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Notes From the 'Net

By Mike Bloomquist, with Doug Evans and Loren Woodard
Email Mike at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet or visit his web, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving


The theme for this issue of NFTN is wood species (other than basswood).  Some of these messages are recent, and some go back a ways into the archives.  There's nothing quite like carving projects from found or gifted lumber.  Hope you enjoy these.

Apple Wood

I'm going to be felling an apple tree as a favour for one of my wife's co-workers.  In exchange for the labour, I get to hang on to some of the wood.  I was wondering if anyone had carved apple wood before, and what they thought of it.  Is it a dark wood or light?


Hi Tim,

I have carved a little apple wood in the past & it is super hard, but does chisel nice & the pieces I have carved were starting to spalt & had many variations of colour.

Robbin Wenzoski http://www.geocities.com/aruba692003

Hi Tim,

Apple is very white and hard. It has a natural oil. Apple was used for making bearing in clocks and other machines. The natural oil is almost like Teflon. The wood is so hard and dense so it doesn't take a pigment stain very well but a die stain is acceptable.

Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop

Hi Tim

I just finished carving a pipe in apple.  The wood I used was a crotch from a pruned branch with the water spout carved into a stem. It is hard, but the grain real fine and closed. I thought it carved good,tho on the hard side, but not worse than black walnut or Koa I have carved. I did carve it with a knife too. It is posted on webshots in my 2005 alblum.

Brian Barber

Apple wood is a hard wood and also a light color wood as well. I have carved it since I got some from my uncle from Mass and made walkin sticks from it,

Bill Smith

<And now for a little tidbit on drying Applewood - Mike B.>

Hi Joe,

Thanks for the info.  I'm not sure if the tree I'm felling is live or not, but given the oils in apple, would you have any idea how long it would take to dry the wood?

Thanks again.


Hi Tim,

The rule of thumb I use for air drying wood, hard or soft, is one year for every inch thickness. Apple being a hard dense wood will have more tendency to crack and check. You'll get more checking than soft wood. If the heart is off center it is reaction wood and will split more from drying, unpredictable expansion and contraction, carve fuzzy and not finish well.  Reaction wood (the heart off center) is good for firewood and a fetch stick for your dog.

The natural oil in the wood doesn't add anything to the drying time. To get better yield slow down the drying by wraping the wood, like a present, in about 5 layers of newspaper.

Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop

Tupelo (Swamp Gum)


I am a very new carver, about 8 weeks. I have an excellent teacher in George Farrell. I have recently been offered a small quanity of tupelo scraps, some rather large. My question; can this wood be used sucessfully for carving? I find it wanting to crush under the knife.


Hi Larry...

Tupelo can be knife carved, but it tends to tear if your don't have a very sharp knife. There are special knives that the Cajuns use to hand carve Tupelo. The blades are long and thin and razor sharp. Tupelo is a fantastic wood for power carving, though (that's all I use for my birds).

Now, there are certain parts of the tupelo tree that are the very best for carving. This wood comes from the bell, or bole, of the tree, located under water to about 2-3 feet above. This part has less grain (meaning less hard and soft spots) and is much more consistent. This is the most desired by bird carvers, as it is fairly easy to carve and holds extremely fine detailing...look for the grain to be spaced 1/2 or more between rings. You don't want anything above the bole, and you don't want heartwood. This stuff is NASTY to carve. You get extremely soft between the rings, and extremely hard rings. Also, don't use it if it is excessively yellow...this is a sign of decay, and the wood will disintegrate...it's really punky. Don't use tupelo with dark streaks through it either, as it's another sign that it didn't come from the bole, or is heartwood. The best tupelo comes from Louisiana, and some fine wood also comes from as far north as North Carolina...GENERALLY speaking, the further south, the better the tupelo.

A good way to test if you have an acceptable piece of tupelo is to make an "X" on the end grain with a key. If it glides smoothly, it's good wood. If you feel intermittent resistance (i.e., your key sinks, then raises, then sinks), then it's a not so good piece. Also, you can see the growth rings on the end...the tighter the arc, the closer to heartwood it is, or a sign that it's higher up on the tree.

Hope this helps,
Lori Corbett

Please visit my web site! Whispering Eagle Studio

Hey Larry,

I've found that if you keep it very wet. It'll carve good with a knife.

