How To Prepare Wood For Carving In 4 Simple Steps

Are you wanting to craft a masterpiece? This post will cover how to prepare wood for carving.

It’s not as hard as you might think! Today we will share tips on the best preparation techniques that involve selecting a non-toxic piece of wood, preserving the wood well, making sure the wood has the right amount of moisture, and what to do if you find any cracks in your wood!

Before we go into steps on preparing wood, you must know what type of wood you have gathered first.

First of all, if you’re purchasing timber often from a store or a merchant, there is often little preparation needed before you carve. However, you must check there are no screws or fixings, as it could damage your tool or take longer.

Timber and woods gathered from here are often known as dry wood or seasoned wood.

However, if you’ve gathered fresh wood from the outdoors such as a twig or branch, this is known as green wood.

Depending on what type of wood you use, there are specific pros and cons.

 Pros and Cons of Greenwood

  • Pro– Easy to carve and nice to use with hand tools
  • Con– A wood that is wet and retains a lot of moisture, this can often cause the wood to split. To reduce the likelihood of wood splitting you can cover your work in a plastic bag when not working on it. Green carvings are more suited to outdoor projects, so it’s best you carve outside too.
  • Green wood is not so good for fine detail.

Pros and Cons of Dry Wood

  • Pro– It does not hold moisture, so less likely to crack open.
  • More stable and better suited to indoor projects
  • Better for fine detail
  • Con- Tough to use on tools, may have to sharpen more frequently.
  • Usually harder to carve

How to Prepare Wood for Carving

Now you know the pros and cons of the two types of wood best for carving, here is how to prepare your wood.

1.  Select a Non-Toxic Piece of Wood

While most types of woods are safe to use, some can be toxic and may trigger allergic reactions, especially when coming to carving it later. Therefore it’s vital you know which wood is safe to use or which ones could trigger specific allergies.

Make note, not every piece of wood will cause an allergic reaction however, some toxins in specific sections of wood may affect people in different ways. To save you some time, we’ve pooled together a list of common reactions from woodworkers source on what type of wood, its origin, and the typical reaction it causes.

Irritant To Eyes and Skin– BalsamFir, Beech, Birch, BlackLocust, Blackwood, Boxwood, Cocobolo, Dahoma, Ebony, Greenheart, Mansonia, Obeche, Olivewood, Rosewoods, Satinwoods, Walnut, Wenge, Teak, and Yew.

Risk of Nasopharyngeal cancer: Beech and Quebracho.

Risk of Pneumonia: Iroko, Maple, and Teak.

Risk of Nausea: BlackLocust, Mansonia, Oleander, Purpleheart, and Yew.

These are just a few common examples, however just because there is wood not listed here does not mean it’s entirely safe to use. Make sure you conduct your research about the type of wood you have before you begin carving.

Whatever the wood you’re using, be cautious as inhaling wood while using can be dangerous to your health in the long-term. If you breathe in dust, it can cause problems to your respiratory system. So make sure you’re wearing protective gear like goggles and a mask when dealing with wood.

2. Store The Wood Accordingly

If you are using wood from the outdoors and not using it straight away, you’ll want to store it efficiently. Make sure when storing the wood, you place it in an environment that is sheltered and is kept away from the rain. Likewise, make sure it’s out of sunlight and make sure that the air can circulate the wood piece.

One way of doing this is by placing tarp or plastic sheeting over it on a flat surface. Keep it only semi-sealed and not fully enclosed. This prevents mold from developing and bacteria getting to the piece of wood. However, if it’s fully sealed, it can cause the wood to absorb the sheet’s moisture, becoming wet and hard to carve.

Another way of preserving your wood is to leave the bark and paint the grains using latex paint. When you’re ready, then cut an inch or two off the wood and split your log.

3. Moisture Content in Wood

To be able to use your wood for carving effectively, it needs to be somewhat relatively dry. However, wood is a material that easily absorbs water and can retain a lot of water or moisture. This can quickly enter through woods capillaries, lumens, and diffuse through the cell walls.

We must know the moisture content as sometimes if it’s too much, it may cause splits in the wood, it can encourage mold growth within the wood, or even prevent adhesives forming a tight end.

Depending on the wood, the moisture content can generally vary between 8-25% in weight.

To check the moisture content of the wood, we recommend using pinless moisture mature. This is a device, which you hold over the wood and transmits an electromagnetic wave, submitting a reading.

A good moisture content of wood is around 6-8%.

If the content is too high, you can dry the wood by using a kiln.

You can read more about moisture content in wood in our recent article The Right Moisture Content In Wood For Wood Carving

4. Repairing Cracked Wood

A cracked piece of wood could cause a lot of damage to your carving project. We advise as soon as you see a crack, you repair it immediately before further damage is done later. Here are our top 3 methods to seal the wood Carving from any potential Cracking.

To help you repair your wood, you will need to have a strong wood filler such as polyester resin. However, depending on your wood, you may want to get a colored fill, which will match the wood accordingly.

Next up, to keep the resin inside, tape up the sides and bottom of your wood. Then put the resin into the cracks until it overflows outside of your piece of wood.

Wrap it in a bag and tape it, so the resin stays within the wood cracks. Then, wait for some time and unwrap the bag. Now the resin will have stayed and filled in the cracks.

There you have it, four steps on how to prepare wood for carving.

Remember to safely pick your wood, do your research on toxins, and wear protective clothing while dealing with the wood.

Similarly, depending on when you use the wood, make sure you store it in a safe environment out of the sun! Likewise, check the moisture content and make sure it’s between 6-8%. Finally, if you have any cracks, use filler and leave it for some time!

To repair a crack, you can fill and glue ‘feathers’ (thin slices) of the same wood in the cracks. Make sure the grain is going the same way. This will give a better finish and will be less noticeable than resin.

Best of luck carving

This was our guide on how to prepare wood before carving, we hope these steps help you prepare your wood for your carving masterpiece.

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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