Sycamore trees are fast-growing and one of the largest trees native to North America. There are approximately six sycamore tree species in the Platanus genus; the most common are the American sycamore, California sycamore, and the Mexican sycamore.
When thinking about whether sycamore is good for carving, you should know how to identify it either on the ground or in a workshop. Sycamore is a hardwood with a coarse grain and it is mostly used in making musical instruments, butcher’s blocks, and furniture.
The unique identifying features of sycamore are their exfoliating thin bark that gives it a patchy look, and their round seed balls that have seeds inside. With a Janka hardness of 770 lbf, sycamore wood is a type of wood I would recommend for carving.
Is Sycamore Hard To Carve
The Janka hardness of sycamore is 770 lbf and compared to basswood (410 lbf) which is the most favorite wood among carvers (mostly beginners), it is not that hard to carve. Sycamore works easily with both hands and tools, but the interlocked grain can be challenging in surfacing and machine operations.
If you are going to carve using hand tools, make sure that they are razor sharp. If you have done some carving before, you are aware that using sharp tools for your carving is safer than using blunt tools. Sharp tools make your work easier and you will enjoy the process for sure.
Methods For Carving Sycamore
Sycamore is easy to work with wood, You will also find it easy to use all the carving methods. The first method I’m going to talk about is whittling which is the use of hand tools only. Whittling sycamore can be a bit challenging to a beginner but not impossible. The reason I say challenging, is because of the interlocked grain sycamore has. One of the ways you can solve this problem is how you will saw your wood for carving.
Power carving is another method to use. Using power tools will go through sycamore wood like butter and it will save more time compared to whittling. Power carving gives you better detailing compared to the rest of the methods of carving.
The other method to use is chainsaw carving. The advantage chainsaw carving has compared to the above methods is, that you are not limited to the size you can carve using a chainsaw. You just need a medium-powered chainsaw to carve.
When finishing sycamore carving, you should remember that it is hardwood meaning it is porous. One of the things you should know is that the best way to approach this type of wood is starting with a sanding sealer to seal all the pores. This prevents you from using too much finish due to it being sucked into the wood through the pores and creating a smooth surface.
Sycamore takes finish very well and the best finish to use is clear finishes or shellac lacquer, and acrylic or water based urethanes, The reason for this is because this type of finishes keeps the nice natural color much better compared tp oil based finish which will your carving with a yellow cast.
If the wood you are using for carving is quarter sawn, avoid staining because it sharpens the contrast between the rays and the background tissue giving a raspy finish.
Is sycamore good for carving? It is not my first to-go-to-wood when I’m thinking about carving, but it is good for carving. The downside of this type of wood is that it is susceptible to insect attack but with good finishing, it will add life to your carving.