Can you carve leylandii? All you need to know

can you carve leylandii

Leylandii is a very common coniferous tree, especially in The UK. Leylandii also known as Layland Cypress grows very first and has been used in landscaping and gardening as the tree makes beautiful hedges. But what about the leylandii wood? If you are a carver and have leylandii at your disposal, you may have wondered to yourself can you carve leylandii?

Leylandii is a softwood tree that can be carved or whittled easily with sharp tools. As a softwood leylandii poses the challenge of easily splitting. Unlike other softwood that we have talked about at the whittling cave, leylandii also has a problem of too many knots.

These knots are hard to work with hand tools. In this article, we will cover all the important details you need to know before carving leylandii. An informed carver is a happy carver!

Can you carve leylandii – secrets of carving softwoods

Many people in the UK have access to leylandii branches. If you happen to have some pieces of leylandii wood, this article should give you some sort of trailer of what to expect while carving this softwood. Softwoods will mostly tend to have similar properties, however, take this with a pinch of salt as all woods are not created equal.

Sharp tools the secret to conquering leylandii wood

Sharp tools are vital for all types of woods. In fact, I can’t think of a specific wood that must be carved using blunt tools. Sharp tools are essential but the ‘sharp’ for softwoods is different from ‘sharp’ for hardwoods. Let me explain.

The bevel angle is directly proportional to how sharp the cutting edge is. If the angle of the bevel is lowered it becomes sharper. The only problem that arises with lowering the bevel angle is compromising the strength of the cutting edge.

Carving tools Bevel angle while carving leylandii

But the strength of the cutting edge is more of a problem to harder woods. For softwood such as leylandii, an angle of between 18 to 22 degrees is ideal. With a sharper cutting edge, the leylandii wood fibers can be sliced before they are disintegrated by the force behind the cutting edge which occasionally results in splits and tears.

One exception to having a very low bevel angle for your carving tools is when working around knots. As mentioned leylandii has a huge problem with knots, especially for the small and young trunks. These knots are quite tough and account for the biggest frustrations while carving leylandii. But how can you deal with the Leylandii knots?

Carving leylandii with knot-related problems

The first solution around this is quite straightforward; power tools. Power tools can take off tiny bits of grains from wood relentless. This makes carving hard areas like the knots easy.

Though power tools reduce the force needed to work tricky knotty areas, caution must be observed. the hard leylandii knots are surrounded by softwood tissues if one is not careful they may rip off the soft areas by accident and end up destroying the design of the carving altogether.

If you cant access a Dremel or other relevant power carving tools good old gouges and a mallet will still get you through but at a slower speed.

As a general carving principle, as you carve your wood you need to respond quickly and intelligently to what is happening. For example, if you find yourself going against the grain and the fibers are tearing… Stop! Don’t persist. Try something different.

You might find, say, that you will sever the fibers more successfully by switching to a slicing cut rather than just pushing. Then again, you may simply have to reverse the direction of the cut: against the grain in one direction will always be with it in the opposite direction.

What of Whittling, can you whittle leylandii?

bowl whittled from laylandii
Bowl carved from leylandii credit: KalbachP

Whittling leylandii is feasible however if you don’t know your way around this wood it may become tedious or unpleasant. whittling is the fun in carving so how can we have fun while whittling leylandii?

Selecting the right leylandii for whittling

This is a bit obvious but quite helpful. Identifying and analyzing the wood carefully is quite important. As we pick a wood we want to make sure that our design fits with the wood’s internal qualities as well as the physical. For instance, try and pick something with fewer knots, unless the design calls for it.

Fairly straight grains are easier to work with. In this sense, you’re looking for branches that don’t have exaggerated carves. Unless your whittling a walking stick and can use search features then go for it.

Should you carve leylandii green or dry

This will depend on what is easier for you. Carving leylandii dry though challenging is easier in terms of all that has to be done if carved green.

Another advantage of carving leylandii while dry is the wood is more stable. With stable leylandii, you do not have to worry about design distortions due to shrinkage.

On the other hand, carving leylandii green is fun despite all the care that is required to avoid quick shrinkage that causes splits and design blunders. Working the knots is much easier and you have better control.

Whether you carve leylandii green or dry is pretty much the same depending on your expertise. I like carving my leylandii dry. Though this requires great control and patience I do not need to cover and look after my carving during breaks like I would with green leylandii.

Leylandii is not great with detail

Unfortunately, leylandii grain makeup does not support intricate detail work. But this is expected with most softwoods. But all are not lost projects that do not require a lot of details and are minimalist in nature and are perfect to carve out of leylandii.

A good example is whittling. Since whittling does not call for a very detailed surface and knife cuts are usually the final surface, Leyland Cypress makes a good fit. Leylandii knife cuts are even shinier than our favorite carving wood basswood.

Know how to check good lumber for carving?

Wrapping up: Carving leylandii wood

So can you carve leylandii?

Yes, however, leylandii is not your usual softwood and needs a patient carver for satisfactory results. This guide highlights all you need to know before having fun with a piece of leylandii. Remember sharp tools are the secret to happy carving.


Leylandii used in gardening

Hadwin Fisher

I'm basically a "Hobby Whittler." Everything I make is for Personal use, gifts for others, or other Items for charity auctions or other "Causes" i.e. "Local Hospital" Etc. Some health issues are interfering with me doing any large-scale projects in my workshop at this Present Time. That said I can't stay idle, whittling, and writing about whittling with my Friend ken Read keeps me sane and happy!

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