November 2, 2021

Carving Greenwood | A Detailed Guide

Ever heard of the art of carving greenwood into beautiful pieces of furniture? That’s the topic of the next post. So, back to basics, let’s take a look at the three fundamental parts of a piece of greenwood furniture. In the past, I have written about the tools and procedures I use to define my wood carving style. I now want to share with you some of the tools I used to carve this piece.

Carving Green Wood vs Dry Wood

Green wood is wood that has been recently cut and not dried. It has not been cured nor had the chance to season. The standard wood seasons through evaporation of the internal moisture. Unlike dried wood, green wood contains more moisture content than seasoned wood. Seasoned wood has been dried over time or by forced drying in kilns. 

Dry wood has less than 20% moisture content. It has to be seasoned or dried, and that is done either through air drying and kiln-dried. Greenwood should be for a specific look or if you are practicing your woodworking techniques. Avoid using it for fuel and structural projects.

Greenwood comes with 100% moisture content, whereas dry wood has less than 20% moisture content. That makes it flexible and soft, unlike dry wood that comes rigid. Working with green wood is more fun on the lathe since it is friendly to the chisel. 

Dry wood is a bit difficult to work with since it is hard to cut. However, know that the greener the wood, the more likely it warps or cracks as the moisture dries. In short, it is less durable than hardwood. That is why it is not the best choice when it comes to building and furniture projects. 

Greenwood is unstable since it warps and sometimes ruptures the structural integrity of the build. However, it works if you are advanced and going for a specific distressed look.

Green Wood’s moisture content makes it not ideal for burning. The moisture in the wood gives off less heat than dried wood, and it also creates creosote as a by-product of moisture evaporation. There are high possibilities of the creosote deposits in chimney flues leading to chimney fires under the right conditions.

Greenwood is less expensive than dried wood because the lumber is handled fewer times. The chances of having a loss are low. There are no energy costs encountered.  The wood is at a more affordable price than dry wood.  

Greenwood weighs more than dried wood. That is due to the moisture content, hence shipping costs are more expensive. Dry wood comes with a higher price tag than greenwood. The process of making dry wood involves stacking and stickering until it is ready to be loaded. It shrinks in volume by at least 5%-6%.

Dry wood has a darker color and will retain deeper and come with more vibrant colors than kiln-dried stock. Darkly colored woods lose a bit of their color when dried and lightly colored woods hold their color much better when dried. 

Greenwood comes with multiple wood types from which you can choose. Nearly any wood can be cut and sealed in paraffin wax without defects occurring during storage. Thicknesses are limited by the size of the trees from which the lumber is cut. 

Dry woods are less available than green woods. Some species are scarce due to the loss that occurs during the drying process. Green wood is easier to turn than dry wood. It also cuts well and produces little sawdust. 

The moisture within the wood lubricates the turning tool, keeping it cool and easy to handle unlike dry wood, where carving tools heat from the friction between the wood and the carving tool. That makes turning more uncomfortable for unprotected hands.

How to choose wood to carve

Keep an eye out for knots and other imperfections that make it difficult to carve. Sometimes the greenwood has deformities that make it challenging to carve your items. The top part of a limb might have knots and hidden branches, while the bottom does not, and you have to use just half of it.

Choose the wood based on where you want to use it. Some wood types are not safe for food contact items, and you need to know the wood safe for that. 

The wood grain direction decides the finish. When carving, it is tiresome to carve on the wood across the wood grain. Move the blade in the direction of the wood grain. That makes it comfortable and easier if you are using greenwood.

The wood has to be safe and causes no allergies. Regardless of the wood type, not all woods are safe to work with. Avoid carving on wood that has a strong smell since that makes users uncomfortable and sometimes headaches. 

Where to find greenwood?

The two ways of getting greenwood include harvesting bushes and logging. There are more areas with bushes and trees in the World. Minimal tools to harvest Greenwood are what you need. Logging is a way of farming multiple green wood types. 

Make use of the  Logging Axe since it easily chops down trees by pressing “E” on the trees near you. Bear in mind that thicker and larger trees give you more Green-Wood although it takes longer to chop down. If the current tier of your Logging axe is not performing well, you upgrade. 

You only need better metal for the upgrade. As much as you have a higher level of logging skills, farming Greenwood gives you more. Greenwood is more available near the starting area in Windward. There are a ton of trees outside with a lot of bushes in between them.

Where to find carving patterns

Look for carving patterns on Amazon or Pinterest. There is a wide variety of woodwork patterns that you can choose from depending on the items you want to make. For a better woodwork pattern, make a sketch or draft your expectations on paper. It guides you and works as a reminder of your details. 

Where to find woodworking plans

Woodworking plans are on the websites below. 

Ana White

It is ideal for plans for DIY home furniture. For beautiful wood beds, rustic tables, and outdoor furnishings, as well as tiny houses, cabins, and other more substantial projects, search no more.

Fine Woodworking

Fine woodworking is a website and magazine with tips, how-to-dos, tools, and materials for woodworking projects. 

The Balance Everyday

It is ideal for both beginners and experts. It gives you detailed plans and helpful advice on the topic of where to find free and low-cost building materials. 

Woodsmith Shop

The website gives you a list of A spinoff of how-to episodes on-site and available for download. The plans have step-by-step instructions, shop-tested tips and techniques, and illustrations.

Examine the grain of the wood

Reading the grain direction in wood allows planning or jointing operations to work better since the knives are cut in the same direction as the wood grain pattern. When the carving knives work against the grain, there are higher chances of chipping and splitting.

Observe the wood or lumber since the wood grain pattern is easy to see in any piece of wood. When working with milled lumber, look at the wide face of the board and note the light and dark stripes from one end to the other. The grain orientation is lengthwise from end to end. Cut in the wood grain direction for strength.

How to do an undercut

  1. Position the knife so that it levels with the floor. The floor is a flat surface of the carving. 
  2. Make the second cut by cutting half way up the wall side and angles down to meet the first cut. 
  3. Clean out the hidden joint.
  4. Add more shadows to the carving.
David D. Hughes
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