Different woods – part 1

This week’s blog is more of a showcase of a few of different woods I have carved.


This is probably a one-off wood for me to carve. It is a wood that I brought with me from Africa and while not the hardest wood around, it certainly is the hardest wood I have ever attempted to carve. Mopane is the name and it is used primarily as a construction wood in rural homes in Africa. It is termite-resistant which is the practical attraction. I use it mainly for knife handles as it polishes so well and seems to get better the more it is used. I have several pieces of this wood but as this one spoon took so much effort it will be some time before I make another attempt!


Olive is a very striking and “warm” wood – It sands really fine and is a pleasure to hold. I think that there is also some “romanticism” associated with the wood. It conjures up visions of good food, the mediterranean with its warm climate and even religion.  I only have a little of this wood and it is very old (more than 25 years in the workshop) and so extremely dry. This has presented some challenges as it is naturally a short-grained wood the dryness can easily cause “pullouts” leaving nasty holes in the carving. Very light cuts and sharp tools are an absolute must. My pieces also have very wavy grain so the direction of carving constantly demands change to get a smooth cut. The end result is beautiful and worth the effort required.


Walnut is a wood that I have been able to regularly obtain. This is quite and easy wood to carve and takes a very good finish. The grain is quite long and all the pieces I have are straight grained. This makes it easier to choose the direction of carving. I enjoy carving this wood and can comfortably carve the bowl part of scoops and spoons quite thin. The dark color also invokes a sense of richness and quality.


Cherry is the final wood I want to mention in this blog. This straight-grained wood is a pleasure to carve. It is a little plain although I find the dark lines in the grain very striking. It is the finish that I find immensely rewarding. It finishes so smooth that it is like it is made from glass. Add to this, it has great longitudinal strength making it perfect for thin, long-handled stirrers and spoons.

Next week I shall discuss a few more woods – until then, happy carving.


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