Basswood, White Oak, Black Walnut — there’s no lack of choice when it comes to selecting a great carving hardwood.
So, what can you expect from carving a hardwood like Plum wood?
Well, in this post you’ll learn why your woodcarving style largely dictates what wood is best for carving. You will also learn just how hard Plum wood really is.
And keep reading to find out whether Plum wood is the right wood choice for your next carved wood craft.
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What Is The Best Wood For Woodcarving?
The answer to this depends on your carving style.
Some carving styles use hand tools and require a light touch. So, these carving techniques require quite low density soft pliable woods.
On the other hand, there are some carving styles that need a heavier hand — and in some cases even require power tools. So tougher wood types are more suited for these styles.
OK…So What Types Of Wood Are Best For Different Carving Techniques?
Well, when it comes to light touch carving that uses hand tools, you should use pliable woods.
So for whittling, Basswood and White Pine are good choices, because these two timbers don’t require a lot of force to cut. And, these timber types also hold designs rather well too.
For styles that require a bit more force, (such as Chip Carving), lumber such as Black Walnut and Cherry, are ideal.
But, when it comes to intense carving styles — of the kind that require power tools — you need very tough timber. So, for styles like wood turning and chainsaw carving, you need to use tough lumber like European Oak (a.k.a White Oak).
What About Plum Wood? What Type Of Carving Style Is Plum Wood Suited For?
One of the first things you need to know about a woods suitability for a carving style, is its toughness.
Very soft woods are great for delicate precise cut carving. While heavy hard timbers are not.
And, one of the ways that we measure the hardness of a particular wood, is by checking its Janka rating.
The Janka rating measures how much force it takes to make a dent in a piece of wood. The higher the Janka rating, the more force it takes. And the more force it takes, then the harder the timber.
Now, when it comes to power tool carving styles, such as wood turning, White Oak is a great choice wood for these particular styles.
White Oak has a Janka rating of 1290 lbf. That means it will take 1290 pounds of force to make a dent in this tough durable lumber.
However, when we compare this against Plum woods Janka rating, this hardwood is even tougher than Oak. That is because Plum woods Janka rating is a very solid 1550 lbf.
So That Means Plum Wood Is Good For Wood Turning Then…Right?
Well, first off, yes it is — Plum wood is certainly hard enough to be used for turning. And its fine close grain makes for fantastic looking wooden bowls.
However, Plum wood — particularly when you’re working with fairly green Plum wood — has a tendency to crack.
You see, green wood refers to any wood that has been freshly cut from a tree. At this stage, green wood has a lot of moisture in it (referred to as its moisture content). And that high moisture content makes it very easy to cut into Plum wood.
Nevertheless, as green Plum wood dries out, it shrinks and contracts. And, worryingly for your wooden bowls, if Plum wood dries too quickly, it will crack and form wood checks.
Now, this is not to say that Plum wood is highly prone to cracking — far from it.
To be clear, Plum wood is not a highly stable wood type such as say Douglas Fir. Nevertheless, if you prevent Plum wood from drying too fast, you’ll minimize the chances of your newly turned bowl cracking.
And What Do You Mean By A ‘Stable’ Wood?
Well, beyond woods toughness, another thing we need to check for is a wood types stability. You see, the more stable a wood is, then the less likely it is to warp or form wood checks.
If a wood is stable, then it’s less likely to expand/contract each time it absorbs moisture (or dries out).
Now, generally, we prevent warping and checking by sealing wood. So, a moisture-resistant wood finish or seal is enough to stop the worst effects of warping.
However, when we carve wood, there is no wood finish/seal protecting that timber. So, until you apply that final wood finishing coat, then wood checking can occur at the most inopportune moment.
And those unsightly checks and splits can ruin an otherwise perfectly carved piece.
And How Do I Prevent Plum Wood From Drying Too Fast?
If you want to prevent it from cracking, then you need to slow down the speed at which it is drying out. And the best way to do that is to use an end grain wood sealer.
End grain wood sealers do precisely what they say — they seal the exposed end grain of lumber and logs.
That exposed end grain is where moisture escapes from a log the fastest. So by sealing the end grain, (before you begin carving), you can significantly slow down the rate of drying.
You can learn more about end grain wood sealers by checking out our post: How To Keep Your Landscape Timbers From Ever Warping Again
To Wrap Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…
- 1). Plum wood is a tough hardwood. It is even harder than White Oak.
- 2). Plum wood is suitable for wood turning. However, it is too hard for hand-tool whittling carving techniques.
- 3). Green Plum wood can crack if it dries out too quickly. But, you can slow down this woods drying speed by applying end grain wood sealer.