#32: Chestnut

Bird number: 53
Date: April 1, 2012
Wood: Chestnut (Chestnut)
Source: Trade

There are actually eight or nine different species of chestnut, but it’s probably impossible to say which type this is. American Chestnut used to be very common in the Eastern United States, but the species were nearly wiped out by blight in the early 1900s. Most chestnut trees found in North America these days are crosses between American Chestnut species and species from Asia.

The wood is nice looking, and not too terribly hard. Although I used the power carver on this piece, I could have carved it with a knife. The wood really isn’t too hard.

The wood tended to fuzz up a bit under my aggressive carbide cutter, but it sanded okay. I really like the looks of this wood, and hope I get the opportunity to carve it again.

Chestnut is a little bit harder than basswood, and from all reports carves very nicely with a knife. It doesn’t hold fine detail, but it’s great for stylized carvings like these little birds. Carvers especially like wormy chestnut, which, if I understand correctly, is older wood that’s been chewed on by worms. It has lots of small holes throughout. In kiln dried wood, the bugs will all be gone. But if you pick up a log from the forest, you’ll likely find a few live ones with your knife as you’re working. Best to let the wood dry and then cook it in the oven (I do 200 degrees for two hours) before you start carving.

#31: Bradford Pear

Bird number: 52
Date: April 1, 2012
Wood: Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana)
Source: Trade

I really need to pay better attention. This is the second time I’ve duplicated a number. The previous bird is also numbered 52. In retrospect, it was a bad idea to have two separate sets of numbers. But there’s nothing I can do about that now.

Bradford pear is a cultivar of the species Pyrus calleryana, known as the Callery pears. They’re hardy trees, highly disease resistant, reasonably drought tolerant, and able to thrive in a wide range of soil conditions. Native to China and Vietnam, they now are found all over the world, including here in Central Texas. They’re lovely in the spring bloom, and again in the fall when their leaves turn colors.

Bradford pear also has a few drawbacks. It’s considered an invasive species in many parts of the U.S., where it out-competes native plants and trees. In addition, the tree is short lived (about 25 years), and its many weak branch forks are susceptible to breakage from heavy snow, ice, or high winds like we get during thunderstorms.

The wood sure is pretty, though. It’s about as hard as apple or cherry, and carves much the same. I’ve carved quite a few of my little dog and bear caricatures from small (typically one or one and a half inch diameter) limbs. I enjoy carving the smaller figures with a knife, but I probably wouldn’t try carving something like this bird from Bradford pear. That’s what the power carver is for.

This piece of wood came in a package of nine blanks that Frank Foust, the originator of the Comfort Bird. Frank saw my postings on the Woodcarving Illustrated message board, and called to arrange a wood swap.