Dick Phillips

Hi Lyn, 

Tupelo is quite a soft wood, almost spongy in my experience.  I've never had much luck carving it using knives, but I understand that if the knives have a certain bevel that it works. However, I have seen wonderful carvings from tupelo done with power. Most of what I've seen are birds and decoys, but I would think about anything could be done. I personally don't use it, but I've sure seen some beautiful carvings by people on this list in tupelo.  HTH  TTYL
Terry Nees
MSGT USMC (ret) 1961 - 1981


Osage Orange

I'm in Kansas, Osage Orange is a relatively common tree in this area. It is used for fence posts because it doesn't break or rot easily. It is a very hard wood. How much does he want; is he going to carve it; does he want it live cut; does he want it dead/dried? How does he expect to receive this wood? What size pieces does he need? We have none on our property, but MIGHT be able to obtain some from neighbors if things can be worked out.  More info, Please.


I've never carved Catalpa, even though I have a block of it that I picked up a couple of years ago. Can anyone comment on Catalpa for carving? How does it carve? Is it comparable to Butternut? Does it finish nicely? Does the grain rise when finishes are applied? Does it get fuzzy like Basswood? Does it create fierce dust when sanded? Does it carve better with power or hand tools? Inquiring minds want to know!

Kelly Winn
Salt Lake City, Utah


I recently used catalpa on one of my bellows....I was told that it was just like butternut...WRONG...it has , if you notice, graining similar to butternut but the dark portions of the grains are flaky like cottonwood bark....hard to keep any detail like basswood or butternut....butternut is harder that basswood, but still reasonably carvable and it looks nice when finished with minwax, deft, or any other sealer.....these are my own opinions, of course, but they are from experience. Jan, I understand is looking for catalpa, but it appears that he is a more classical carver and much more experienced than I....I've been carvin for about 10 years....so maybe he can give a more professinal view of catalpa.....good luck.....share the knowledge.

John the Bellows Guy


I use Catalpa from time to time. It does have an open grain much like Sassafras. The color is a little darker than Sassafras it does have a very distinct smell and if the piece is very dry the dust is pretty intense. I have a couple of pics in my gallery that are Catalpa, the face is natural finish.
I hope this helps there are a lot of excellent carvers on here maybe they can give you their insight from their perspective.

Please visit my website at:
Chris Howard - Woodcarver - Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The key to carving catalpa is to carve it green.  Keep it in a bag and keep it stable while working on it. They seal it when finished. I also drill some holes in the underside of the carving to let it dry slowly.
Take a look at photos some are of catalpa -


Hi Kelly,

I have carved a lot of catalpa woodspirit and Indian faces. I use hand and mallet tools to carve them so I couldn't really help much with the power carving question. I like the way it carves for the most part though there is a great bit of difference in some pieces, probably due to the climate they grow in and other variable. I would say for the most part it is a little harder than butternut. I did get abunch of limbs that came off an old dead catalpa tree that was still standing, and they carved great and the grain was beautiful. Some that I have carved that were cut green didn't carve so well and seemed to have hard and soft spots as the grain changed from dark to light. But when I do get a good piece to carve in I really like to work >with it and I love the look of it when finished. But it do stink, the first time I carved on a green piece I thought I had carried some doggy doo on the bottom of my boot into the shop. LOL.

Greg Wilkerson

visit my website at: http://www.wilkersonwoodcarving.com



 I have seen some of your carvings using butternut and it is a really beautiful wood, finished. How hard is it? Like compared to basswood. Nearly all my carving is done with a knife and arthritic hands, so I don't tackle wood like oak or walnut, tho they are beautiful.

Cynda http://woodneggs.tripod.com

Cynda....Butternut is a soft walnut.....easy to carve but does tend to fuzz...if chip carving always use the verticle grain...relief carving is OK on horizontal grain.


Hi Cynda,

Butternut cuts about the same as basswood. About the same hardness and the same ability to hold detail. I think you'll love it.

Joe Dillett
The Carving Shop


We're not through all of them, but that should do ya for this issue. Keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and don't miss the chip carving book review we have this issue by a NEW book review writer for WOM.

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Please take some time and check out the wood carving lists on the Internet. There is a lot of knowledge free for the asking on all of the list serves.

For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Resource Files, or click the links below.


Woodcarver's List - Woodcarvers' Porch - American Stickmaker's - Knotholes List - Fishcarving List2


Editor's Note: Disclaimers and Cautions