Carving Green Wood vs Dry Wood – Pros, Cons, and Which Is Better

There are a lot of key differences between carving wood wet (green) or dry. From the different purposes of the two, to pros, cons, and tips on carving with green and dry wood. So let’s dive into carving green wood vs. dry wood.

Most woods are better to carve dry. Although carving wood dry is harder, the likelihood of dry wood to crack open is much lower as it does not hold moisture, making dry wood the preferred state of wood for carving. Green wood is however preferred when using very hard woods that are difficult to carve such as apple or alder.

Green wood is also often used by beginner woodcarvers as it requires less physical effort to cut through the wood, especially if their workpiece is only used for practicing a skill and therefore they won’t mind it cracking, after green wood shrinks a few weeks later.

There is a lot to know when it comes to carving dry wood and green wood, read below for some crucial tips on the topic.

Pros and Cons of Green Wood Vs. Dry Wood

If you are unsure of what exactly is green wood and why is it different from dry wood, read it below closer to the end of this article,

Green wood and dry wood both have their qualities for different areas in wood carving. Although we are mostly reluctant on using green wood too much, in spoon carving, for example, green wood is the primary type of wood that is used.

Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of green wood and dry wood and then make some conclusions based on the below analysis.

 Pros of Green Wood

  • Easy to carve
  • Nice to use with hand tools
  • Good for beginners to practice different cuts
  • Can be converted into dry wood
  • Can be collected from a forest from recently fallen branches, therefore must not always be bought

Cons of Green Wood

  • A wood that is wet and retains a lot of moisture, this can often cause the wood to split.
  • More suited to outdoor projects
  • Not so good for fine detail.
  • Leaves a residue on your tools, making it very hard to clean.
  • Shrinks when dries

Pros of Dry Wood

  • Less likely to crack as it does not hold moisture
  • More stable and better suited to indoor projects
  • Better for fine detail
  • Good for all levels of expertise
  • Great for power carving

Cons of Dry Wood

  • Harder to cut than green wood with hand tools
  • Some wood left to dry for too long may become stone hard and impossible to carve
  • Requires more tools to work with (such as chisels)
  • Hard to season yourself without experience, and therefore must be bought

Now that we have made some rough statements about the characteristics of both kinds of wood, we can make some conclusions on what are the best uses for each of the two types of wood.

Best Uses For Dry Wood

As you most likely understood from this article, dry wood is used for the majority of carvings throughout the different types that exist.

A fairly underrated strength of dry wood is that it has a tendency to be finer for detailing. While this is not the primary reason that dry wood is used more commonly in styles of wood carving such as traditional whittling than green wood, it is still a very important factor that should be considered when picking between the two.

When it comes to using powered tools on wood, dry wood is the only option. While it is quite fun to try to make something of green wood with a router it is never going to be the preferred wood for carvers.

Carving in relief using power tools is a classic example of the best use of dry seasoned wood. While carving with hand tools in relief is possible with green wood, (although quite rare) power caving in relief is always done dry.

A common question that is raised is how dry should wood be for carving. Just like with most questions, it does not have one answer, so below we will discuss the different options you have.

How dry should wood be for carving

The general rule is that the wood should be dry enough to carve but not rock solid. This means the moisture content in wood should be somewhere between 6-12%.

You can safely get to this range by leaving your wood to dry for a year per each inch of thickness. However alternative methods also exist, such as heating up the wood in a microwave.

Best Uses For Green Wood

Green wood is typically easier to carve, and it’s only disadvantage is that it splits and checks when dries, but if you look from a mindset that these cracks can be fixed, you find that green wood is very usable afterall.

There are quite a few useful ways to solve the issue of splits and checks. If you want to read about how to repair a cracked wood carving, you can read our article on by clicking on the blue text!

With that said, let’s take a look at a type of wood carving where green wood is probably the most important thing that characterizes the carvings.

Spoon carving very commonly employs green wood and most times prefers it over dry wood.

Why you may ask? The answer is simple, green wood is just easier to carve, and all the consequences that may apply to larger carvings don’t take place with spoons, or can be fairly easily fixed.

Therefore if you want to try how is it to carve green wood, you should probably try spoon carving. Green wood also feels very different when you cut it, it even sounds louder, so if you never tried carving wood green, it’s a useful experience you should try out.

Some kinds of wood are better to carve green whichever style of wood carving you choose, not only spoon carving. For example, applewood is very difficult to carve dry, therefore woods such as apple are almost always carved green (unless power carved).

Other examples of kinds of wood that are usually carved green are:

  • Alder
  • Sourwood
  • sweetgum
  • Apple

Most fruit trees are also often carved green as they are pretty tough to cut through when they dry out.

Bowl carving (just like spoon carving) is also traditionally carved out of green wood. Unfortunately, if the wood is hard and dries too fast, cracks are almost inevitable, so make sure you know what you’re dealing with before carving bowls out of green wood.

Another good thing to keep in mind is the part of the tree you are carving with.

Branches are perfect for carving green. Mostly because they are narrow making their “side effects” such as shrinking less noticeable.

This also explains why a lot of carvers go to the forest to harvest wood from fallen branches for carving, instead of buying them. Branches are both easy to collect after a bit of searching, and don’t require any processes done with them before you can start carving!

Tips For Carving Wood Green (wet)

If you are considering carving wood wet (green), first study the way it shrinks to predict what will happen to your carving in a few weeks time.

If you decide that the wood you are using will not shrink to the point of cracking, then feel free to give it a try. Do keep in mind that green wood is much more unpredictable than dry wood.

The two most common carvings made from green wood are bowls and spoons, be sure to practice how cutting green wood feels on one of these small projects before attempting a bigger one.

As mentioned many times before, there is always a good chance your wood will split. But you can reduce that, and one of the ways to reduce the likelihood of wood splitting is covering your work in a plastic bag when you are away and not working on it.

This will slow down the drying process which is very good for you, if the wood dries too fast it will end up cracking open, so you want this process to be as gradual as possible

What Is The Difference Between Green Wood And Dry Wood

The difference between green wood (also known as wet wood) and dry wood, is the time that has passed since it has been cut down from a tree. Green wood holds much more moisture than dry wood, making it more “alive”. It takes about 6-8 weeks for green wood to properly dry.

The path that green wood takes to becomes “dry” can be quite different. The best approach to take it to leave the wood outside in fall (or windy but warm temperature depending on where in the world you are) for a while and keep an eye out for any beetles or other insects attacking it. This process is also called seasoning.

Apart from the different state that dry wood has from green wood, the two are also used very differently in wood carving, and this is also a very significant difference between green wood and dry wood.

How To Prepare Wood For Carving

Now that you understand the purpose of dry wood and green wood even better, you can find out how to prepare wood for carving in our very interesting article about the top 4 things to consider when you get your hands on wood you want to carve with.

You can read the full article by clicking here.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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