continue process to required depth.
3. Bottom off. If curved lines are involved, use properly shaped straight gouges to make stopcuts. Cross cut and bottom with chisels.






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