October 12, 2021

Carving Ginkgo Wood

The Ginkgo is a hard, drought-resistant tree that has found a new place in urban settings as a cultivated tree.  It makes furniture, carved objects, housewares, and bowls.  Yet, little information about the properties of its wood is known, which is essential in wood carving, and that is what this article is discussing. 

Carving Ginkgo is not only a result of vast Ginkgo trunks lying around, but its uniform texture makes it a great candidate in woodwork. There has been an increased usage of the species and harvest from the urban trees, making slabs from the small pieces of Ginkgo. The Ginkgo tree grows up to 115 feet tall, and the tallest grows up to 160 feet. 

Being an insect-resistant wood type that lives long, it has been a treasure in wood carving. When differentiating between a female from a male, take note of a foul smell close to rancid butter. The wood is a pale yellow that is close to caramel color with black streaks. 

As much as the wood is soft, it has its shortcomings. It makes good carvings such as bowls, and it is for both carving and turning. It has a fine, uniform texture, and carving with sharp tools leaves a nice sheen. It sands well and gives an excellent finish. Yet, it is too soft to make floors. Quickly dry the wood before it gets stained by fungi.

With the limitations above, purchasing Ginkgo depends on how adventurous you feel, and it is worth the risk considering its beauty. Since urban trees grow faster, they branch early and twist to follow the sun, creating problematic lumber. In that case, learn how to read the grain.  

Pay attention to equal growth rings, tension wood, and good color. If you are not sure,  ask how the wood was dried. Working with Ginkgo requires you to know its properties first. The grain differs since it can be straight, interlocked, or wavy, and the texture can be medium or coarse.

Ginkgo is easy to work with. It does not select when it comes to hand and machine tools. But,  interlocked grain may result in torn grain during operations. It glues and finishes well. The Ginkgo wood is for Veneer, plywood, carving, cabinetry, furniture, musical instruments.

What is ginkgo wood

Ginkgo biloba is known as ginkgo or the maidenhair tree. It is an old type of wood in the world. Ginkgo wood has worked throughout the globe for thousands of years. At first, it was for firewood, but lately, it has gained its popularity as a carving wood. 

It has unique leaves, shaped like fans, and veins radiate out from the blade. It belongs to the gymnosperm or softwood family. It is an Asian native and fungus- and insect-resistant ornamental tree. 

Its features tolerate cold weather and survive the worst atmospheric conditions of urban areas. However, the plant is an endangered species. When it is growing, it takes the shape of a pyramid. It has a sparingly branched trunk up to 30 meters tall and 2.5 meters in diameter. 

The bark is gray and furrows deep on older trees. The texture is corky, and the wood is lightweight. The wood is soft and weak, so it works on ornaments and not items with high traffic. The leaves are fan-shaped, and they resemble the leaflets of the maidenhair fern. They are grown on short, thickened shoots. They are dull gray-green to yellow-green in summer, turn golden yellow in autumn, and fall later in the season.

Where to get ginkgo wood

The Ginkgo biloba tree, a large ornamental tree, is found in North America and Europe. It grows in yards, gardens, and parks, and it has been grown in China. Since it is considered a sacred plant, it grows close to temples. 

From China, it spread around the rest of the world as a popular ornamental tree. Since it has spread all over, it is no longer a living fossil for a particular place. The bark remains smooth, and the leaves are fan-shaped. Their resemblance to the maidenhair fern has given the tree an alternative name, maidenhair tree.

Choosing the right ginkgo wood

When choosing the ginkgo wood, consider what you want to make, size, use, and texture. As much as the Ginkgo tree has been moving places to the extent that its origin is debatable, it has remained changed for years. 

Although it has not changed, it comes in varieties. Although they are pretty, fan-shaped leaves, the trees are either male or female. They make big shades since they grow in large bushes. They grow up to 24 meters high and 12 meters wide; there are also smaller varieties. When choosing ginkgo wood of any variety, bear in mind that mature female trees produce fruit. 

Types of the Ginkgo wood

Fairmount

What separates the Fairmount tree from the rest of the wood is the growth habit. It grows narrow and upright, making it ideal for narrow spaces with plenty of vertical room. 

Princeton Sentry 

This type is a bit taller and wider than Fairmont and grows quickly. 

Autumn Gold

Autumn Gold is a canopy tree that requires a lot of space, and it gives you a beautiful shade. It grows up to 50 feet high and 35 feet wide. 

Chase Manhattan

Chase Manhattan is dwarf shrub ginkgo that reaches only a height of 2 meters. 

Majestic Butterfly

This type of ginkgo has green streaked with yellow. The smaller tree is 10 feet high when mature.

Lacy Ginkgo

The lacy cultivar has a textured edge that makes lace. Male and female ginkgo cultivars come with different names. When choosing between the two, take note of your needs. A male tree is ideal of low maintenance, and it does not produce fruit.

Where to store your wood

Store your wood in a place far from insects because it gets stained easily. As much as the wood is resistant to harsh conditions, avoid moisture. Keep the wood in partial shade so that they mature. 

Tools needed

  • Chip Carving Knife.
  • Chisels.
  • Gouges.
  • Palm Tool.
  • Mallet.
David D. Hughes
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