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Butternut for carving

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  • Butternut for carving

    New to carving.....The Rockler store near me was out of basswood, so the lady sold me a piece of wood called butternut. She said that she had carved it in the past, and it was just a little harder than basswood.

    Anyone else use this stuff?

    It does seem hard and I am getting tired! But, I am also a new carver and still learning technique. Hand tools only.

    Thanks for the advice,

    Brad

  • #2
    Re: Butternut for carving

    she is right, it is a good carving wood, a little harder than basswood....but boy....look at the color...to me it is a beautiful wood and worth the effort! :O

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    • #3
      Re: Butternut for carving

      Butternut is a great wood for carving. I use it more in chip carving. I agree with Hi Ho about the color I also like the character of the grain. You may need to sharpen your tools. Even though Butternut is harder than Basswood it should not require alot more effort on your part. Butternut can be a little stringy to carve. By this I mean the cuts my peel on you a bit.
      When your carving is done try an oil finish on some scrap wood to see how you like it. It will give you a rich looking finish with great color. I like to use a mixture of Tung oil, Linseed oil and Bees wax. I use 3-6 coats. I mix my own but you can also buy this from Rockler as the Sam Maloof finish.

      Good Luck
      Dale

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      • #4
        Re: Butternut for carving

        I love butternut because of the beautiful grain but it can be harder to carve. This is especially true of the end grain. I use a small spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of water and rubbing alcohol and spray it lightly on the wood before carving. Re-spray when it drys out. It really does make it easier to carve. Make sure you dry off your tools after use and give them a rubbing with an oily cloth to prevent rust.

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        • #5
          Re: Butternut for carving

          Butternut is a beautiful wood to carve and not paint. Yes as it has been mentioned it is a little harder to carve but what a beauty when it is finished. Can't go wrong with butternut. Get hard to find here and have settle with some with worm holes.
          Interesting for sure.
          Safety first, then enjoy carving! Ken Caney, Ks

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          • #6
            Re: Butternut for carving

            Personally, I like Butternut better than Basswood because it doesn't fuz up like Basswood. I agree with Dale though, the grain can run on you if you are not careful. I haven't tried the water/alcohol mixture yet because I haven't found Butternut all that hard to carve. I think Butternut is called the poor mans walnut or something like that. Try any finishing materials on a piece of scrap before using on your carving. I put Shellac on one of my Butternut carvings and the wood turned absolutely black. Maybe I had some bad Shellac - I don't know.

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            • #7
              Re: Butternut for carving

              If your finding it hard to carve, the problem is probably dull tools. They sometimes feel sharp and even look sharp, but aren't. If you cut across the end grain it should be left shiny. Any white or fuzzy appearance and you need to sharpen up. Stropping may not be enough, despite what some tool/knife manufacuters say. As for finishes, all of the above, and another one I like to use is a coat of sealer then sand and finish off with a coat or two of wax. Clear shoe polish works nicely as do the wax products made for wood. Think somebody suggested trying it on a scrap first. A good way is to try sevral of them side by side on the same piece and see which one you like best.

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              • #8
                Re: Butternut for carving

                In case you were wondering about all the different methods of finishing .... each will give a slightly different look to the finished product ... some will darken it more than others ... sometimes this helps the grain to stand out more, othertimes it tends to hide the grain ... just have to play with a piece of like scrap to find out which looks best on your particular carving. If you weren't wondering, I needed the typing practice.

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                • #9
                  Re: Butternut for carving

                  I'll cast another vote for butternut. If you're going to do a natural wood finish, the grain and color add a lot to the finished carving. I've done a lot of butternut, and I've run across some bad wood occasionally, but when it's right, it's great. Some of the southern, coarse grain wood can be fuzzy and won't hold detail well, but the northern wood can really shine. I posted a photo of my 2002 love spoons that I give to family members, and one of the photos shows the same spoon in basswood, butternut, cherry and mahogany (Picture trail, relief and decorative items). I love carving basswood, but it just doesn't have any character when finished naturally. The acanthus panels shown on the same thread are made from butternut, and they were really a joy to carve.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Butternut for carving

                    Butternut also gets my vote it is truly a beautiful wood. I got a good tip from Jeff Phares when I took his course. The butternut we were carving was a little green therefore the resin in the wood builds up on the cutting edge. When you hear your cut starting to squeek just run the edge over the buffing wheel or leather strop a few times and I know you will feel the difference.
                    Colin

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                    • #11
                      Re: Butternut for carving

                      The sad thing is, I heard butternut is an endangered species, some disease or something?

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