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Question about basswood

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  • Question about basswood

    I don't yet know much about buying wood stock but I had an idea to get the wife interested in my scroll saw projects. Being an artist I thought I would get her started on wood burning some detail into things. No such luck. The wood grain made it turn out badly and she got frustrated really fast. She decided instead to paint stuff. Then I found out that wood burning is done mostly on basswood, I believe.
    So, I looked up some basswood and was disappointed to find it only in such small pieces, well, small to me. I've looked and searched and can only find it in about 12 inch wide sheets. To me a "sheet" ought to be more like 48 inches.

    So teach me guys; why only such small pieces. Small trees? Too much demand? Demand from higher paying clients? What is it?

    P. S. I'm sure if I was willing to pay the price I could get any size I wanted, but that's just the skeptic in me talking.

  • #2
    By "sheet" I'm assuming your looking for plywood? I don't know that I've ever seen basswood ply. Only basswood I've seen is actual boards - which your going to be hard-pressed to find in wider than 12".
    Basswood is very easy to work with, not alot of grain to worry about and cuts really easily.


    • #3
      Basswood is 'real wood' in that it comes from the Linden tree. The trunks of the tree are cut into slabs like all other popular wood,( Oak, Cherry, Maple, Birch, etc.). Its used for carving and model building as well as wooden blinds for windows. Its light weight and holds detail well making it a good wood for scrolling. Its also pretty cheap as woods go, making it a good choice for experimenting. Light weight makes it a good choice for large wall hung pieces. If you need wider than 12" then gluing pieces side by side will work.


      • #4
        The other reason this came up was due to a friend having asked me to make her a word art hanging. She wanted another like the one she already has but in a different color. The one she has is 26x26 inches. I thought about basswood because I had heard it was pretty light.
        I don't know much about gluing stuff together but like wood I am learning fast.
        This still begs the question of "why" are the pieces so small?


        • #5
          I am guessing on this, but I think the reason we do not have larger 'sheets" is, that scroll saws come in cutting depths of no larger than 30". If you have a 3 or 4 foot sheet that is too big for a scroll saw to handle. You would not be able to hold and cut the board because of the amount of overhang while cutting the board. You could use a spiral blade but if you want to cut the center of the board it would be too big for the throat of the saw. I hope this helps.
          Proud new owner of an EX-21



          • #6
            Just a guess as to why basswood is only available in smaller sizes.

            First off, basswood is very light, soft and not particularly strong, at least in the sense that one considers oak to be strong, for example. Given those characteristics, the applications it's best suited for do not call for it to be milled to large sizes. The stock sizes are intended to fit the market and that market is primarily made up of model makers, carvers & such.

            As for large "sheets", anything in the 48" range would be plywood, not a solid wood. I've never seen basswood plywood and I doubt it's available, only because there are other species that serve the purpose better and are probably cheaper. I suspect that basswood "sheets" are called that more because they resemble sheets of paper than sheets of plywood.
            Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter. Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."


            • #7
              I can understand your frustrations with burning wood with a grain in it. Yes, basswood would do nicely with a woodburner. Although you need to control the heat on your burner, because basswood burns so easily. As to the size of basswood, as stated before, it only comes in boards & don't think they make plywood of it. Plywood is laminated in layers & can be made larger, like in sheets 48 inches by 96 inches, or 4x8 foot sheets. We scrollers cut pieces from a large sheet like that for projects of a size that our saw can handle. I have used basswood before, but, only the 12in. board size for some of my projects. Good Luck


              • #8
                I always thought "Light-Ply" was made of bass wood.

                It's all fun
                Craftsman 18"
                Delta 46-460 lathe



                • #9
                  You can use baaltic birch plywood to burn on. You will need to sand any wood that you use to a very smooth finish for best results. You can burn on canvas or paper too...




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