Can You Carve Freshly Cut Wood? What You Need To Know in 3 Easy Steps

Can You Carve Freshly Cut Wood?

Did you know that woodcarving is one of humankind’s oldest art formsOpens in a new tab.? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this practice started due to the natural decay of wood, but people have been carving art into wood since the dawn of tools. Still today, woodcarving is an ever-changing art. Part of its beauty is its use of new living wood with every new generation. So how new can you get? Can you really carve into freshly cut wood?

You can carve Opens in a new tab.freshly cut wood. Fresh or “green” wood still contains some moisture in the woodgrain fibers. Fresh wood will be easier to cut because it is less likely to splinter under pressure, but the finished carving can shrink and crack as it dries. 

Can You Carve Freshly Cut Wood? What You Need To Know in 3 Easy Steps

To put it plainly, you can carve fresh wood. Freshly cut wood is wood that still has some moisture in the grain. Wood carving artists also refer to fresh, young wood as “green” wood. 

Many wood carving artists will attest that carving greenwood is more manageable than carving dried wood. Carving is easier because the greenwood still contains some moisture. The moisture helps prevent the wood from splintering under the pressure of the carving blade. 

Carving hardwoods like maple, mahogany, and walnut is notoriously tricky. One way to make carving easier is to use freshly cut hardwoods. This is a great idea for beginners and people used to working with softer woods. 

One major factor to keep in mind when carving fresh wood is evaporation. The moisture content of the new wood will eventually fade. It will become dry woodOpens in a new tab. after you have carved it. Many wood carving sculptures are ruined when artists forget this rule of nature. 

As water leaves the wood, the woodgrains will begin to shrink and separate. The final product will look different than its greenwood form. Depending on the kind of woodOpens in a new tab. you’re working with, the final results can be dramatic – and devastating. 

Tips and Methods for Carving Fresh Wood

Now that we’ve covered the basics of carving freshly cut wood, here are some tips and tricks for getting the best results and avoiding unexpected changes. 

Keep The Wood Fresh

To keep wood fresh for longer, try placing it in the freezer! The freezing process will trap some of the moisture left in the wood. Allow the frozen wood to thaw overnight, and then you’ll be ready to carve. 

The freezer method may not work out so well if you’re working with large woodblocks, like a live tree stump. Your neighbor’s landscaping cuttings are probably not your spouse’s idea of frozen leftovers. 

Even if your neighbor’s tree doesn’t fit in your freezer, you can still try to preserve the moisture in the fresh wood. Maintaining the moisture in a large woodblock just requires a little creativity. The secret is to use wax. 

Just about any kind of wax will work for this technique, so recycle those old candles and beeswax! Melt them down in a pot for easy pouring. The wax will be easy to carve or peel off later if you don’t want it as part of your final design. 

You will want to cover the raw top and bottom ends of the wood with wax. You do not need to cover the length of the wood, just the cut ends. The ends will release the most moisture if left alone, so the wax will help to seal it in. 

If you don’t happen to have any wax on hand, don’t fret! You can also use a plastic bag or tarp to wrap the wood. Using a wrap won’t be quite as effective as wax, but it will still slow the drying process. 

Add Final Details When Wood is Dry

You can begin carving a large wood piece like a tree stump by shaving chunks of wood from the main tree. You will need to work out your art piece’s general size and shape before diving into the details. 

Once you have the main structure carved from the fresh wood, wait a week or so for the wood to dry before jumping into the more delicate angles. Cutting into the fresh wood too soon is likely to cause splitting and shrinkage as the wood continues to dry. 

You should add the final details after your wood is completely dry. You could lose all of your fine work if the wood dries after you carve the details – which would be a major bummer and a waste of a perfectly good stump. 

Supervise the Seal

Before applying the stain or sealant to your carving, the wood needs to be as dry as possible. It is a good idea to leave a small portion of the art piece unsealed, like the bottom, to allow any remaining moisture to escape.  

Hardwood species contain more water in their dense flesh, so they will take a much longer time to dry than softer woods like pineOpens in a new tab. and cedar. 

You may need to reseal the piece as it continues to dry, since the sealant layer is likely to form splits and cracks if the wood has a lot of drying left to do. This shouldn’t be cause for concern; freshen up the sealant coat as the wood carving dries. If you are looking for a nice sealant, this one is eco-friendlyOpens in a new tab.!

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Final Words

How much wood can a wood carver carve if a wood carver carves fresh wood? (I may not be as good as I wish I was with puns). They can carve as much wood as they want to! Using freshly cut green wood can save a lot of time and energy. Switching to fresh wood may be just the trick to get you started on your next masterpiece! 


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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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