If you’re starting or new in wood carving, there are two types of wood available – green wood and dry wood. greenwood is freshly cut wood that has not dried, while dry wood has been seasoned or dried. Using any of these two types of wood has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at each of these and compare them to help you choose a better option.
Greenwood is raw wood that is freshly cut, has not dried, and has lost most of its moisture content. Because of the high moisture content in greenwood, it is easier to carve because the fibers are still very soft.
For most spoon carvers, greenwood is a popular option because of its ease of carving. When wood or branches of a tree have recently been cut down, the wood fibers are full of sap and very soft. This makes carving a spoon easier because a knife will glide through the wood fibers easily.
However, if you choose to carve greenwood, you need to learn to prevent it from cracking or splitting. As greenwood dries, it might start cracking as the moisture content decreases. To prevent greenwood carvings from cracking, you can wrap them in a plastic bag, slowing the drying process. Other methods include using pentacryl and boiled linseed oil to prevent cracking.
Pros of Carving Greenwood
- Easier to carve, even for beginners.
- You can use hand tools.
- A beginner can practice carving on greenwood.
- Carving or whittling is faster.
- You have a wide variety of wood parts to choose from.
Cons of Carving Greenwood
- As greenwood dries, it can crack or split.
- Greenwood does not hold minor details like dry wood.
Carving Dry Wood
Dry wood has been seasoned, kiln-dried, or left to dry and has lost most of its moisture content. Because of its low moisture, dry wood is harder to carve, especially if you’re carving dried hardwood, such as Oak and mahogany.
However, carving dry is best for experienced wood carvers or for carving a lot of detail. Dry wood will hold smaller details better, and you can also choose dry wood with a better grain pattern for the best visual appearance.
You can use a power wood carver, such as the Foredom K-8301 flexible shaft machine or the Dremel 4300 micro motor machine, for carving dense, dry hardwoods. With power carvers, you can easily carve harder woods with ease. See our best power wood carving tools.
Pros of Carving Dry Wood
- Dry wood will not crack once it’s dry.
- It will hold small or minor details better.
- You can use a power carver for dense hardwoods.
Cons of Carving Dry Wood
- Dry and dense hardwoods are harder to carve with hand tools.
- You’ll need more tools like chisels for carving.
- Dry wood can splinter as you’re carving it.
Choosing Between Greenwood and Dry Wood
Greenwood carving is best for beginners and for carving with hand tools. For example, if you’re carving wooden spoons, green wood is the best option you can use. You can also utilize hand tools for spoon carving because the wood fibers are soft and easier to cut through.
Carving dry wood will require many different tools, such as chisels or power tools. It is harder to carve dry wood with only a wood carving knife or a whittling pocket knife. For beginners looking to carve dry wood, look for softer woods, such as basswood, aspen, and butternut. Check out these easy woods to start carving.
For larger wood carvings, carving dry wood is also the best option. Because it has already been seasoned, dry wood will not crack or split with time when it is carved. You can use green wood for smaller wood carvings, like spoons, where you can easily control their drying time.
Because dry wood is harder to carve, you’ll have to keep your knife sharp because the tougher wood fibers will dull the knife faster. The moisture content in green wood makes it easier for a knife to cut through the wood fibers easily.
The availability of greenwood or dry wood is also important. For a wood carver such as me, green wood is easily accessible and readily available. However, dry wood might be the only option for a wood carver in an urban setting. For most people, dry wood will be easier to get than greenwood.