#43: Butternut

Bird number: 66
Date: May 30, 2012
Wood: Butternut (Juglans cinerea)
Source: Purchase

A friend of mine sent me some butternut a while back, but the wood split and I couldn’t get a bird out of it. Butternut is a popular carving wood (second only to basswood, at least among the carvers I know) and fairly inexpensive, so I picked up a piece when I was at the Texas Woodcarvers Guild Spring Roundup back in April.

Butternut (also known as White Walnut) is harder than basswood, but not so hard that basswood carvers find it difficult to carve. And, unlike basswood, it has beautiful grain and color. Carvers who are tired of painting their carvings or who want to carve something stylistic that shows off wood grain often get a piece of butternut. Searching Google Images for “butternut carving” will show you many good examples.

Oddly, I didn’t carve this one with a knife. I had cut several blanks and was working with the Foredom, assembly-line style.

Butternut is apparently becoming more expensive to obtain commercially. A beetle or fungus or some other disease is attacking the trees. The piece of butternut I have here is clear, but I’ve seen many pieces that have small wormholes throughout. In the past, wormholes indicated wood that had been found dead (lying on the ground, decomposing), but people tell me that now it’s not uncommon to find live trees with wormholes.

I think I selected the wrong kind of finish for this piece. I don’t particularly like glossy finishes, but I think this particular bird would have looked a lot better with a clear gloss polyurethane finish. I have some more butternut and will have to try that on the next thing I carve from it.

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