September 22, 2021

Carving Dry Wood Guide | How It Compares To Wet Wood Carving

Carving dry wood can differ significantly from carving greenwood. If you are carving a project that needs to last, then carving dry wood is much better for your project because the fresh-cut marks will fill in and become virtually invisible over time once the wood has dried. This is especially true when carving coniferous trees.

Carving dry wood is difficult, but the rewards are great. You get to create an object that you can pass down to future generations, and you get to express your creativity in the form of art. 

I have been carving for a long time, but I am not very good at it. My first attempts were made with an electric drill and some scrap pieces of wood that my father gave me when he taught me how to use the tools in his shop. He had taught himself as well, so we both learned from each other. The only thing is that I didn’t know what I wanted to carve until after I started making them.

Pro Tip: You may also be interested in our post about How to Build a Wood Carving Duplicator.

Problem Carving Wood That is Too Dry?

Various problems arise when carving wood that is too dry. You will often find that carving green wood is much easier because the carving knife slides through the wood.

If the wood is too dry, there is a greater risk of injury. Inexperienced carvers will find that they may struggle to maintain an adequate degree of control over the knife. The blade could slip or even break off if it encounters something hard like another piece of wood.

The other problem with drying out wood is that it becomes brittle. When this happens, the wood cracks easily and splinters. It also makes the wood more susceptible to warping, which means that the finished product won’t look as good as it should.

How do I know if my wood is too dry?

You need to check the moisture content of the wood before starting any carving projects.

You can do this by taking a piece of wood and placing it on a sheet of paper. Then, put it in an oven at 100°C (212°F) for around half an hour.

If the wood burns or turns to ash, then that means that it is too dry, and carving might not be such a good idea after all.

What else does it mean if my wood is too wet?

When the wood is too damp, it’s straightforward to carve. However, it doesn’t take long for the water to evaporate away, leaving behind little evidence of what was carved into the wood. This means that the result isn’t going to be quite so impressive. It’s important to note that some woods absorb water quickly while others don’t.

What Will Soften Wood for carving?

You can soften wood for carving by putting it into a plastic bag and then placing the bag in a sunny area or near any other source of heat. You can also soak the carving in warm water, although this is important for greenwood carving and carving dry wood.

Pros and Cons of Green Wood Vs. Dry Wood

Choosing between greenwood and dry wood is not always as straightforward as we may have made it seem. You would have noted that they both have their pros and cons. Let us consider some of them.

Pros of Carving Green Wood

  • It takes much less effort to carve.
  • The carving can be shaved off green wood with much less effort than carving dry wood.
  • Carving green wood has more give to it, making it easier for you to control the direction of your carving cuts, unlike carving dry wood.
  • The finished project will last longer because greener carving is more flexible and less prone to breakage.

Cons of Carving Green Wood

  •  Your carving marks will likely disappear as the wood dries. 
  • Carving green wood will likely result in a weaker carving which may break more easily or not even last until it dries out.

Pros of Carving Dry wood

  • Dry wood tends to hold its shape better.
  • Carving dry wood requires less skill and practice compared to carving green wood.
  • A carving cut done on dry wood will stay where you want it to.

Cons of Carving Dry wood

  • Drying time varies from one type of wood to another.
  • Some types of wood require several days to fully dry, whereas others only require hours.
  • Some types of wood tend to warp when dried, making the final product appear crooked.

How long should wood dry before carving

Allow up to two weeks of drying time for most trees to become suitable for carving. You can work with others within 24-48 hours.

It would be best if you waited until the wood completely dries before beginning any carving work. If you start working on the wood right away, there are chances that you could ruin the surface finish of the wood. The best way to ensure that the wood is ready for carving is to leave it outside for a while. The exact time required will differ from one tree to another. Our post What humidity level should wood be at for carving gives a more detailed response.

Can you carve spoons from dry wood?

Yes, you can carve spoons from dry hardwoods like oak, maple, hickory, etc. Spoon carvers will know that all these materials need to be seasoned first before being used for carving. Seasoning involves soaking the wood in hot water for about an hour. After seasoning, the wood needs to be allowed to air dry for at least three months. Once the wood is properly prepared, you can begin carving spoon handles using either hand or power tools.

Carving kiln dried wood

You cannot use kiln dried wood for carving unless you plan to paint over the carved design. Kiln drying removes moisture content from the wood, leaving behind little or no sap. When this happens, the wood becomes brittle and breaks very easily.

Can you soak wood to make it easier to carve

No, soaking wood does not help you carve anything, and it just softens the wood so that you can shave it down without breaking through the wood grain. This process is called “seasoning.”

Conclusion

Many factors are involved in choosing whether to use green wood or dry wood for your next carving project. As mentioned in the article, dry wood is usually harder but also stronger than greenwood. However, if you plan to do extensive carving, wet wood might prove to be a good choice since it allows you to get creative with your designs.

David D. Hughes
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