#16: Basswood

Bird number: 37
Date: January 28, 2012
Wood: Basswood (Tilia americana)
Source: Store purchase

When I started carving about three years ago, I went down to the local Woodcraft store and bought a box of basswood blocks. All of the blocks were two inches thick, six inches long, and varied in width from one to three inches. I paid something less than $20 for that box of wood, and I learned a lot in carving that up. I don’t do much basswood carving these days, and all I have left from that box of wood is some scraps. This bird used up the last of the blocks from that box of wood.

Basswood is probably the most popular carving wood in the U.S. It’s easy to carve, holds fine detail very well, and has little in the way of grain. Almost all carvers start with basswood. Actually, most beginners try to carve a limb from a tree, get frustrated, and then find basswood. It’s abundant, relatively inexpensive, and very nice to work with. And if you’re going to paint your carvings then there’s little reason to struggle with a harder wood.

Some few carvers sand their basswood carvings and apply a neutral finish. This is the first time I’ve sanded a basswood carving. I also carved this one with a knife rather than with the power carver. Most of the woods I’m using for the birds are too hard to comfortably carve with a knife.

What we call Basswood in the U.S. is almost always Tilia americana (Northern Basswood) or Tilia heterophylla (Southern Basswood). European carvers use several different species of Tilia, often called Linden or Lime. The woods are very similar, as are the several Tilia species common to Asia.

The basswood isn’t as striking as many of the woods I’ve been working with. Truthfully, I was surprised at how nice it looks. My experience with basswood in the past had me thinking that this bird would be rather dull, but the lack of figuring in the wood doesn’t detract at all. In fact, it emphasizes the bird figure. I’m glad I managed to do a good job on the carving. This is, in my opinion, the best carving and sanding job I’ve done to date.