Do you need to dry wood for carving


As an upcoming whittler hobbyist you may be too excited to start carving immediately you find some wood. If the wood is green (wet) what do you do? Do you need to dry wood for carving?

The answer to this question is no. Technically speaking you don’t need to dry wood for carving. Actually, there are those that carve wet wood citing different reasons.

The main reason why people decide to carve wood wet is the ease of carving. Especially in whittling hardwoods, most whittlers will prefer to carve the wood wet.

If you’re planning to carve your wood without drying it here are a few things to consider for best practice.

Do you need to dry wood for carving

Should you dry wood before carving?

Should you dry wood before carving

While it’s very easy to carve wood before drying it. It’s important not to overlook the benefits of drying wood. Wood is very unstable when wet, as it loses moisture it tends to split due to uneven tension.

In most cases, you will want to dry your wood first before carving. While it’s relatively difficult and requires more force, it’s easy to predict how the wood will behave. This helps reduce the chances of design distortion by shrinkage and in severe cases splits and cracks.

Wet wood does have its place in carving especially whittling. As mentioned earlier some species are very hard and would be whittle-friendly only if wet. Sometimes we even wet dry wood using various methods in order to ease the whittling process.

Is dry or wet wood better for carving?

Wet wood has its advantage during carving. On the other hand, you are assured of a stable material with dry wood. What should you go for? Is dry wood better for carving than wet wood?

Carving dry wood is obviously better than wet wood. Other than the stability of dry wood, it is as well kinder on tools. Wet wood is easier to cut but it tends to gum up the knife burr. Additionally, if one is not careful, wet wood can cause damage to whittling knives through rust.

By carving dry wood the finishing is a much lighter task than for carved wet wood. But if you do have the time and would rather have ease while carving rather than finishing then wet wood is still an option for carving.

Why you should use dry wood for your carving

It’s always good to use wood that has reached EMC. The main reason is that dry wood has better stability and less internal stress that is usually caused by loss of moisture rapidly.

Such stresses in the wood will eventually cause cracks, splits, and checks. they can be very ugly and distort the carving. Mostly all you can do is fill the cracks and hope no one notices.

Cracks and splits are not the only things that can cause distortion in wet wood carvings. The loss of moisture also results in shrinkage of the wood. This shrinkage will distort the shape and design of the carving after drying.

Greenwood does not seem to cause big damages to small carvings. In fact the bigger the carving the more it is prone to be affected by slits and cracks as it dries up.

Big enough chunks of wood that can be used to carve sculpture will tend to have a large enough share of sapwood. The risk of splits is higher if the wood has sapwood. Sapwood loses moisture faster than heartwood causing great stress. It’s worse for greenwood as the amount f moisture lost is higher.

To sum up

Do you need to dry wood for carving? technically you don’t need to. It’s easier to carve wet wood and also some hardwoods can only be whittled while green.

But you should probably season your wood its the smart way to carve. Dry wood will serve you better and as long as you sharpen your tools correctly It’s not that hard to slice away dry wood.

Author: Nick Sullivan

I'm a seasoned fella who's been whittling sticks and carving wood for four decades. I find joy in creating intricate wooden wonders that tell stories of old and help my readers expand their woodcarving knowledge. I hope you find my articles helpful and they answer your whittling questions. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any additional questions or just to say hi! Thanks for reading and Happy Carving!

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