Is it better to carve wood wet or dry?

Is it better to carve wood wet or dry

Is it better to carve wood wet or dry? This is a question that has been doing rounds in woodcarving forums. The issue is that some believe wood is better carved wet since it’s soft and easy. Some say carving wet brings about other issues like splits and checks.

Today we decided to check both ends and end the wet vs dry wood for carving debate.

What is wet wood

 wet wood for carving

Wet wood refers to wood that has not been seasoned. Wet wood is also referred to as green wood. Seasoning of wood can be done either using a kiln or air-seasoning. The wood has to lose some moisture via these processes. All wood that is yet to lose its moisture content up to the optimum EMC is considered green or wet wood.

What is Dry Wood

 Dry Wood for carving

As it follows dry wood is wood that has been seasoned. The Wood has to lose most of its moisture content to reach an equilibrium with its environment known as EMC. The EMC of different woods in different environments differs but will mostly be around 12%.

A look at wood for carving

Wood can be cut with sharp cutters. This is the property of wood that allows craftsmen to sculpt wood. The ease of carving wood is determined by the species of the wood and the environment it grew. harsh environments tend to produce denser and harder woods.

The armature carver tends to prefer the softer species of wood since they are easy to carve. But as is soon discovered the softer the wood the less it holds details and the less durable. Therefore carving harder woods gives better-lasting end products with remarkable detailing.

Can you carve wet wood?

The good news is you can still carve these dense woods with ease; by carving them wet. Carving wood wet is doable and has been done for a long time now. The craft itself is called green woodworking and has a very large community that not only carves wet wood but practices all other forms of woodworking with green wood.

Can you carve wet wood

However, Carving wood green has its repercussions, and chief among them are the splits, checks, and warps that may alter the design as the wood dries. To mitigate this problem some carvers cover the piece with an air-tight polythene bag to preserve the wood between sessions.

This is still the method used to preserve the piece after it has been finished. it helps the wood reduce the rate it loses moisture hence reducing the internal stress in the wood.

wet wood vs dry wood for carving

While the process of seasoning the carved piece sounds complicated it is necessary if splits and checks are to be avoided. But this is not always the case as small pieces like spoons and gnomes are more forgiving and under less pressure than large pieces.

whittling small pieces greenwood

IF you would rather not risk it then seasoned wood will attract you. Seasoned wood will rarely deform due to moisture loss. It’s because the wood has reached an equilibrium.

While this is good the wood is very dry at its EMC some species like oak are very hard and will task you with regular sharpening when carving them. To add to that the grain will also taste your patience. The reward nonetheless is a beautifully detailed piece that only needs a good coat and is good for centuries.

Is it better to carve wood wet or dry: Verdict

This question; Is it better to carve wood wet or dry, is loaded. It does not address the full spectrum of variables that come to play. On one hand, green wood can be good for the beginner as it is easy to carve if they are carving small pieces but a beginner carving a larger piece will be better off with a well seasoned softer wood for carving.

In both senses, whether wet or dry, wood can be carved and a preference can only be developed based on personal preferences collected over time in the experience gained carving wet and dry wood.

The best you can do is to experiment with some simple motives and see what happens.

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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