What is the softest wood besides balsam for carving?

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What is a good wood for a beginner to carve?
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Huntley K Williams wrote:

for learning carving. Soft woods require an extremely sharp tool, otherwise they tend to fray.
Basswood is probably the better for carving since it is moderately soft and cuts well. Half of learning to carve is learning to sharpen your tools. The other half is practice.
--
G.W. Ross

I tried being reasonable once. I
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G. Ross wrote:

And the other half is learning the history and culture, at least as much as possible. A disappointing thing you learn, I think, is that, historically, woodcarvers were pretty far down the totem pole. For several decades now, I think one of the more profitable aspects of it is in teaching others to do it. The beauty of the stylized Acanthus leaves changed my life--I have two books dedicated solely to them (which in some ways I find silly when I think about it). That's been my secret, so please keep it under your hat.
Bill
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+1
Names, please! I bought a couple of real acanthus plants and was disappointed that they don't look like the stylized leaves in old carvings. I like the plants, though.
My favorite book is by Dick Onians. (Huntley, $1.28 at Amazon) http://tinyurl.com/8327srm
-- Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Larry Jaques wrote:

I'm reading that one now (slowly, I've got other fish in the pan). It's better than the other 6 or 7 books on carving I have read. I subscribe to WoodCarving magazine, published in England, by GMC: Guild of Master Craftsmen, and am a member of a local carving club, but that doesn't mean I carve alot or have done a lot of carving.
Here is one I bought myself for Christmas, it's not as deep, I think, as the following one, but it has some nice photos.
(Amazon.com product link shortened)42237066&sr=8-1&keywords=woodcarving+acanthus
Being written long ago, this one is a free download from Google/books. I just came upon it last week.
(Amazon.com product link shortened)42237031&sr=8-1&keywordsanthus
Larry, I was definitely disappointed by the appearance of the real Acanthus plants too! That just shows what you can get away with when you "stylize" something. : )
Cheers, Bill

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Ditto.
I saw that one yesterday on Amazon.

This one, too. I'll go Google Play it...

Yessiree.
-- Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Larry Jaques wrote:

On pp. 32-33 of this book, he provides the basis of the two definitions for the terms softwood and hardwood that krw and I were discussing in a subthread here: The historically "common" one, and the "biological" one. These papes contain the most readable distinction between softwood and hardwood that I have seen.
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On Friday, July 13, 2012 8:51:36 PM UTC-4, Bill wrote:

Oh, but the lower figures on the totem pole are the biggest ones, the most important! That's consistent with woodcarvers down low, the totem pole artist knows he and his fellows are the key players...
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whit3rd wrote:

Your snipping made it look like I wrote the above, which I did not. You should have also snipped out my name. But no harm done.
--
 GW Ross 








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"Huntley K Williams" wrote:

Try bass wood.
--
Have fun


Lew




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I assume you mean balsa but I think basswood has always been the choice for carvers.
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Indeed it has. My father-in-law took up carving as a retirement hobby about thirty years ago, and is amazingly good at it. Some time I'll post pics of some of his work.
Anyway... he's carved one piece in walnut, one in beech, and one in catalpa, that I know of. As far as I know, everything else -- hundreds of pieces -- is basswood.
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Huntley K Williams wrote:

hardwood,look it up.
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Also the strongest wood for its weight.
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In that it's not a conifer, sure.
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snipped-for-privacy@att.bizzzzzzzzzzzz wrote:

That's not actually the technical distinction between hardwood and softwood. Many people just think it is.
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On Fri, 13 Jul 2012 14:30:43 -0700, huntley_k snipped-for-privacy@msn.com (Huntley K Williams) wrote:

Balsa, poplar/cottonwood, Basswood, or anything free (and fresh.) <g>
Douglas fir is cheap and soft when wet, but hardens up like iron. Poplar is similar. Dry, they're a beeyotch to carve.
-- Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Balsa wood is great for models , like planes, that need to be very light. For woodcarving, the preferred wood is Tilia or Lime, otherwise known as Basswood. It is a hardwood species that has very tight grain making it very appealing to look at and easy to carve.
Another wood is Tupelo, having virtually the same characteristics of Basswood. Other woods with tight grain and relatively easy to carve are Butternut (although getting harder to find), Chestnut and some fruitwoods.
You can carve virtually any wood, it just depends on how hard you want to work. I have carved almost everything, except black locust, which is extremely hard. I pretty much stop at pear for its color and relative softness. I love walnut but large pieces are very tiring to carve by hand.
If you use a power carver, then you can carve anything but remember to research your wood species to ensure you are not breathing in toxic dust as many species can be very toxic to the human body.
Hope this helps. :) `Casper
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Chainsaw and angle grinder.
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Huntley K Williams wrote:

For practice, think soap. (The washing kind, not a wood.)
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