Carving wood can be an incredibly rewarding hobby, but you’ll want to make sure that your carving board or piece of wood is properly seasoned so it doesn’t warp or crack as you work on it. The following tips will help you season your wood for carving so you can get started on the right foot!
Tips on How To Season Wood For Carving
1) Preparing the Wood
Before you start carving, you’ll need a piece of wood and a way to prepare it. First, take your wood and cut off any excess pieces; these should be much smaller than your carving. Second, sand down your piece of wood so that it’s nice and smooth. If there are any knots or splinters you’ll want to remove them as well. The more time you spend preparing your wood, the easier it will be to carve later. Don’t skip out on preparation! It can save you headaches when it comes to finishing touches.
2) Cut the wood into small sizes
When you first start working with a piece of wood, it’s important to cut it into small pieces so that they will be easy to handle. You can use a band saw for most projects or a hand saw if you’re carving smaller objects. Smaller blocks of wood are easier to handle and carve as well as easier to clean up.
Once your block is cut into small sizes, then you can move on to selecting which piece will be turned into your carving object. Most pieces should be somewhere around 3-4 inches wide but vary depending on what specific carving project you have in mind. It’s also good to select pieces of different grains so that you can see how different species react under various pressures throughout your seasonings process. It’s also smart to plan; one nice block of wood doesn’t mean that all similar-sized pieces share the same characteristics. Always choose several blocks to test out different reactions before trying out new ways of seasoning wood over large batches until you find one you like best!
3) Removing the barks
Bark and sapwood must be removed from your chosen piece of wood, as these areas tend to rot first and might leave your carving unfinished. The bark should be scraped or sanded off, and it’s important not to leave any bark behind as these portions will not dry evenly. Similarly, if there are visible growth rings or knots in your wood they can cause uneven drying, so make sure you carve out all of these portions with either a chisel or knife until they are smooth.
4) Put the wood in a kiln( optional)
Cut your board into an oblong shape that will fit into your kiln at home without touching its sides. Place your object inside and let it cure slowly (at 100°F) for about 10 days before using it. These steps ensure an evenly curing process. Seasoning is done! : Curing is completed when moisture content drops below 19%—and don’t worry, your wooden object won’t warp if it loses too much moisture during the seasoning process. Learn more about the fundamentals of Kiln Drying and how to use a kiln drying lumber at home
How to Know when seasoning is complete
There are several ways to know when seasoning is complete: If you used copper sulfate during seasoning, bubbling may occur; which means complete dehydration has occurred. Feel free to remove your object. It’s also possible to see spots of residual glue on some projects like cutting boards, end grain holders, or bowls that indicate no more water remains within.
Alternatively, use one of two different gauges to test for moisture content: A simple test involves sticking a waterproof pen into one side of your item and seeing how far it sinks into the wood. If deeper than 1/8th inch then more drying time is needed.
A second way involves pressing two razor blades together; push them flat against each other until they stick before trying to pull them apart again. Then press them against your project. If a crack appears then it still needs to dehydrate further.
Once you have finished seasoning your project, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and place it into a temperature-controlled oven set between 60°C – 70°C / 140°F – 160°F for 7 – 14 days depending on size. Be careful however because cracks could form during heating due to shrinking properties. After removing from heat allow your project plenty of time to cool down before removing the plastic wrap completely.
5) Applying Sealer
Start by coating your wood blank with a sealer like paraffin or shellac, which will force any existing moisture in your wood to exit more uniformly. Then, let it dry completely before you continue (we recommend at least 24 hours). Now you’re ready to start seasoning!
Using a water-based sealer will help force moisture out of your wood more uniformly. Using too much sealer can lead to your piece’s outer layers becoming excessively hard, but don’t worry if you do end up using too much—more on that later.
Coat all surfaces evenly with two or three coats. Be sure not to leave any puddles or runny areas. The last thing you want is uneven seasoning, so take your time and be thorough! You can apply the sealer with a sponge brush, or clean rags that work well too. Apply sealer every 24 hours: After 24 hours you should remove and reapply any leftover sealer from your carving block.
6)Stack and Store the wood in a sheltered area
The easiest way to season wood is to stack it properly, then store it in a dry location out of direct sunlight. If you’re not carving your wood right away, stack 4-6 pieces (and other roughly uniform sizes) vertically.
Leave 12-18 between stacks for air circulation. As you create your stacks, make sure they’re completely tight; leave no gaps between pieces—they should be touching one another along their entire surface area. Once you have all your pieces stacked, top with another board or slab so that all surfaces are covered and air can move around them. For long-term storage, keep in a dark space with temperatures no higher than 70 F and humidity at 50% or less. And never put wet or freshly carved boards into storage until they’ve dried thoroughly!
7) wait for the wood to dry
Drying a piece of wood before working with it will ensure that you can carve well and safely. If you don’t, your chances of splintering or tearing your workpiece increase. For large pieces, drying time can take months, so check back often and keep checking until it’s safe to carve without cracking or chipping. Smaller items dry much more quickly – maybe just a few days – and small spaces like spoons may be ready in just hours.
When you’re just starting with woodcarving, it’s important to use seasoned lumber. Unseasoned wood is more likely to crack and warp than properly-cured lumber. If you plan on carving a lot of different kinds of wood, it’s worth considering investing in a kiln so that you can cure your lumber. This is easier than most people think—you can season small batches and then cure larger batches of lumber at once.
Before doing anything else, though, make sure that your tools are clean; dings or cuts can compromise their effectiveness right off the bat. The easiest way to start is by asking an experienced friend or relative for help; even if they don’t carve themselves, they may be able to recommend good tools (or good sources). And remember: like any hobby, if you have fun with it you won’t want to stop! Get started today!